Destress and put technology down this holiday

December 10, 2012

Holiday stress just seems to be part of the season as we juggle shopping, family expectations, big celebration plans and decorating. All that stress can take a physical toll on us as chemicals in the brain– specifically cortisol– are released during stressful times. However, if you add in the expectation that we should always be plugged into technology, the stress levels can skyrocket. 

The more important all these things are to you, the more pressure you feel.

Blood pressure already stressed can climb further as we are continuously assaulted by emails, texts and calls. Our bodies can actually experience stress similar to traumatic stress disorder, causing irritable bowel syndrome, heart problems, hypertension, fatigue, insomnia, type II diabetes and obesity.

As Vicki Nejtek, PhD, UNT Health Science Center Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, puts it, "If folks perceive the constant barrage of cell phone calls, text messages, pager beeps and emails as inconvenient interruptions, then they may be likely to become stressed out and irritated. The more irritated you become, the more cortisol is released. The more cortisol is released, the higher the likelihood that the irritability will escalate to anger. If this cycle continues, you have a higher-than-average risk of developing health problems."

To protect your mind and body, you need downtime. To help, Nejtek has proposed a new program called "Shut It Down," this holiday season. For one week, Nejtek says to put away all non-emergency technology for one hour per day and disengage from technology to reconnect with reality. "Yes, stash that iPhone in a drawer, or just turn it off to practice the mindfulness of living in the moment and renewing your mind, body and spirit. You may discover that disconnecting from technology is a very healthy practice with great benefits. In the long run, it doesn’t matter as much as you thought, and you really don’t mind being unavailable for a while."

Take the "Shut It Down" weeklong challenge:

  • Put your technology in a drawer or turn it off for one hour per day
  • Write a letter or postcard to someone important to you. Send it via snail mail
  • Find a quiet spot and reflect, meditate and daydream
  • Visit someone who matters to you
  • Read a chapter in a hard-copy book
  • Take care of your spiritual self. Attend your place of worship
  • Practice yoga
  • Take a walk outside

"These are great stressbusters that can help us survive the holidays and allow us to ring in the New Year with renewed and reinvigorated sense of life, understanding what it means to be human," Nejtek counsels.

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