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Why technology can increase stress
Even with excellent technology on our side, the stress of myriad current and future unknowns (will my business survive? what about the economy? where do I go for help with X,Y and Z?) is a serious problem.
And technology itself, so crucial in keeping the world on its feet right now, is also responsible for much of our stress. There’s the usual pressure to keep up with your inbox, task list and social feed, but there’s also the added pings and red dots, reminder for that Zoom chat, a double-reminder for your 5K challenge run tonight and saved-up ‘to-read’ thought pieces that you should have the time for, now you’re locked inside, but never seem to.
Trello (the gurus of list-making), define stress as ‘a response to direct external stimuli that goes away when you tackle the problem’. For example, seeing a new Slack message pop up, feeling stressed, opening it and seeing it’s a very minor issue. Your momentary stress is lifted, and you go on with your day.
Anxiety is different, and can stay with you, regardless of there even being a stimulus. But because technology is at our fingertips and we’re ‘always on’, there are more grey areas, and more potential to move from stress to anxiety, or feel routinely ‘stressed out’.
… but it can also help
The tricky thing is, technology also has deep potential to ease our stress. It’s about getting the balance and intent right, and understanding at a formative level how to harness the benefits. It’s no wonder mindfulness is finding its way into the curriculum (a good starting point on this track is free website Mentally Healthy Schools, which gives lots of perspective on how tech can have positive and negative effects, and how to protect young lives).
Apps that help with stress
There are hundreds out there, we’re focusing not just on the day-to-day guided exercise gems, but also the platforms making workplace stress something for CEOs and people teams to take notice of, mitigate and manage.
This workplace mental health platform was founded in 2016 and saw 300% revenue growth in 2019 alone. Unmind gives organisations and employees true power over their stress, with its house-built Unmind Index, a clinically-backed assessment tool which helps people track their mental health. By aggregating the anonymised data, the app helps employers to see the problems in their workforce, and support their people.
All about feeling better, Sanvello provides people with an ecosystem of clinically validated techniques. Based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness meditation, it connects you with science, therapy, community and pathways to combat stress. With over three million users, it’s ‘rooted in clinical rigour’ and a world-leading app for stress.
‘Spill gives your employees counselling and therapy when they are going through a tough time’. That’s the upfront message from the UK-founded app, which was started by two friends disheartened by the difficulty of finding emotional support through the NHS, and the expense of going private. Spill helps companies work out who’s at biggest risk from stress and mental health issues, and provides those people with a series of therapy sessions, in a setting that suits them.
Science-based challenges and activities prove the power of gamification over so many modern struggles, in this clever solutions-based app. Happify also provides a business solution for companies looking to improve outcomes (whether it’s happiness scores or revenue), helping employers address the challenges of stress and reduce the impact on productivity.
Youper helps people take control of their emotional health, using quick nudges to change your day, guided (and personalised meditations) and data collection that lets you track your mood. It utilises AI to find and adapt the techniques that bust your particular type of stress.
And a few wearables, just for good measure
Whichever wearable option you go for, there’s now usually potential to track something beyond calories in, water consumed, sleep clocked up and miles run.
The big tech brands are looking closely at ways to track our mental health, and from the Apple Watch’s Breathe app to Fitbit’s own guided breathing sessions, it’s not just about you taking the initiative. Super-smart brain-tracking technology is fast developing a knack for tracking your moods and stress levels, and nudging you to do something about them before you’ve even noticed your stress.
Finally in the wearable market, look to Garmin for data-driven insights and heart rate variability.
Finally, we’re throwing in two much-loved tools, both of which help us keep day-to-day work stress firmly at bay.
First up is Tomato Timer, which is a flexible and simple online Pomodoro Technique clock. The Pomodoro Technique is simple in itself, using a time management framework of 25-minute working sprints, interspersed with short breaks. Tomato Timer runs in the background, giving you the option to take a short five-minute pause, or a longer 10 minute break, challenging you to be as intentional about rest as you are about working.
It’s a great way to really make yourself step away, breathe, and come back fresh, knowing that whatever the red dot, whatever the Slack message you have waiting, everyone is entitled to take five minutes (or even 10).
Finally, a quick focus on game-changing software from f.lux. This clever tool focuses on the light we’re working by, tackling the now-old news that harsh, blue light emanating from screens really isn’t good for our stress levels, after a certain point in the day.
f.lux alters the colour of your display, depending on the time of day. So if you open up your laptop to check final emails after 10pm, you won’t be momentarily blinded by a bright light. f.lux will quietly adapt your screen to a warmer, softened tone, giving your eyes (and nerves) a rest. By the time you start up the next morning, you’ll be back to bright, natural light.
Many devices now come with their own built-in function or option for screen ‘night shifts’ and tonal adaptation, but f.lux is nifty, free and rather beautiful.
This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer.
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