You, like everyone else, have limited bandwidth. You’re not unlimited fibre-optic broadband, and even if you were you’d have times when your connection speed drops out. You have your limits and they are very individual to you. If you’ve got too many mental tabs open and you’re juggling activities and pressures on all fronts it’s likely that you’ll experience a point when all of your windows refuse to re-load and you can’t continue to process new information.
Stress is much like this.
And the metaphor can be extended further still. When was the last time you properly shut down your computer? Switched off your phone? You close your screen and your tech goes into “sleep mode”, yet all those apps and documents remain open and ready to carry on working as soon as you wake your machine up. And in this way it’s likely you’re treating yourself just like your computer.
What tabs have you got open right now?
The main causes of stress include:
Endings – including moving house, relationships closing, changing job
Partners and friends – sometimes if these people are absent, causing loneliness
Sex and sexuality
Drink and drugs
It’s possible you have a completely separate window open with multiple tabs dedicated purely to stress in the workplace, including:
Bullying or harassment
Lack of job security
Poor working conditions
The organisational structure
Lack of support
Add to this the hoard of insecurities you may be feeling on the inside, that individually count as the most common causes of stress:
The problem is that hiding these different categories of stress on different screens doesn’t actually make them go away. You can swipe away from one, but it will always be there in the background, draining your processing speed.
And some of these are really big. Take bereavement; it’s something everyone has to go through at some point, and statistically few people take the time out required to adjust. Yet when there are serious updates required on your computer the first thing you have to do is close all programmes and shut-down for a while.
New information takes time to process in your mind, you need to allow yourself time to buffer and load before your interface can be expected to function properly. If you don’t, your reactions can vary from blank, to buggy, to crash.
So why deal with it?
This is where the computer metaphor stops, because the practical upshots of putting too much strain on your mental hard-drive are far too serious to trivialise.
You can permanently damage your immune system and heart
Increase your chances of developing almost all serious health problems
Seriously reduce your life expectancy
And damage your sex life
What are the symptoms?
Unlike your computer you don’t get explicit error messages, and you don’t automatically display the spinning beachball of perpetual frustration if you’re experiencing overload. Instead you might find yourself with any of the following:
Increased heart rate
Muscle tension and spasms
Difficulty with your sleep
Feeling intensely overtired
Irregularities in your breathing
Changes in weight
Irritability or shortness of temper
Feeling fearful or unable to cope
Difficulty with decision making
Loss of interest in life
Lack of creativity
Changing sleep patterns
Use of drugs and/or alcohol
Change in appetite
Avoiding certain situations
Changing your regular habits
Biting your nails
Grinding your teeth
Not caring about your physical appearance
Putting activities, jobs, and people off
If you’re experiencing any of these, it’s time to pause and seriously look at what’s taking up your bandwidth. If you’re a guy it’s likely you process your stress very differently to the women in your life. Women know how to talk and they do it, a lot, especially when they’re stressed. Men tend to bottle it up.
There are so many reasons for this both hormonal and societal: the “strong silent type” has been championed to an unhealthy degree. The fact is staying silent and inflicting your buggy, crashy interface on the people closest to you is the easy way to deal with it. Speaking-up and seeking help cleaning your strained hard-drive is the bravest and strongest thing you can do.
How to clean your overloaded motherboard
It’s important to go through the windows you have open and identify the different areas of your life that are competing for your attention; these could be work, family, and underlying insecurities. Then check the individual tabs. These could include: workload, expectations, money, your health, partners and friends, along with unrealistic expectations. If you get this far, you’re already halfway there.
Identifying the stress factors in your life is half the trouble because only once you stare at them long enough to know they exist can you do something about them.
If you need help with any of this, talking is the way forward, and it helps more if you’re doing an activity while you talk. Paint a fence, clean your car, play a computer game, and take the opportunity to catch-up. It’s possible whoever you’re talking to has been through the same, or can at least offer some insight. If you literally can’t think of anyone you’d want to talk to about any of your open-tabs, try talking to a therapist… and don’t automatically click x on that option. Talking to a therapist is the brain equivalent of taking your Mac to the Genius Bar. Let a professional run some diagnostics and come away knowing far more about what’s overloading your systems – and how to deal with them. By removing the restrictions of time and accessibility babylon aims to help everyone live a happier, healthier life. Talk to a doctor online with Babylon Health.