Anxiety and depression have become increasingly prevalent over the last few decades. I am seeing more and more children, adolescents, and families with these issues in school and at my practice. There are a variety of reasons why this has become a widespread issue. However, in this blog, I am going to focus on the fact that humans are overusing technology (smart phones, iPads, etc.) which is causing their brains to be in a constant state of overstimulation.
What is Overstimulation?
When a person is overstimulated, their senses are overloaded by stimuli such as sound or light to the point that it can be challenging to cope with. For example, if a newborn or infant is exposed to a loud toy with a lot of a lights for an extended period of time, they will become overwhelmed by the stimulation and end up crying. The same happens for older children and even adults. However, rather than crying like babies do, overstimulation manifests itself through anxiety, depression, and other mood issues such as feeling irritable or agitated.
Easy access to smart phones
Before smart phones existed, human beings were able to regulate their use of technology. If they went to the grocery store, they focused on grocery shopping. If they went to the gym, their focus was on their workout. If they were in an elevator, they took a break to breathe. Now, any sort of break in the day is filled with technology. People are engaged on social media, email, videos, and texting and struggle regulating their technology use. Even when they aren’t using screens, they are thinking about it and anticipating a text, like or comment on a social media post, or an email. Their brain is in constant stimulation mode and their senses are being overloaded. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that produces the feeling of pleasure, is being released each time your phone rings or vibrates when you receive a text, email, or like/comment from a social media post. This can create an addiction to technology causing people to chase the feeling of pleasure by continuing to post on social media. Humans’ brains are constantly being aroused throughout the day with little time to break. The result? Symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mood related issues.
In a world that functions on technology, it can be challenging to navigate through life without it. However, it is crucial for you to set limits not only for yourself but also for your children. Since a lot of children don’t know what life was like prior to technology, they have become accustomed to instant gratification. They struggle just being and embracing pauses and breaks in their day. Many don’t realize that they are overstimulated and end up irritable, anxious, or depressed as a result. It is important that rules are set that allow for technology breaks. Set limits and times of the day when everyone in the family unplugs, disconnects from technology, and reconnects with one another. Your children may resist at first but will eventually adjust to the new norms that you create. Make sure to practice what you reinforce at home. If you go to the gym, leave your phone in the car. When you are eating lunch, turn your phone off or leave it behind. Spend time focusing on people who are around you and disconnect from the online world. Take time for yourself, allow for brain breaks, and decompress. You will notice significant changes in how you feel. You will feel relaxed, engaged, and connected!