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Can Texting Increase Our Stress Levels? Part 1

As we deal with the ongoing pandemic of Covid-19, social distancing and isolation remain ways to ensure the safety of ourselves and loved ones. Because of this reality, texting, group chats, phone calls and facetimes have become our only connection to friends, family and loved ones. So, if our phones are a way to seek support, comfort and connection, why do many of us want to throw our phones when we receive a text? Can texting increase our stress levels? The short answer is, yes.

Over the past year the amount of sensory input we experience each day has grown immensely. With an uptick in “breaking news,” all work moved remote and most human interaction done through our phones we are constantly consuming information. Instead of conversing with coworkers or going to meetings in an office, all communication is done through email or texting. Every outreach leads to a notification popping up on our phones. Due to the heavy news cycle, notifications from popular news sources continue to pop up on our screens as well. Because of this, our screen time is increasing and our ability to disconnect and put our phones down has become increasingly more difficult. To make matters worse, there doesn’t seem to be a good excuse for ending a phone call or missing a text message. “Sorry I have to run” or “I didn’t see your text, I was busy” just don’t feel like valid excuses while sitting at home. For many, group chats or text messages have been a source of anxiety in the past. For others, they’ve become a source of stress since the beginning of the pandemic. Despite social distancing, many of us are suffering from social overload. In order to provide ourselves with grace during this time, it’s helpful to understand the reasoning behind this growing struggle.

Communication Debt

While the ability to reach people and be reached at any point throughout the day can be incredibly convenient, the pressure to respond can be anxiety provoking. When someone calls you, you have the ability not to answer, and listen to their voicemail/call them back when you’re able to. With texting, especially group chats, it’s not that easy. The text sits there, read, with the feeling of obligation to respond. It does only take a couple of seconds. However, once you respond, they’ll likely text you back. Then a couple seconds turns into a bigger time commitment. When individuals text us, the expectation is to get a quick response. This leads to us feeling obligated to interact instead of interacting because we want to. In group chats, if you aren’t reading the messages as they’re coming in, it’s not uncommon to return back to your phone with dozens of messages. Before we know it going through dozens of texts can feel like going through our emails.

Prior to the pandemic we were able to utilize our busy lives as a reason to missing a message or a conversation. That excuse no longer feels valid. While many of us are experiencing higher levels of exhaustion than prior to the pandemic, it doesn’t feel as rational or reasonable to utilize this as an excuse for decreased communication. Because our phones are our main source of connection, we feel the need to respond to everything, in real time, despite the increase in the number of messages coming through to us.

Understanding the reasoning behind the correlation of stress and texting is incredibly important to making a change. I hope part 1 of this blog post has helped to begin to shed light on this relationship and will allow us to put some space between ourselves and our phones. More to come in part 2! 

If you’ve found yourself struggling with stress or anxiety levels and are unsure why, it may be useful to try talking to a counseler in Chicago. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!

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