Do you remember how to switch off? Your wellbeing may depend on it
As I write this, we are working toward two elections in Australia in the next few months — the NSW state election in March and an expected federal election in May.
Many issues are being raised — at a federal level we have My Health Record, the nbn, the Assistance and Access Bill, #robodebt. And those are just issues with a technology angle — you can add climate change, border control, various royal commissions and many other issues. The NSW state election just adds more issues for us to worry about — toll roads, public transport, sports stadiums, regional services, etc.
And then, even without politics, we have everyday life — family, friends, work, community, religion, mortgages, rent, sport, education, etc. Just putting food on the table with a roof over our head is a big enough challenge for many.
A common theme through this all in recent years is social media. Social media, without doubt, has allowed us to engage with each other in ways that were simply not possible in the past. The general population has gone from being a content consumer to a content producer. Instead of the opinions of a few well-paid media personalities, we are now able to weigh up thoughts and opinions from thousands of our peers, and to drive or ride the wave of public opinion.
But there is a dangerous downside to all this. For many, particularly those of us who work in technology roles, for whom contact with technology is a something that occurs in literally every hour of our waking lives, the inability to switch off — the constant bombardment of our brains with information and opinion (much of it negative) — can impact on our own thought patterns and health (mental and physical) in a negative fashion.
Our bodies, and indeed our brains, need a break at times. I am sure that we are all familiar with the need (especially for those of us spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer screen) to get up, stretch the legs, move the body and refocus the eyes in order to reduce or prevent the physical impact of our work habits.
But how many of us are taking the time (and I don’t count sleep here, important as it is) to switch off our brains from not only the stresses of work (many of us ‘take work home’, either physically or mentally), but also from the bombardment of information we receive from both traditional media and modern (social media) sources?
I have no doubt that knowing what is going on in our lives is important to us all — but at times, the best thing we can do for ourselves and those around us is to simply switch off and give our brains a rest.
Except in remarkable circumstances, being the last to know something is extremely unlikely to hurt us. FOMO is real — but only because we let it be so.
This newsletter is late — and I apologise for it being so. But I reached a point recently when all the various inputs into my life were really starting to take a toll — and I just had to back off for a moment.
I suspect we’ve all found ourselves in situations like this. For your own sake, for the sake of the quality of your output in your chosen field, for the sake of those around you — take a break if you need it. Better yet, set aside some time each day/week where you can switch off and just enjoy today for what it is, without worrying about other things that ultimately probably don’t matter as much as they first appear.
As I said, the next few months in Australia are going to throw up a lot of issues for us to deal with. Make sure you’re at your best to deal with them — you may feel the need to help or stand up on an issue, so make sure you’re ready to do so. If you disagree strongly with something, say so — but please be careful not to let the confected rage of social media communities drive you to anger that leads to action with potentially terrible consequences.
Information Technology Professionals Association (ITPA) is a not-for-profit organisation focused on continual professional development for its 18,700 members. To learn more about becoming an ITPA member, and the range of training opportunities, mentoring programs, events and online forums available, go to www.itpa.org.au.
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