We are living in the age of information overload, in a society consumed by an obsession with productivity. Many employees often hold the belief that they must “go the extra mile” if they hope to climb the corporate ladder and stand out amongst their peers.

According to Rebecca Reczek, Professor of marketing at Ohio State:

“People everywhere hear the same messages about how important it is to be busy and productive […] And once you believe that, and internalize the message that leisure is a waste, our results suggest you’re going to be more depressed and less happy”.

Terms like ‘burnout’ and ‘hustle’ are almost worn like a badge of honour in our perennial rat-race culture. Yet the more we indulge this need to constantly be ‘busy’, the less time we spend simply ‘being‘ and appreciating life as it is. This has become increasingly detrimental to our mental health and physical well-being, over the years.

Rise in burnout and chronic health conditions

In fact, mental stress and burnout is a much bigger problem than we think. It is said that the average adult consumes five times more information every day than their counterpart 50 years ago. Not only this, but the average American spends as much as 12 hours a day in front of TVs and computers – and that’s at home!

Text reading how many hours average American spends watching TV at home.

Even in our downtime after work, the constant social media alerts on our phones can keep us in a low-level state of chronic vigilance.

While modern living has brought with it many benefits, much of this has come at a cost…and we are paying the price today.

A recent study examining over 200 countries has shown that mental health disorders, such as major depressive and anxiety disorders have increased by over 25% during the current global pandemic.

Mental health disorders have increased by 25% in pandemic

The pandemic has also led to a rise in issues such as loneliness and mental distress.  A recent study has shown that 17% of employees who work at home feel isolated or lonely all the time. Furthermore, 62% of health care workers on the frontline of the pandemic said that stress related to COVID-19 has had a negative effect on their mental health (Q&A: Free Mindfulness Summit Aims to Support Physician Wellbeing amid Burnout Crisis, Viguers, Stephanie, and Mark Bertin. 2022).

The connection between inflammation and mental stress is also well documented. Inflammation has been shown to contribute greatly to the pathogenesis of many chronic diseases. In fact, 75% - 90% of illnesses, including cardiovascular, metabolic, and neurodegenerative health conditions, are related to stress and inflammation.

75%-90% percentage of illnesses related to stress and inflammation

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Modern day living provides numerous ways to escape the reality of life and the stress it brings. However, many of these ‘escapes’ are unhealthy, and designed to be highly addictive to retain user engagement for as long as possible.

Most people rarely spend time simply being, without external stimulations such as phones, tablets or electronic gadgets. If you think about it, when is the last time you just did ‘’nothing’’? Scrolling on your phone or watching Netflix doesn’t count!

It is important to understand why people are addicted to these modern day comforts…

Whether it is your television program of choice, checking social media, or playing your favourite mobile game, all of these activities activate the reward centre in your brain. This is what gives you your hit of dopamine- a chemical produced in the brain that functions as a neurotransmitter, associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.

Aside from this, humans are creature of habits and the irony is that many people use television shows and social media apps as an attempt to catch a breath, and experience some momentary relief from the everyday stress of modern life. These devices function as easily accessible tools of distraction.

We are currently more ‘connected’ than we have ever been thanks to technology. However, the stress induced by isolation (largely as a result of our recent and reluctantly adopted ‘work-at-home’ culture) and our constant compulsion to always be ‘on’, poses a great risk to both our physical and mental health.

It is evident that the advent of technology and our unhealthy cultural preoccupation with productivity, has had an exceedingly harmful impact on our wellbeing. It’s almost as if our fast-paced modern lifestyles are set-up in such a way so as to sabotage our need for mental rest. However, it doesn’t have to be like this…

So how do we combat this colossal rise in the array of issues associated with mental stress?

The answer lies in making mental rest breaks a priority in your life!

Next time, we’ll explore what actionable steps you can take to help you incorporate mental rest breaks into your life, to allow you to thrive both mentally and physically and live your best life possible. The best part? You might just find that afterwards, you are more productive than ever!

Written by Louise Reidy from Envol team

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