Lana Barhum is a legal assistant, patient advocate, freelance writer, blogger, and single parent. She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia since 2008 and uses her experiences to share expert advice on living successfully with chronic illness.
Modern technology has made our lives easier. Everywhere you look, people are browsing the internet for tips on all activities under the sun, communicating through email and social media sites, shopping online, and entertaining themselves with videos and online games. We are surrounded by convenience and comfort that the generations before us couldn’t have imagined.
While living in a fast-paced and technology-advanced world is viewed positively, people are now working harder than ever. Technology has also made it harder to relax. And for those of us with chronic illness, technology means more working hours and more stress, making health challenges harder to cope with.
Here are three simple ways to manage heart disease stress while living in a technology based world:
1. Take breaks
Time management can help you manage stress associated with technology. Set a schedule to manage time you spend on your computer, cellphone, and other electronic devices. For example, at work you can take five minutes away from computer for every half hour of use. Only use gadgets you don't use on the job once or twice a day for short periods.
Of course, for this to work, you have to be willing to be consistent with your schedule and take your breaks even if you are in the middle of a project. By taking these breaks, you give your a mind an opportunity to rest and recharge. Breaks also allow you to manage the stress and anxiety that is often worse for chronically ill people.
2. Sleep well
A study out of Sweden found that young people using technology were at higher risk for sleep disturbances due to their prolonged use of technology. Our minds and bodies need sleep to heal, but if you are going to bed with your phone in hand, you are not giving yourself the undisturbed time your body needs to replenish itself. Because you live with a chronic illness and pain, sleep is the only break you get from your pain. What’s more, lack of good quality sleep means higher pain levels and more disease symptoms.
Stop using your phone and your computer at least two hours before bedtime, if possible. That light from your digital devices interferes with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, according to researchers at the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Once you are ready to go to bed, keep your devices out of reach so you are not tempted to check emails or go online. Reading a book (without an electronic device) is a better way to unwind at bedtime. If taking this amount of time away from technology before bed isn’t a possibility, do what you can to make sure that your computer and phone don’t come to bed with you.
We all make excuses for the amount of time we spend on electronic devices, and most of us don’t turn them off unless we have to. A research study out of Kansas State University found that it is important for people to mentally recharge after their workday without technology. However, most of us are so worried about job security that we feel we need dedicate ourselves to being available outside of work hours.
Moreover, we communicate online with friends and family more often than we did in the past when we talked on the phone, visited in person, or sent a letter in the mail. As a nation, we also watch an enormous amount of television shows, which many watch on their computers in bed or while doing other activities. As a result, we are not giving our brains the opportunity to relax after a long day.
And stress from work-related issues or personal worries aroused by technology can make symptoms of our illnesses much worse.
To minimize workday and chronic illness stress as a result of technology use, try disconnecting yourself from your devices for the weekend, for one day, or even for a few hours. Give your brain a rest, spend time with loved ones instead, and keep your phone or other gadget off while having that quality time.
The bottom line
The bottom line is that limiting technology use is better for both mental and physical health, so give technology a rest every opportunity you can. Limit your screen time and avoid the temptation to check email and social media several times a day. Allow yourself to de-stress with the simpler things in life.