Media and Stress

Smartphone on desk with computer keyboard.

There is a lot to be said about being informed, but like anything it can be taken too far. This is not a piece about choosing your media although that could fill pages as well. This is about how much media you want to consume. And like anything that will be different from one person to the next. Only you can decide what is the best dose for you.

Consider how we consumed media 50 years ago. A newspaper a day, magazines if you could afford them (maybe one a week), and of course television. Television took up the majority of the media consumption in those days I think. Although people read a little more in general.

Fast forward to today. How much time do you spend consuming media? It’s ever easier to see how much digital media you are consuming as our devices are are recording it for us. You can find it in your settings under “screen time.” I was astounded to recently see my average was 6 hours and 7 minutes per day and that was an increase from the previous week. Which means during my vacation I was on my phone nearly a third of the time I was awake. Not good from my perspective. Here I was spending time with family and spending a lot of that time looking at things on my phone.

For this post I want to look at the stress that comes from our media consumption. While the above tale is somewhat distressing for me I also look at it as good information that I can use to make changes in my behavior.

How to start to find the right balance of media

First, look at whether you find media stressful. Over the past few years since reading the book Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zamorodi, I have tried to be more conscious about my media use. Very interesting read and after slipping back into more media use I likely need to give it another read. If the title has you intrigued you can find it here. (I am not currently an affiliate marketer. Stay posted as this may change in future).

One of the recommendations by Manoush is to stop getting alerts . This results in you more consciously going to the media you want. I did this for all of the things on my phone and it has been helpful. I no longer get the little red circle with a number in it beckoning me to take a look. And no dings or vibrations.

I tested this recently by reactivating the notifications for just my email. This resulted in me getting notified by every email that came in. Let’s just say over a one hour period I got a dizzying number of notifications. Within a 15 minute span of time I got 20 notifications. More than one a minute. Imagine if I unblocked all of the apps that want to send me a notification, I think this would be untenable and quite stressful. I want to be alerted for only the most important aspects of my life not every email about what the current trend may be.

A couple of guys that call themselves The Minimalists have also encouraged going without apps of any kind and using the phone only as a phone. I haven’t tried this yet, but I am tempted after seeing I am again using my phone more for things other than connecting with others.

The Stress Connection

So what does all this have to do with stress? Well the more often we are interrupted from what we are currently attending to, the more stress we can feel. Especially if all of those interruptions lead to us getting less accomplished. I have found that doing one thing at a time actually allows me to get more done than when I attempt to multitask and allow all the interruptions in.

Some experts say that after an interruption it can require up to 25 minutes to refocus and get back into the flow of what we were doing. Multiply that by many times a day and you’ve got a great recipe for increasing stress.

One strategy I use at work is checking email at several specific times each day beginning, middle, and end rather than keeping my email open and chiming while I work on my desktop. This allows me to get my work done and not be interrupted by the little chime telling me that I have a new email. Of course this is less feasible if you make your living working with email.


Spending at least some time absent media in your day will likely lead to a decrease in your stress levels. It need not be a long extended period, but one in which you are conscious and can remain present to what is going on around you. Some options are …

  • Spend your commute just driving/riding. Depending on how you get to work spend that period of time just present with your thoughts and what is happening around you.
  • Turn off your phone/TV/Computer/Tablet etc… For some period of time each week be “unreachable” if only for s short while. I do this for about an hour once a week. During that time I practice piano or take a swim or work with plants. Whatever I am doing I am in the activity.
  • Take a walk/run without digital audio. Just notice what is happening around you.

In the beginning you may feel your stress level rise a bit especially if you feed the “what if” thinking. Over time though you will begin to relax into that activity and recognize that the taking a break from media can enhance your day to day living and allow you to think more clearly.

Give it a try and see how it works for you.

Thanks for dropping by ~Lynda

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