Hidden Stressors-Part Five-Technology


I received a phone call and email from a long-time reader of my newsletter, thanking me for what I wrote about how my nervous system got overwhelmed and threw me into a several-day near shut-down, complete with physical pain.

Paulette wrote:

You put into words what I have been dealing with for several years! On Saturdays we have been attending a [particular group] study via Zoom. It begins at 10:30 a.m. and continues until at least 2:30 p.m. with no breaks. The teacher’s entire life is spent studying [this topic] — I mean 14 hours per day EVERY day. She always says there is so much more she wants to share, but just doesn’t have the time.

macbook pro displaying group of peopleI have gotten to the point that after one hour I am ready to scream. All of her words run together for me. I really don’t hear much after that point. My husband doesn’t have the same problem. [My note: notice the difference between Paulette and her husband. Paulette is Highly Sensitive; her husband is not.]

About the same week I received your email, I said enough is enough. I told the group that [my husband and I] would be taking a break. Since we have left I am happier and more relaxed. Yesterday my neighbor commented that she had noticed a change in me.

Studying [this particular topic] when there is so much bad news all around us was more than I could handle. I have learned a lot over the past several years, but I think my health has suffered as a result of attending this group.

Thanks for putting into words what I have been feeling.

Paulette’s words to me reminded me that we often don’t recognize the hidden stressors that are sucking our energy and stretching our nervous system to the limits, because those stressors are such a part of everyday life.

If you possess a Highly Sensitive nervous system, your limits may be reached sooner than other, not-so-sensitive people. That’s because the HS nervous system is hard wired to a) take in much more information, b) process it all deeply and c) react emotionally to it all. All this contributes to the “easily overstimulated” characteristic of the HS nervous system.

To top it off, Paulette’s response was very different from her husband’s. Often Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) wonder what’s wrong with them, that they can’t “handle” what other people seem to take in stride. (She told me that he didn’t seem affected, but he doesn’t listen intently the way Paulette does. See what I mean about “processing deeply”?)

turned on gold iphone 6I would argue, though, that today’s world is toxic for anyone’s nervous system. We are bombarded with constant messages and ads everywhere we turn. Even if you try to turn a blind eye to ignore it (I never look at ads), and limit your exposure to things like the news and social media, there are endless distractions constantly available. My AI research tells me that “the average American is exposed to an estimated 4,000 to 10,000 messages daily, including advertising, news, social media, and other forms of communication. This number has been steadily increasing in recent years due to the rise of digital media.”

Information overload is real. For someone like me who loves to learn, it’s been a huge challenge to say “enough”! In my quest for simplicity and stress mastery, I have to say no every single day to the temptations to know more, in an environment where access to knowledge is literally limitless.

Think about it: your brain and nervous system have been forced to process more information in one day than our ancestors had to process in an entire lifetime! Yet our nervous systems themselves have not changed much from the early days of humankind.

Even if you try to limit your exposure to all these messages, technology presses into daily life and forces you to deal with it. As just one example, the other day when I went to do some online banking (is there any other kind nowadays?), I was forced to agree to a 125-page “Digital Services Agreement” and a 10-page “Online and Mobile E-Sign Disclosure and Consent Agreement” before I could even access my accounts. Like I had time then to read 135 pages of legalese!


I felt my anxiety levels rising. (Doesn’t just the screen shot make your brain hurt? Sorry!)

Do they count on us not reading it? Are they trying to sneak something in? All I wanted to do was check and see if the Illinois IRS had deposited the refund they finally agreed they owed me. (That was another thing I had to straighten out; the Illinois IRS never gets this one thing right.) Now I had to at least skim these bank documents to see if there was anything I was agreeing to that was not in my best interests. This was, of course, at night, when my reserves were already pretty depleted for the day.

No doubt you have your own examples, likely several from just the past week.

Few of us can lead responsible lives and not have to deal with a host of technology-based challenges. It’s part of modern life. Is there anything we can do to tame the technology beast?

Here’s what I’m trying. Feel free to add your own comments!

1. Awareness. As you go through the day, notice the effect different forms of technology pose on your body nervous system. When you go through emails, does your gut tighten up? Do you find yourself hunching over your device, straining your muscles? Do you feel anxious? Do you hate hearing a notification going off, or find yourself unable to attend to it even if you’re in the middle of something important, like an actual conversation with an actual person? Do you find yourself drawn to screens at night, and how is this affecting your sleep? (Try not looking at any screen for 2-3 hours before bed and see if it makes a difference.)

2. Set your priorities, and be ruthless about keeping them. Write them down, even, and refer to them often. Line up your priorities with your deepest values, and take into account what season of life you’re in. Different seasons demand different priorities. Be willing to let go of the priorities of earlier seasons. (I’m working on this one as I make some major transitions.)

3. The obvious: limit the inputs as much as possible. Based on your awareness from step one and your priorities for this season, set your boundaries. This can be a very tough thing for some of us inquisitive types, who love to “keep up” and to learn new things. Plus, we are in a culture that worships “addition” and sees “subtraction” as loss. Use your Healing Code to work on any heart issues that prevent you from placing healthy limits on yourself.

This is not an exhaustive list (though it might be exhausting!). But it is a start. And it is imperative that you get a handle on this whole information overload/technology issue, because it isn’t going away, and it does affect us big time.

Related articles:

[Addendum: You notice how the above article list is not perfectly lined up? I messed with it for 10 minutes, the limit of time I set for dealing with technological issues.  If I can’t figure it out in 10 minutes, I walk away and pray. If a solution does not come to mind, I do without. I refuse to let technology mess with my head or body.

Also, there are fewer images in this post. It’s because I found myself at my nervous system limit after I messed with the snipping tool and had to figure out where it saved to. My dear daughter helped me. So here it is, in all its imperfection–a testimony to the fact that I try to walk my talk!]

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Dear Diane, Thank you for this insightful, honest and very practical post. I love the tips you offer! As a HSP myself, I can totally relate to the experiences you and your client shared about long Zoom meetings…And I have arrived at the same conclusion as you: cut down my Zoom time (or any other form of online meeting) to a bare minimum, based on my current priorities. Also, I no longer attend online Summits – no matter how exceptional they might seem! It is such a massive relief. I’ve humbly realized that they are NOT the right learning format… Read more »

June Ponder

I do resonate with what you are saying here. When we took a break from the regular Healing Circle, I ran across the Crappy Childhood Fairy and her quick/easy routine of writing down fears and meditating. I found it quite effective. Well now I am getting emails to sign up for her periodic free calls that helps you infuse the process ; the calls are 90 MINUTES LONG . One of the draws to me was that her process was quick & easy, so why do we need 90 minutes to talk about it ? Same thing with Alex Loyd… Read more »

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