Emails, internet searches, cell phones, and social media. If you are up on all the gadgets and online forms of connecting and communication than you are familiar with all this “stuff”. If you are an entrepreneur you are actively using all of these forms to conduct your business. Even if you are not in business for yourself even employees often feel that responding quickly to emails, even on your non work time, is very important to do a good job. I have a question for you: Have you ever wondered what effect living in a tech world has on your brain? Well let me enlighten you.
Let’s start with all those emails. A 2014 study showed that employees who felt that they had to respond to emails immediately, even when they weren’t on the clock, reported worse sleep, higher levels of burnout and more health-related absences from work. When you are in business for yourself the compulsion to respond tends to be even more intense. Add to this research published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology that workers who are expected to be reachable when not at work have a higher level of a brain stress response, and we all know what that does to the body.
This was shown with the results of a study that psychologists from the University of Hamburg in Germany did. They asked 132 people from 13 workplaces to complete surveys and provide saliva samples so that their cortisol levels could be measured. Over the study period at the times when a person felt that they were expected to be reachable off hours they all had elevated cortisol levels and reported more stress.
Now with all of the same technology is available on our smartphones it makes things even more complicated. Not just for the pressure to respond to the emails via the phone but now people are getting constant notifications every time an email comes in, a picture is posted, or someone messages you via social media. According to cognitive psychologist Paul Atchley checking on all this social information is actually activating your brains reward system. The down side is that it can take your brain 15 to 20 minutes to get back to where it was after stopping to check that email you got the notice on. In addition a 2014 study found that people who spend a lot of time doing something that they call “media multitasking” tend to actually have less gray matter in a portion of the brain connected to emotion control. Even more interesting is that, according to neuroscientist Kep Kee Loh who was one of the researchers in the study, says that the same structural characteristics have been associated with OCD, depression and anxiety disorders.
What is the answer? TURN IT ALL OFF. Yes it can be that simple. Create barriers that you will stick to. The truth is the world will not stop turning, the internet will not blow up, your business will not crash, and all of your contacts will not abandon you. Protect your brain. In the long run it will thank you and repay you with a healthier happier life.
Julie “Brain Lady” Anderson