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Jean-Claude Elias


Unless you happen to be an accomplished yogi, an inhabitant of the Kalahari Desert or have retired for the rest of your days on some paradisiacal Mediterranean island, you must have your dose of daily stress.

These days, normal people are not asked whether they are or not stressed, but rather how much stress they are subjected to. We all have our daily dose of stress, but most of us have learnt to live with it.

Still, there are times when I wonder if part of the burden is not self-imposed and whether we cannot alleviate the pain simply by getting rid of some of the stress-generating modern tools, without affecting in any negative manner the quality of our life.

Telephony and computing have become extremely mobile, but, of course, they constitute a double-edged sword. There is no need to go again over all the advantages that mobile IT brings us. Suffice it to say that the efficiency at work of someone who knows how to make the best out of a laptop computer, a smartphone and wi-fi Internet is many times that of a person who doesn't possess or use these tools. Not to mention the added value that they bring in terms of entertainment, pleasure, personal communications, security and, last but not least, culture.

In the early days of e-mail not so long ago we used to check for incoming messages once or twice a day. We used to set a time for this, like one would go to the post office or check out the letterbox, for example. Now it's all the time, wherever we are. A correspondent who would send you an urgent e-mail will probably call you (or SMS you) just minutes after, asking or even shouting: What, you haven't yet opened the message I sent you more than five minutes ago? Obviously, one isn't allowed any respite these days.

What do techno-savvy people who frequently travel do when waiting at airports? Do they visit the duty-free shops, take the time to talk to and befriend other passengers or just close their eyes and relax (ah, the silly old-fashioned word!)? No, they quickly open their laptop or smart mobile phone and then log on the web thanks to the wireless Internet hot spots now installed at most international airports. This way, they'll be the first to know where the last terrorist bomb exploded, if the Nasdaq index has moved up or down, and how the weather is like at the other end of the earth where they'll never go anyway.

Many do not yet realise how mobile IT has got out of proportion. Most people have learnt to put their mobile phone in silent mode during meetings. But they will nevertheless check for incoming SMSs and will even take the time to reply to them. Physically, they are with you, but mentally they are elsewhere.

The results of a survey I recently found posted on the web (yes, I, like everybody else, read the news on the web) show that, in England: One [person] in five will break off from a business or social engagement to respond to a message. Almost two out of three people check their electronic messages out of office hours and when on holiday. Nine out of 10 people thought colleagues who answered messages during face-to-face meetings were rude, while three out of 10 believed it was not only acceptable, but a sign of diligence and efficiency.

The worst part of the phenomenon may not be rudeness or stress but the unavoidable consequence of being all the time interrupted in whatever one is doing.

Constant interruptions prevent one from performing in-depth tasks, from serious thinking and from taking the right decisions. Dr Glenn Wilson, a British psychiatrist thinks the phenomenon may go as far as reducing one's IQ.

We are constantly on the lookout for incoming e-mail, SMS or phone calls and we are prompted to respond to them and process them in a similar emergency manner; it's like being 24/7 on red-code alert. If this is not the ultimate from of stress then I do not know what is.
[tags]article, stress, question, answer[/tags]

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