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Can Texting Increase Our Stress Levels? Part 2

As discussed in part 1 of this blog post understanding the relationship between our stress levels and texting can allow us to provide ourselves with grace. Instead of throwing our phones across the room when we receive a text, take a pause acknowledge the validity of our feelings. The more we understand our emotional responses the more understanding we are of ourselves. More information being the growing struggle of social overload is discussed below. 

Conditioned Anxiety

Prior to the pandemic we knew being attached to our phones and computers was bad for both our physical and mental health. With the increase it, dependency on technology for everything from work to our personal lives, we’ve added an immense amount to our cognitive load. This pressure has already greatly increased during the pandemic. While one group chat may induce feelings of happiness, another may induce feelings of distress. Switching back and forth between these emotions and others adds an additional mental and intellectual task. Jumping from email to texts to whatsapp to social media utilizes an immense amount of brain power many of us don’t recognize. This psychological “switching cost” doesn’t take into consideration the new burnout many of us are experiencing due to the pandemic and political news. While the news has been our main way to stay informed, the consistent updates are also met with feelings of anxiety and dread. 

Initially, texting and group chats were a great way of venting and relating to our friends and family experiencing their lives being flipped upside down like ours. However, while misery loves company, many of us have created a negative association with messages as a result. Because of the negative news and information cycle in addition to the hardships of this ongoing lifestyle, many of the messages we receive are complaints, people reaching out for support, or something negative. While our phones can be a lifeline, they can also feel like a burden requiring emotional support and output many of us don’t have to give right now. While a message notification could easily be a funny picture or meme, it could also easily be some negative news update or someone in distress. Before we open the message, we don’t know what it holds. This fact makes us brace ourselves for the worst every time a notification pops up on our phone. When we acknowledge how many notifications we receive throughout the day, it makes sense our stress levels are higher.

Increase in External Stressors 

In pre-pandemic times, we had more events to go to, social obligations and things to do on weekends or evenings. However, our obligations weren’t as stressful or anxiety inducing as daily life can be now. Simply existing and function in a pandemic requires an immense amount of energy many of us don’t give ourselves credit for. Many of us are juggling different responsibility and mental stressors than before. All of us are not experiencing the same levels of stress but all of us are experiencing different stress than we were before. The level of fatigue many individuals are experiencing is not conducive to engaging in group chats regularly. It’s important to give ourselves permission to disengage. Doing so may actually give others the permission they need to do so as well. There are things in our control that protect our mental health and we have a responsibility to prioritize them. Setting boundaries with friends and family is crucial especially when it comes to interacting. We’re all experiencing this type of burnout to some extent so communicating what you need for your own mental health to others, will likely be understood. Take time to explore and think about other methods of communication that may feel more manageable. Maybe facetiming or a phone call instead of texting. For some people setting aside time on the weekend to touch base with people can be helpful and alleviate guilt from abstaining from communication throughout the week. Whatever modifications we feel we need to prioritize our mental health are valid and reasonable. We’re living through uncertain and confusing times. Before we can connect with others, we need to connect with ourselves.

If you’ve found yourself struggling with stress or anxiety levels and are unsure why, it may be useful to try talking to a licensed counselor 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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