How to deal with stress in the digital age

How to deal with stress in the digital age

Date: 21/02/24

Author: Shia Mitchell

Stress is a common experience for many people, and it can arise from a variety of sources, including work, relationships, finances, and health concerns. In today's digital age, stress can be exacerbated by constant connectivity and information overload and some may even feel stress due to a lack of access to digital resourcesBut stress not! With Stress Awareness Month 2024 just around the corner, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to share to help you limit the negative effects of digital stress on our physical and mental wellbeing.

Jump straight in:

The effects of stress on physical health 

When the body is under stress, it triggers the "fight or flight" response, which releases adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. This response can cause a range of physical symptoms, including: 

  • Headaches 
  • Fatigue 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Muscle tension and pain 
  • Elevated blood pressure 
  • Weakened immune system 

Additionally, chronic stress can increase the risk of developing chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. 


The effects of stress on mental health 

Stress can also have a significant impact on mental health. Chronic stress can lead to anxiety and depression, and it can exacerbate existing mental health conditions. In the digital age, social media and constant connectivity can contribute to feelings of anxiety and social isolation. According to a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, limiting social media use can lead to significant reductions in depression and loneliness. 

With all things said and done, it’s not all doom and gloom just yet. The first step to managing stress is understanding the potential triggers you may face in this modern tech-filled era many of us are experiencing.  


Digital stress 

The digital age has brought new stressors into our lives. Constant connectivity can lead to feelings of overwhelm and information overload. Additionally, the pressure to be available and responsive at all times can lead to burnout and exhaustion. Social media can also contribute to stress by creating unrealistic expectations and social comparison. So, it's best to arm yourself with how to stay safe online as well as how to manage your digital wellbeing to avoid stress.

How to manage and prevent digital stress 

Managing stress in the digital age requires a multifaceted approach. Here are some strategies that can help: 

  • Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries around work and personal time, and limit your exposure to digital devices and social media. 
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness practices such as meditation and deep breathing can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. 
  • Stay active: Exercise can help reduce stress and improve physical and mental health. 
  • Protect your digital privacy: It's easy to forget that the online world poses a whole range of privacy risks, such as scams and personal information leaks which can easily lead to added stress.
  • Seek support: Talk to friends, family, or a mental health professional if you're feeling overwhelmed or stressed. 

Social media stressors 

Social media has undoubtedly revolutionized the way we connect and communicate with others. It has made it easier than ever to stay in touch with friends and family and to share our thoughts, feelings, and experiences with the world. However, while social media can be a great tool for staying connected, it can also have negative effects on our mental health and well-being. 

Social media is addictive
One of the main ways is through the constant bombardment of information and stimuli. Social media platforms are designed to be addictive, and many people find themselves scrolling through their feeds for hours on end, even when they should be doing something else. This constant exposure to new information and updates can be overwhelming and can make it difficult to focus on other tasks or relax. 

The added pressure of perfection
Another way that social media can contribute to stress is through the pressure to present a perfect image of ourselves. We are constantly bombarded with images of people who seem to have it all together - they have perfect bodies, perfect relationships, perfect jobs, and perfect lives. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt as we compare ourselves to others and feel like we don't measure up. 


How to limit the negative effects of using social media

  1. Set boundaries. One of the best ways to limit the negative effects of social media is to set boundaries around how much time you spend on it. Try to limit your use to a certain amount of time each day and avoid scrolling through your feed when you should be doing something else (like working or spending time with family).

  2. Take breaks. It's also important to take breaks from social media from time to time. Try taking a day (or even a week) off from social media every now and then, to give yourself a chance to recharge and focus on other things.  

  3. Practice self-care. Taking care of yourself is essential for managing stress and anxiety. Make sure to prioritize self-care activities like exercise, meditation, and spending time with loved ones.  

  4. Be mindful of your social media use. When you are using social media, try to be mindful of how it is affecting you. If you find that certain accounts or topics are making you feel anxious or stressed, consider unfollowing or muting them.  

  5. Connect with others in real life. While social media can be a great tool for staying in touch with friends and family, it's important to also connect with others in real life. Try to make time for face-to-face interactions, whether it's grabbing coffee with a friend or attending a social event. 


Working from home stressors 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in the way we work. Many companies have implemented work from home policies to reduce the spread of the virus. While remote work has its advantages, such as the elimination of the daily commute and more flexibility, it also poses potential negative effects on our physical and mental health. 

Lack of physical activity 
When we work from home, we tend to sit in front of our computers for extended periods, leading to a sedentary lifestyle. This lack of physical activity can have adverse effects on our physical health. Research has shown that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. 

Meeting fatigue 
Virtual meetings have become an essential part of our work lives, especially with remote work becoming the norm. However, constant back-to-back virtual meetings can lead to meeting fatigue, a feeling of exhaustion and burnout caused by too many meetings. 

Poor ergonomics 
Working from home often means using makeshift office spaces, such as the dining table or the couch. These spaces may not be ergonomically designed, leading to poor posture and musculoskeletal problems such as neck and back pain. 

Social isolation 
Working from home can lead to social isolation, which can have negative effects on our mental health. Humans are social creatures, and social interaction is crucial for our mental well-being. Social isolation can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. 

Blurred work-life boundaries 
When working from home, the boundaries between work and personal life can become blurred, leading to an inability to switch off from work, causing stress and burnout. 

Mental exhaustion 
Working from home can lead to mental exhaustion due to the constant need to communicate and collaborate remotely. This exhaustion can manifest in feelings of burnout, stress, and fatigue.

Improve your work life balance and reduce stress while working from home 

  1. Take frequent breaks. Stretch and walk around the house, using a standing desk, and doing home workouts can help mitigate the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. You could also take some time in your lunch hour to engage in activities outside of work, and practicing mindfulness techniques such as meditation can help reduce mental exhaustion.  

  2. Invest in an ergonomic chair and desk. Adjusting the height of the computer screen to eye level and taking frequent breaks to stretch can help improve posture and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal problems. 

  3. Schedule time to be social. To limit social isolation, engage with colleagues, join online communities or groups, and maintain social connections with family and friends. 

  4. Establish a routine, set boundaries on work hours and create a designated workspace to help create a clear separation between work and personal life. 

  5. Reduce meeting time. Consider reducing meeting times to 25 or 50 minutes instead of the standard 30 or 60 minutes. This can help make meetings more efficient and leave attendees with more time to complete other tasks. 

  6. Limit meeting attendees. Having too many attendees in a meeting can make it difficult to reach decisions and lead to a longer meeting time. Invite only essential attendees and ensure that everyone has a specific role and contributes to the meeting's objectives. 

  7. Avoid back-to-back meetings. Back-to-back meetings can be exhausting and lead to meeting fatigue. Schedule meetings with sufficient gaps between them as mentioned above to allow for breaks, review notes, or complete other tasks. 

  8. Limit the number of meetings. One way to avoid meeting fatigue is to limit the number of meetings you attend. Before agreeing to a meeting, assess whether it's necessary or if it can be resolved through email or a quick phone call. 

  9. Set clear objectives for meetings and your day. This can help keep your tasks in priority order, keep meetings conversations focused, and reduce the time needed to achieve the desired outcomes. Set an agenda or to do list, share it with attendees and colleagues at the start of your day, and stick to it.

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

William James 

Stress is a common experience that can have significant physical and mental health consequences. In the digital age, especially, stress can be exacerbated by constant connectivity and information overload. To manage stress, it's important to remember, social media can be a great tool for staying connected but use it in a way that supports your mental health and well-being. Set boundaries when online and working from home, practice mindfulness, stay active, and seek support when needed. By taking care of our physical and mental health, we can reduce the impact of stress and improve our overall wellbeing.