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Monday, April 19, 2021

Blurred Lines: Rest in an Age of Digital Distraction

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Making time to relax and de-stress

Digital technology has been one of the most incredible advances in our society. In a year like we had in 2020, we have been able to connect with our loved ones and even continue to work through various online platforms. And let’s not forget the convenience of ordering groceries and other products online.

Without these abilities, a year like 2020 would have been much more difficult and lonelier to navigate. Although digital technology advances have provided incredible opportunities for our society, have there been other ways that this technology has actually hurt our society?

Our world is constantly “turned on” and distracted. Personal and professional lines have been blurred by the access we have just in our pockets, our smartphones. Between returning emails, answering work calls or responding to texts, this has led to less engaged and intentional quality time with family and friends and a feeling of always needing to be “on” for work.

Also, the rise of social media has connected us to many more people than we would have regular access to. The infamous “highlight reel” has led many of us to compare our lives with others, which leads to dissatisfaction and a lack of contentment with our own lives.

Not to mention how addicting the dings or buzzes from notifications and scrolling online can be. Just swiping a smartphone open produces a powerful dopamine release in our brain, which becomes more addicting over time. Then add on the unlimited streaming devices and binge-watching of shows and movies; we are easily the most entertained generation of all time.

A recent article in Time magazine stated that the current generation is the most anxious and stressed generation we have ever seen. Another recent study said that Americans sleep less than seven hours a night, although The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults sleep between seven to nine hours per night. There are also multiple studies over the last several years showing that Americans work more than 40 hours per week and watch almost 30 hours of TV per week.

What does all of this information mean? It means that we work more, sleep less and are more distracted in the digital age. This leads to stress, anxiety and other health issues. It means that our brains and bodies have less time to rest and restore. This not only affects us physically and relationally but more so emotionally and spiritually. We have spent more time doing and less time being.

Most of us can’t fully be without technology between work, school or maintaining connections with loved ones. So, what is the solution? Making time to rest. I know, it seems counterintuitive to have to make time to rest. Shouldn’t rest just happen naturally? It might have in the past or other cultures, but in today’s American culture, we have to intentionally plan for rest times. This might seem like a radical idea in our culture today, but what is the cost if we don’t do it? We will continue working ourselves to burnout, develop health and relational problems, and more than that, experience an emptiness of the soul.

Rest can mean different things for different people, but the goal is restoration, not distraction. Of course, we all love a good Netflix show, but do we really feel restored and at peace with ourselves after a bingewatching session? Most of us don’t.

When we think about rest, we want to think about life-giving things. What makes you feel really happy and at peace? For some people, that’s reading a good book with a warm cup of coffee. For others, that may mean sharing a meal and game night with family. Spending time outside or taking naps can also be very restorative for some people. Much of how you feel rested depends on your personality. There’s no right way to do it. Some categories to consider are physical, emotional, spiritual and mental rest. But to truly rest, we have to make sure we’re engaging in things that are life-giving instead of life-taking.

If I could leave you with any encouragement, I would want you to hear that rest is a good thing. In a culture that glorifies busyness, making space and time to rest is a radical idea, but it is essential to physical, emotional and spiritual health. Making time to rest and restore your mind, body and soul may cost you momentary feelings of productivity or fighting the urge to numb and distract using entertainment. However, we are not made only to work or to consume. Having balance in our lives is a combination of doing and being.

Whitney Voss, M.A., LPC, CSAT, CCPS-C, licensed professional therapist, certified sex addiction therapist, certified clinical partner specialist candidate and EMDR provider at Shreveport Counseling & Restoration Center. 318-459-8581. www.shreveportcounselingandrestorationcenter.com

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