Stress is recognised as the No 1 killer disease nowadays in the US. According to the American Medical Association stress is the basic cause of more than 60% of human illness and disease.
Stress by definition is a natural reaction of our body towards a stimulus which triggers our autonomous nervous system and put’s us into a “flight and fight” response. It releases a variety of hormones in our body like adrenalin (boosts our energy level and elevates blood pressure), norepinephrine (similar like adrenalin) and cortisol (which can inhibit the immune system). It also disrupts the output of hormones like serotonin (is believed to have an impact on anxiety, fear and depression) and others which influences our well being.
There are a lot of things which can stress us and influences our well being. Often the small things in life influences our well being the most without us noticing.
One of this little stressors is our beloved mobile phone.
I still remember 20 years ago a portable phone had the size and shape a of shoe attached to a “100” pound battery which you had to carry around. The battery usually only lasted a couple minutes. So nobody spent much time on it.
Now everybody has at least one or two smart phones and is connect to the rest of the world in ways which were unthinkable 20 years ago. In 2014, the average time spent on a mobile device per day in the US was 2:42 hours and it is expected to climb up in 2015 to about 3 hours. And this doesn't include the 4 hours spent in front of a tv.
Everything and nothing! There is absolutely nothing wrong with mobile phones and the amazing things they can do. It’s how we use them and how we deal with them. Wherever I go and watch people using their phones, I get the feeling I am surrounded by “phone junkies”. People are glued to their devices like it’s a part of them. Almost everybody is using his phone to check messages or call somebody as soon the time allows it. Missing completely what’s going on around them, disconnected from their surrounding and missing a part of real life. Watch yourself while waiting for the bus or sitting in it. What is your habit to do? Do you have the urge to grab your phone to check your messages, or are you enjoying the surrounding?
For me one of the most impressive experience I had watching people on their phones was at a big christmas fun party for children. Organised by a big company for their staff and their children. They had a lot of fun boots where the children could line up and do some fun games. The kids were all very excited and jumped up and down and could hardly wait till it was their turn to play. But what did the dad’s and mum’s do while waiting? Enjoying the excitement of their kids? – Of course not, almost all of them were bent over like the sinners in church and texting like there life depended on it. Missing completely what was going on around them. None of them looked up or paid any attention what their kids did. Missing completely the enjoyment, the glowing and excited faces of their children.
The 3 stressors of mobile phones
2. Text message alert
3. The urge to check text messages
Ringtones can sometimes give you a feeling a heart attack. Watch yourself and others while in a big room with a lot of people while a phone rings. Watch how many are frantically looking for their phone. You can see on their faces how stressful this couple of seconds are, till they realize it was not their phone ringing. But these couple of seconds is enough to put your body into a fight and flight mode and release all kinds of stress hormones. Your heart rate will be through the roof at that moment. We usually don’t pay much attention to this, because it happens in such a short time we hardly notice it. But cumulated during the day, depends how often your phone rings, you will have a constant hyperactive nervous system which in the long term will influence your health.
How to solve the ringtone dilemma
The human brain adapts very fast to repetitive informations. This means we get used to a certain ringtone very fast. As soon we hear it our body will react and get ready to answer it or look who it is. Because we are so easily conditioned, one trick is to change your ringtone to a unique one, which is not within your regular tones. How to do that you can easily find on the web. Just search for changing ringtones for your type of mobile phone. Since I did this I’m much less bothered with ringing phones around me, because my brain learned to ignore them as it isn't a familiar tone.
A piece of advice: don't use the latest chart hits number 1 song as your ring tone. Because whenever you hear this song you will frantically search for your phone.
2. Text message alert
Texting short messages is one of the most popular ways to communicate with each other. It’s like an addiction with all the social media platforms. With one little text you can reach unlimited numbers of people which can reply to what you wrote. Usually if somebody writes something to you it will pop up on your screen or worse it will ring (if you didn’t disabled this function, which you could and should do!).
3. The urge to read text messages
A text message works like a reward. You give some information out and you expect to get a feedback back. When the reply comes you feel rewarded and exited for what you did. This causes the brain to release hormones like dopamin which makes you feel elevated and in good mood. The downside is, that these substances last only a short time and can be addictive and create the urge to get more “rewards”.
Nowadays everybody expects to get immediately a reply to their text messages. If you have to wait for several hours you feel like the world has forgotten you. This kind of negative feelings influences our well being and health as well.
How to deal with text messages
Free yourself from the idea, to be reachable 24/7.
Here are some news for you – It's not that important! – Stop pretending it is! Make yourself a list of what you think is really important to know instantly.
Make fixed times when to check your emails and text messages. Turn off the notifications on your phone, they are only a distraction. Example: Check your emails first thing in the morning in the office, before lunch and before going home. Like this you can reply to anyone in reasonable time.
For text messages it’s also how you intend to use it. Is it your primary form of communication? I personally think it’s easier to call somebody than write a question and wait for the reply and ask the next question – Waste of time!
- Change your ringtone to a unique one
- Make fixed times to read and answer your emails, don’t open every email as soon they come in – waste of time and energy – inefficient.
- Turn off the alerts for text messages on your phone – disturbing.
- Make your mind up if you need to be reachable 24/7 for everybody and if you need to reply instantly to everything that comes in. Forgetting your phone at home can sometimes be real relieve.