By Chelsea Towler Campbell, Psy.D.

Everyone experiences stress at some point in their lives. In some cases, stress can be positive – it can serve as a motivating force that helps us get things done. However, chronic, prolonged stress can have detrimental effects on both mind and body. Stress can not only cause us to feel fatigued, anxious, or depressed, but it can also severely impact our body, causing digestive problems, headaches, sleep difficulties, overeating, and sexual issues.

Stress can be caused by multiple factors, including a demanding work schedule, a hectic home life, a challenging relationship, a significant loss, a job change, or any number of other life events. One factor that I have recently been paying more attention to as it relates to people’s stress is screen time. Most people think of their screens (e.g. TV, phone, tablet) as an outlet for stress reduction. After all, who doesn’t feel more relaxed after watching their favorite TV show? However, it seems that too much screen time can actually cause detrimental effects, especially on our stress levels.

In considering how screens might be affecting your stress, think about how you feel after checking your email, watching the news, or checking into your social media accounts. These experiences can impact our emotions, which can subsequently cause stress to build up. Additionally, screen time is almost always an isolated activity, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and withdrawal. Research shows that having a strong sense of community has a significant effect on stress reduction, and screen time can get in the way of making time for social plans. Lastly, our brains are very sensitive to the blue light emitted by screens, which can impact our overall sense of wellbeing and health.

Learning how to manage stress can be difficult, but there are many effective strategies you can integrate into your daily life that will prevent you from experiencing the most harmful effects of stress:

Exercise: Working out helps improve mood, and also keeps your mind and body calm and relaxed. For even better results, consider integrating some outdoor exercise into your routine. Go for a walk or jog around your neighborhood, or enjoy a hike in the woods if time allows.
Spending time with friends: As stated above, having friends and community can offset the negative effects of stress. It is important that we interact with other people, and it is important that we talk to people about how we are feeling so that we don’t become disconnected and lonely.
Mindfulness: Often, stress is caused by excessive focus on the future – will I make enough money this month? Will I do well in my work presentation next week? Staying in the present moment can help us avoid this preoccupation with what comes next. When we are mindful, we are more calm, more focused, and overall more attuned to what we are experiencing.
Limit your screen time: Rather than eliminating screens altogether (which is probably near impossible), consider limiting your screen time. Allocate a certain amount of time, and set a boundary that will allow you to engage in other activities you enjoy.
Make time for hobbies: Try taking breaks in your day to spend time engaging in activities you enjoy – whether it’s crafting, reading, exercising, or gardening (or something else!), it is important you find things that add meaning to your life.