Are We Losing Our Minds Minding Our Business…or is it Just Me?

Puppy passed out on his computer keyboard

I suddenly feel validated. In a thought-provoking NYT book review entitled, “When You Text Till You Drop,” Bryan Burrough synopsizes California psychologist, Larry Rosen, Ph.D.’s thoughts on how our overzealous, somewhat obsessive need to be constantly connected via devices and social media avenues may, in fact, be making some of us mentally ill — in short, driving us crazy—literally and figuratively.

In his new book, iDisorder, Rosen takes a hard look at ourselves today, as well as one into the future — how our kids might be interacting (or not, as the case may be,) and how anxious, depressed or otherwise obsessive our personal gadgets may be making us. No surprise to me. How about to you?

Combining existing research with his own Dr. Rosen suggests ways that users of new technologies can avoid behavioral pitfalls that might very well befall many. I wish I had seen this review (and read the book) when, one evening, a couple of months ago, I was trying out a sorely needed meditative breathing technique before going to sleep. Usually over-stimulated and connected, like most everyone I know these days, I was (and still am) spending 16 hours a day on the computer in creative product as well as website development and site management. When you add the constancy and immediacy of social/new media marketing and digital connectivity to the list, you might agree that Freud’s theory of maintaining a balance between love and work to achieve normalcy and joy in one’s life,  is, virtually (pun intended,) unattainable these days.

During one of our “girlfriend” chats, I had mentioned to a physician/wellness coach friend that there were days I felt as though I were functioning on auto-pilot (not my usual M.O. or particularly comforting to me,) and that I didn’t think there was room for one more “bit” of info-intake available in my brain— even for the next best brisket recipe. I recounted how I had tried a meditative breathing exercise before going to sleep the night before and just about scared the shit out of myself. “I closed my eyes,” I said, “and all I could see were random numbers and letters (in columns, no less!) that were moving in and out of my visual field frenetically and at breakneck speed.” “No matter how I tried to visualize something else, I couldn’t,” I told her. I actually felt as though my brain was a calculator on speed and so I did the only thing I could think of at that moment: I opened my eyes, shook my head from left to right in that “I don’t believe what I’m seeing” movement,” and said “That’s it. I’ve finally lost it!” My tolerance for the constant and many times, futile and frustrating “connecting” via all things tech had reached its peak and I was damned if I was going to let it get the better of me. “Enough of this,” I said, while I promised myself I would get my “Jane” back.

My wise friend’s response to this episode was “You’re on info-overload and you need a ‘brain dump’.” Who was I to argue with this sensible explanation? Where, what and how to “dump,” was another matter and quite a challenge I have not yet mastered (as any control freak might appreciate.)

Everything, it seems, requires pro-active and/or reactive immediacy and attention. But just as you can’t absorb and process everything (and have it make all the sense in the world, all the time) in our new multi-tasking lifestyle, you can’t let it all go or necessarily make good or quick decisions about what to keep top of mind and what’s worthwhile putting on the back-burner for that moment either. Obviously, the most logical thing to do (and which I did,) was to take a few steps back, assess what seemed to be causing the most “unmanaged” stress and help myself to better manage whatever stress remained. Doing so meant taking advantage of the good advice I’d offered to everyone else I know. “If it’s not life and death” (which most of our online and device-oriented “connecting” generally is NOT;) then “let it go.” And, as my mother used to say, if “it” goes elsewhere, it wasn’t meant to be yours anyway.  Not one of her most novel recommendations, but in this case, I would be delighted if “it” disappeared altogether.

We are clearly over-connected, over-saturated, over-anxious (as if “anxious” alone wasn’t sufficient,) over-stimulated and, as a result, less productive and under-achieving. From what I can determine from those with whom I “connect”, there is simply too much “noise.” Actually, a “noise dump” would be just about the most beneficial thing we can do for at least a portion of our 16-hour work days. We could all do with a little “silence” and truly need to get back to having a modicum of balance, as well as face-to-face connectivity in our lives.

Dr. Rosen is clearly on point and has written a timely book reminding us that there are consequences to all our actions and what has surely proven, in many cases, to be “addictive” behavior. Our children will likely be even more addicted to and, hence, in constant motion sans any “emotion”, as the case may be, as well. Unless, of course, we all read his book and learn some measures to implement for ourselves as well as pass along to others.

We’d  love to hear about your efforts to “disconnect” and get your life back. Take a few minutes out of your 16-hour work day to share your thoughts. Thanks!

 

 

 

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  1. Neuroscience informs us that, contrary to popular belief, the brain is meant to focus on one thing at a time. We are at our best when all of our mental resources join forces and shine like a beacon of bright light on the task at hand. And, when properly fueled, our best concentration lasts only about an hour, maybe a little more. That’s just the way it is!

    So, it’s no wonder that in this multi-tasking world, we are constantly feeling that we can’t catch a breath or REALLY get something done properly. We can’t.

    The fix? Things aren’t going to change back to the way they were. Who knows how long it will take for sanity to grip us but in the meantime, take mini-mind breaks:

    -get up from your chair, turn your back on your computer and take three deep breaths.
    -get up from your chair, stretch your arms up as high as you can and then bend from the waist. Do it three times.
    -walk around the block, the house, the building for ten minutes.
    -get a glass of water.
    -eat some vegetables.

    Do anything that gets you out of the chair for 5-10 minutes and do it often. When you’re body is unstuck, so is your mind.

    laura 5.18.12 at 5:12 pm
    • Thanks, Laura. There you go, validating my and many others’ feelings about, well, the way we’re feeling. Good to know that something as simple as mini-breaks might actually help us all to better manage our multi-tasking lifestyles. I’m off to getting up from my chair and stretching my arms right now, so it is unlikely I’ll be able to continue to type:) Always appreciate your good thinking~ j

      Jane 5.18.12 at 7:43 pm

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