Your Emails Are Killing You

Email makes many of us feel anxious, overwhelmed and stressed. Close your inbox for a moment and step back. Ask yourself just how healthy your relationship with email is and if it is causing you stress and strain. What can you do to improve this?
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A couple of weeks ago, I caught an episode of The Dr. Oz Show, and the topic was so compelling, I stopped what I was doing to watch. They were discussing emails and how we check our emails 20 to 100 times a day and how it’s affecting our daily lives. If you’re an obsessed emailer or checker, don’t be alarmed. But if you suffer from high anxiety, are unable to start a task, are overwhelmed or unable to sleep at night, you might be checking your emails too much.

Yes…I know what you’re thinking…you have important business to conduct, need to make sure you respond within an hour, or you have a fear of being left out. All things considered, I too suffer from when it comes to checking my emails. This Dr. Oz episode challenged two viewers to check emails only 3 times per day. OMG…I can hear you now…that’s impossible. The reason I know you’re saying it, I was screaming the same thing at the television screen while watching the segment. It’s impossible for someone to check their email less than 3 times per day and in particular a business owner like myself. This was just one excuse I would use to justify why I need to look at my email every second of the day.

How many times of the day do you check your email? Be honest! Technology has given us the ability to check our email whenever and wherever we want. However, it’s a “luxury” and not a necessity. We’ve been conditioned to believe that instant gratification and communicating via email, text or even Facetime is enough and it can be an acceptable substitution for face-to-face communication. Although, I realize face-to-face can not always happen, whatever happened to picking up the phone.

Research shows that email is a double-edged sword. Emails are a valuable communication tool, yes, but it’s clear that it’s also a source of stress and frustration for many of us. The people who reported it being most useful to them also reported the highest levels of email pressure!

“The habits we develop, the emotional reactions we have to messages, and the unwritten organizational etiquette around email, combine into a toxic source of stress which could be negatively impacting our productivity and well-being,” Dr. Oz stated on the show.

“Stress is not just a problem when it comes to our mood – it’s been linked to a slew of disorders such as heart disease, weight gain, memory impairment, digestive problems, and depression.”

Researchers suggest that an individual’s personality acts as a moderator between perceived email pressure and work-life balance: in other words, the relationship between email-related stress and the negative impact on home life is not the same for everyone. “Not only does working too hard for too many hours cause stress on our emotions and physical bodies, it often cuts down on the time we spend asleep: the time that’s essential if we need to successfully recharge our batteries and stay on top of our workloads in the first place. So close your email application and treat yourself to some downtime – chances are the quality of your work will improve while your stress levels drop.”

Making an effort to check your email less often will be a challenge. The first time I attempted to stop checking my email 50 times a day was unbelievably difficult. I would find myself sitting at my desk, supposedly working on an article for Kinkster MAG and before I knew it, I was logging in to check emails.

What the hell? Am I obsessed with my emails? I laugh to myself because during my career in the fast-paced financial industry we were instructed to respond to all emails for that particular day before leaving. This is a work ethic I believe we should all have, but that was when we weren’t carrying 4 to 5 devices that allowed us to check our email everywhere we were. It’s crazy to see people checking emails on the bus after leaving their 9 to 5 job, walking down the street as they try to cross the intersection, or at a dinner table with friends and family. That’s the time you’re supposed to be looking out the window, paying attention to your surroundings, meeting friends for drinks, just meditating, but most importantly being present in the moment.

Next time you open your inbox, notice what happens to your breathing. Do you hold your breath when you open your inbox? Or does your breathing speed up?

After watching The Dr. Oz Show, I’ve been decreasing the number of times I check my email. It’s been difficult. I went from checking it 50 times a day to 10 a day, and that’s improvement. My anxiety has increased, but that’s because I have the delusional idea I will miss something or I’ll be perceived as being unprofessional for not responding within a couple of hours, but that’s far from the truth.

Email makes many of us feel anxious, overwhelmed and stressed. But, as the Nike mantra goes, just do it. Close your inbox for a moment and step back. Ask yourself just how healthy your relationship with email is and reflect on if it is causing you stress and strain. What can you do to improve this?

Decreasing how many times I checked my emails was harder than I thought, so I researched a few things to try to help. Taken from a Huffington Post article, “Emails Making You Stressed?” written by Frances Booth, these tips helped me:

1. Avoid keeping your email open all the time. Being constantly distracted by updates and pinging demands from other people means that you’ll never turn your full attention to the work you’re doing. It means you’ll constantly be ‘on alert,’ will be less productive and will make more mistakes. Even half an hour switched off at a time is beneficial. Try it.

2. Decide how many times a day you want to check email. Twice? Four times? Only once? This can depend on the day. Many of us blame the boss or the people we work with for the reason we check email so much. But in fact, much of the pressure we feel to check we put on ourselves. Notice this, and talk to your boss about email methods and productivity.

3. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. If you do, you’ll immediately be spending your time and energy on other people’s demands, rather than on your priority tasks. Do something else first for an hour (or two hours). See what a difference this makes to your productivity.

4. Decide what time to switch off an email at the end of the day. Stick to this. Log out and breathe.

I’m not down to three times of checking email a day, but each day I continue to remind myself that there is more to life than an email.

Source: Science Alert / Huffington Post

Healthy Living

Founder, Co-Owner & Managing Editor. Corey has experience in the corporate financial services, training, brand development, and when he is not writing he's at home dancing nude with a glass of wine.