Technology and Stress

In the spirit of the annual stress awareness month ‘April’, we want to talk more about stress. Medical experts everywhere around the world have a roughly common understanding of stress as a “person’s physical, mental or emotional response to external changes”. But from a healthcare point-of-view, stress is a very powerful silent killer. It affects a person’s critical organs like brain, nerves, muscles, joints, heart, stomach, pancreas, intestines and reproductive system. Because it can weaken our immune systems, it’s a very powerful risk amplifier for almost all kinds of health problems including cancer, heart disease, depression and anxiety. Some of the most common symptoms are insomnia, trouble concentrating, poor memory, irritability, poor motor functions, headaches, muscle tension, quickening heartbeat, constricted posture, sadness and emotional exhaustion. 

In 2021, the word ‘stress’ seems quite popular everywhere with seemingly endless articles, courses, videos and various materials discussing this topic. But still, ‘stress’ is a very big elephant in the room – it’s an almost invisible problem that can quietly creep into our lives. For example, stress is one of the biggest problems in the USA. Statistics show that stress is severely affecting a vast majority of American citizens in ways like physical deterioration, sleep deprivation, personal relationships and poor productivity. The associated costs here easily amount to several hundreds of billions of dollars, each year. 

But stress wasn’t always bad: In our distant past, our ancestors survived thanks to stress. For example, a wild predator ferociously hunting for prey in the forests, created panic for humans nearly urging them to save themselves. But now, the story is very different: Most of us live in concrete jungles, not natural ones, bombarded by innumerable artificial structures, facilities, machines, gadgets and man-made things. The sad reality is that we face an unnatural amount of stress today is mainly because of the slow, steady but seemingly inescapable introduction of technology in our society. 

Technology can Aggravate Health Problems

A lesser-known phenomenon in the discussion of stress is ‘technostress’. This is the study of peoples’ responses to the introduction of new technology into their spaces, either at home or at their workplace. Experts within this field have defined it as a modern disease developed by a person’s inability to cope with new computer technologies in a healthy manner. 

In 2021, billions of people everywhere around the world spend many hours of their day, each day, with some form of technology. In general, the majority of grown-ups in urban spaces today spend endless hours in closed spaces, with artificial lights and some kind of electronics. Certain qualities of this tech-centred lifestyle like an accelerated demand for productivity and information overload, is bringing in stress into peoples’ lives actively. With the younger generations closely growing up with technology today, unlike their parents, our global society is realistically facing a crippling health crisis unfolding before our eyes, right now. 

Towards a Healthier Relationship with Technology

To remedy technostress, we must first try to better understand the nature of technology itself. Technology can be thought of as a resource that people can harness for any purpose. It isn’t inherently good or bad. Even considering it as neutral isn’t accurate enough. For example, some of the world’s biggest companies today are making billions and billions of dollars through designing specific technological experiences for their customers. These companies bring experts from human psychology and technology to apply science-based techniques for the sake of winning peoples’ attention and steering their activities in very powerful ways. In their perspective, peoples’ attention becomes a ‘commodity’ that they want to compete for. But unfortunately, this means loss of time and energy for billions of people – thus becoming a primary source of stress in their lives. 

The lesson here is technostress appears in our lives when we interact with technology that disagrees with our lifestyle and is quietly manipulative, without providing any direct help. As consumers of technology, we must develop a critical awareness of our use of technology. We can then evaluate whether a particular technology is helpful or not and discard others. Thus, we can ease ‘technostress through inviting technologies designed to suit our personal requirements and rejecting those that disagree with our lifestyles.

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