Stress & Screen Time
Written by Charissa Sutliff

What is a stressor for you, and what do you do to manage stress? There are many different stressors, they come in different forms, and there are different ways to manage them. 

Stress Adds Up

A stressor is anything that disrupts homeostasis. Our homeostasis is a dynamic state of equilibrium, or balance, within our body. Stressors can be physical, mental, emotional, existential, relational/social, and environmental. Stressors are also CUMULATIVE. This means that all the stressors in our lives add up. This is called allostatic load. When you are experiencing stress from change at work, then lack of sleep, with poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, an injury, and young kids…these all add up.

Good Stress vs Bad Stress

Another thing about stress is that there is good stress and bad stress. It depends on how we view the stressors in our lives. If we interpret that stress is something that is valuable to help us grow we will see it as good stress. If we perceive that we cannot meet the demands of that stress then it will be bad stress. Most good stress is short lived, it’s over quickly, inspires us to action and helps build us up. Bad stress is chronic, lasts a long time, breaks us down, is ongoing. At some point repeated stress can have a point of diminishing returns. Hard and fast CrossFit workouts can be good for us, but if we do TOO much, at some point our body won’t be able to adapt to that stressor.

It’s All About Perception

Notice that many stressors are affected by how you perceive and experience them. For example, noise may really bother you, or maybe it doesn’t. Being hungry might bother you, maybe it doesn’t. Traveling might bother you, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe deadlines at work bother you, maybe not. Maybe an experience out of your comfort zone bothers you, maybe it doesn’t.

The point here is that there are an infinite number of stressors in this world and how people relate to and experience their individual stressors will determine how their body responds. There are many stressors that most of us would agree are common, and maybe some of us would disagree on some. There are also common stress management techniques that many of us would agree on as well.

Stress & Screen Time

Now let’s talk about one particular stress that we are each familiar with – screen time. Have you ever thought about how your screen time influences your stress? Under this topic of stress, I invite you this week to consider how your relationship with your phone and your screen could be adding to stress in your life. If stress management is something you need to work on for better health, maybe decreasing screen time is something to consider. Maybe having clear boundaries with screen time would improve your stress and energy management.

Here are two things to consider:

Pay attention to your screen time, how much time you spend on your phone, on social media, etc. Simply notice it. Do a time diary throughout the day and note how much time you spend on your screen, emailing, texting, social media, YouTube. Bring awareness, mindfulness and intentionality to your screen time. Notice if and how often you reach for your phone automatically. What causes you to reach for your phone? Are you putting something else off that you don’t want to do? Are you bored? Tired? Hungry?Consider undergoing a digital detox. For you, maybe you refrain from looking at your screen until 12pm, or that you leave your phone in another room for a few hours and don’t check it, or that you take a “no social Saturday and Sunday”. When you try this one, notice how you think and feel. Do you feel more calm and peaceful spending less time on the phone? How is your productivity? Creativity?!

Our phones are a great tool to keep us connected and enable much good. However, they can also be a source of undue stress in our lives that we can be mindful of and set boundaries to manage. What do you think? Let us know your thoughts on this topic and what you notice after the experiment!