Who is in Control?
Technology makes it easier to check for messages in the car, respond to email while grocery shopping, or check the latest stock quotes at the beach. But just because technology makes instant communication possible, it doesn't mean that it's healthy. Tune in to your reactions. Do you dart to check the machine when an incoming fax interrupts a DVD you're watching with the family? Is there always more that needs to be done? In other words, does technology govern you or are you managing it?
"It's hard to control," Rosen explained. "Unless we set clear limits on our lives, we are going to be continually multitasking and dealing with information overload."
What is Wrong with Multitasking?
A National Institutes of Health study found that a specific, well-developed region of the human brain handles a type of multitasking behavior called branching. Branching allows people the unique ability to temporarily divert their attention from the main task to alternative activities, and then return to where they left off.
But if you're juggling too many things, your brain hangs on to those extra thoughts, waiting for resolution. You might experience difficulty concentrating during the day. Percolating ideas will bubble to the surface in the middle of the night.
"You are setting up a situation in the brain whereby you will have a live brain [even] when it's supposed to be quiet and sleeping," Rosen said. "It will be processing unfinished tasks you never quite got to."
Does Technology Hurt the Family?
Technology not only invades individual lives, it can change family dynamics.
"As soon as you start going 24/7 and allowing access to yourself all day, all night, every day, you're going to find yourself interacting less with family and friends," Rosen said.
Family members may sit in the same room, but mom might be chatting with friends online, youngsters playing video games, and dad catching up on emails from the office.
Rosen recommends that parents not relinquish control to tech-savvy youngsters. Parents should set boundaries about what gadgets can be used and when, and serve as good role models, turning their own devices off and paying attention to the kids and each other.
What Can We Do About Technostress?
1. Do one activity at a time. Confine yourself to one activity at a time. Try to do one thing, and do it well. Enjoy activities without dividing your attention; for instance read or watch TV, not both.
2. You don't need to know everything. Accept that you can't know everything nor keep up with the onslaught of data. Limit Internet searches to a predetermined length of time.
3. Time yourself. Record and compare the estimated time to tackle a task with the actual time and adjust your expectations accordingly. Say no to requests that you don't have time to handle.
4. Get unplugged. Schedule time away from your "toys." Turn the cell phone off while at the movies, when walking the dog, or watching the sunset from the deck of your favorite waterfront eatery.