It's your day off. You are in your jammies, casually scrolling through your mobile Facebook feed when your phone suddenly vibrates. A notification pops up — it's an email from work.
You get another notification 5 minutes later, and then another, and another, and another. Your work seems to follow you even when you should be sleeping.
If you feel stressed out because of the constant stream of notifications, you're not alone. Psychologists said frequent email updates are indeed a toxic source of stress for most people.
Constant Beck And Call
Those who feel as if they should always be available for work, anytime and anywhere, are part of a culture affected by the advancements in technology.
As we are constantly at the beck and call of our easily-accessible emails, most of us have developed the habit of checking our inbox almost every hour. It's somehow a twist to the work-a-holic syndrome.
A group of researchers from Future Work Centre in London described having an email account as a "double-edged sword" that allows us to retrieve information, and at the same time, becomes a great source of stress and frustration.
For that reason, the team has suggested workers to launch their email apps whenever they want to use it, and close it down if they don't want to be disturbed by incoming mail.
"In other words, use email when you intend to, not just because it's always running in the background," the researchers wrote.
The Unwritten Etiquette Around Emails
In a report featured in FWC's website, the researchers surveyed at least 2,000 working individuals from different industries and occupations across the United Kingdom about the advantages and disadvantages of using email.
Two of the most common and stressful habits that the participants had were leaving their email "on" all day, and checking emails as soon as they wake up in the morning and before going to bed at night.
The use of the "push" feature, which immediately syncs emails on devices, was linked to email pressure, researchers said.
High levels of email pressure were related to the negative effects of work and home life, as well as home life negatively affecting work performance, the report said.
Dr. Richard MacKinnon, the lead author of the report, said people who considered email being most useful to them also admitted the highest levels of email pressure.
MacKinnon said the habits that people develop, the emotional responses and mental reactions to messages, and the unspoken organizational etiquette around email all combine into a toxic source of stress that can harm our productivity and well-being.
What Should You Do To Manage Stress?
Psychologists recommend several ways to manage stress caused by the constant stream of email notifications:
1. Limit how frequently you check your email app. It's the anxiety that comes from not knowing if there is anything new to be dealt with that probably prompts you to check your email every hour, but you must learn to resist this urge. It's also vital that you restrict yourself from using your mobile device before going to sleep to avoid insomnia-related problems.
2. Set your Out of Office replies more often. These messages often contain the duration of how long you are unavailable, the person to contact in your absence, and the date of your return. You should also mind your manners when sending Out of Office replies and accept the fact that employers may attempt to contact you through a phone call if the matter is really urgent.
3. Practice mindfulness or meditation. It only takes about 15 to 30 minutes a day, and you can definitely squeeze it in during weekdays and weekends. It's also very cheap because all you need is your mind and silence. Give yourself some time to let your thoughts run free. Focus on your breathing. This quality time with yourself can help you deal with stress and release it.
4. Get into aromatherapy. Inhaling scents such as chamomile, apple, cypress, rosemary, lavender, coconut, and peppermint can help reduce stress. The aroma can stimulate the limbic system, releasing chemicals in the brain that promote feelings of calmness, relaxation and excitement.
5. Organize your life. Studies show that organization provides a sense of peace of mind and control. You can make lists and notes to help you get on track the things you need to do so that you won't constantly check your email. You can also tidy up your house to feel better, because the sight of clutter often keeps people on edge.
6. Maintain a healthy sleep routine. The most important thing is to have enough energy to face the day. Often, you will feel jittery, cranky or irritable if you only had 4 hours of sleep. However, you shouldn't sleep in on weekends to compensate for your sleep deprivation on weekdays.
Photo: Leo Chen | Flickr