Did you know how you manage your communications can affect your mental health?
Once long ago, in a land far, far, away, people lived in a simpler world. There were only 3 TV networks, one or two daily newspapers in your city, and there was only one telephone on a little table in the entrance hall to your home. News broadcasts were two or three times a day, only lasting about 30 minutes including weather, sports, and financial markets. Who needed something like Communication Management?
Fast forward to 2018.
Today there is an almost endless list of ways to learn what’s going on and to stay in touch.
- 24 hour Cable News channels
- Newspapers, both print and online.
- Cell phones
- Text Messages
- Google +
- You Tube
And on, and on.
Communication is a necessary part of all our lives and, it’s a highly valued skill. But, you can have too much or too little. A 2013 Yankelovich study found the average consumer is bombarded with 5,000 messages a day. 5,000! On average, the human brain is only able to process 5 to 7 bits of information at one time. Trying to stay up with all the sources available to you can cause stress and feelings of being overwhelmed.
So what happens when your brain receives too much information? Well, a recent Temple University study cited in an article in Entrepreneur Magazine ( http://bit.ly/2qcbl6x ), says when your input reaches the overload level, your prefrontal cortex simply shuts down. In essence, you are unable to make rational decisions past that point. Keep that up over time, and your mental health suffers as your anxiety levels go through the roof.
Yet the reverse, cutting yourself off from the outside world causes anxiety and stress as well.
So, What’s the Answer?
Unfortunately, this is something you have to figure out for yourself. This is a recent phenomenon and one that is not being addressed in our education system.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Only review emails once or twice a day. Pick times in the morning or afternoon that suit your schedule. Then shut down your email services outside of those times. This is what I do.
- To the extent you can, do the same with phone calls and text messages. Let incoming calls go to voicemail, then bunch your return calls around the same time each day. As long as you answer calls and texts the same day they are received, most customers and clients are OK with this.
- Limit your news input. Pick two or three TV news shows and online/print newspapers and let that be it. Review those sources once or twice a day. You won’t miss anything. In the current news climate, there is a constant, microscopic, never-ending, examination of every event down to who got a parking ticket. It’s almost never one and done.
The point here is for you to put yourself in control of your life by managing how and with whom you communicate. Narrow your focus to those topics that are important to you. I doubt if you really care if the Volga River floods the town of Astrakhan. The big plus here too is the amount of time you free up to be doing more productive things.
So pick your sources, limit your exposure, and let the rest of the world go by.