Guest Post: Is E-Mail Bad for Your Health?

Published: August 13, 2011 | Last Updated: August 13, 2011 By | 5 Replies Continue Reading

I loved this essay written by my friend Sheryl and asked permission to repost it here. It deals with e-mail fatigue, a common ailment. Enjoy!

 

By Sheryl Kraft

I
don’t want to sound old or cranky or anything, but lately my enthusiasm
for computer technology — especially e-mail — has been waning.

 

As
much as I shy away from using the "age card," I have to remember that
even though I might feel 35, my birth certificate will take issue with
that fact. So I’ll admit that I’m old enough to remember the days
without cell phones and computers. But … I’m not too old to have
welcomed all of these things into my life, albeit initially (and
sometimes still) with a bit of hesitation and intimidation, not to
mention frustration and confusion at times. (Just ask anyone who lives
with me-or within earshot of me. I’m sure they’ll all tell you the
pleading, whining, stomping and teeth-gnashing is none too flattering;
not to mention that it’s not exactly the best incentive for them to come
willingly to my rescue).

 

Back to e-mail. When it first came into
my life, I embraced it. I loved it for the simplicity of being able to
express myself in writing (I am a writer, after all, and have always
felt more comfortable with a pen as my mouthpiece). I was happy not to
have to pick up the phone and spend time wondering about how to have a
brief conversation when I was pressed for time and the other person was
in a talkative mood. I was thrilled to type out a note to someone when
something popped into my head at midnight instead of waiting until the
morning to phone them. Thinking of all the time it would save me, I
hailed it as a miracle of time efficiency, much like a washing machine
or dishwasher.

 

But then my sentiment soured. Scores of e-mails
would sit in my "sent" box, unanswered. Urgent questions that needed
responses would linger, delaying action. I felt ignored; worried that
something tragic had happened to the other person. Or maybe the e-mail
never reached them in the first place; should I send another, or would
that be interpreted as pushy? I once had an unnecessary falling out with
a friend via e-mail-our tones indistinguishable and as a result,
misunderstood without the cadence of language.

 

Maybe you’ve once
received the advice I once received by a therapist: if you need
closure, write it all down in a letter, but don’t mail it. That advice
usually did the trick of getting things off my chest without worry about
acting too impulsively and saying something I’d later regret. But that
doesn’t always work with e-mail. How many times have you, in a fit of
enthusiasm, passion, excitement or the like hit the "send" button, only
to regret it later?

 

What I guess I’m trying to say is this:
e-mail can be bad for your health. What comes out of all of these
scenarios is stress. Lots of it.

 

I don’t know what the answer is;
I haven’t found it yet. Revert to phone calls? Not always realistic,
given the fact that just as many people let messages pile up in their
voicemail system, ignore yours altogether and then hit "delete" and
start fresh. And you can’t always be sure that yours even got recorded,
or that you didn’t mistakenly dial the wrong number.

 

I don’t
think I’m alone in this e-mail stressdom. I have a sneaking suspicion
we’re all suffering from it together, probably to different degrees.

 

So
in the meantime, while I’m waiting for the countless outstanding
e-mails to pop back into my inbox with a response-equivalent in
excitement to calling customer service and having an actual person pick
up on the first ring-I’ll have to remember things to do to help deal
with stress.

 

One is to remember that chronic stress is just plain
bad for you, affecting every aspect of your life and health: your
appetite (stress produces cortisol, an appetite trigger), your sleep,
your blood pressure, your thoughts, feelings and behavior. Too much
stress can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. It can show
itself in ulcers, migraines, heart palpitations and memory impairment.

 

Another?
Step away from your e-mail. Stretch, exercise, listen to relaxing
music, meditate. Some experts say that certain foods can help fight
stress. These include foods rich in folate and vitamins A and C, like
papayas, red bell peppers, basil, arugula, sunflower seeds, and foods
rich in vitamin B, which has a calming effect on the body, like lentils,
chickpeas and quinoa.

 

And
it might help to reach out to a friend. A good friend can be a huge
stress buster. But before you do, you might want to consider picking up
the phone rather than e-mailing.

About Sheryl:

Sheryl Kraft is a freelance journalist, essayist and writer of
non-fiction based in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Her writing covers
all areas, with a concentration in health, wellness and fitness. With
the exception of quantum physics, just about everything interests her;
in fact, one of the greatest things Sheryl finds about writing is the
opportunity it gives her to delve into subjects and discover something
new.

 

Visit her blog, Midlife Matters,
on the womens’ health network healthywomen.org. It is an informal
conversation where women discuss all matters-and why they matter-pertaining
to women in midlife.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Uncategorized

Comments (5)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. EagleWings says:

    Maybe it’s like the career advice articles I see that say you should ask your boss what her favored form of communication is?

    I had one boss who kind of hated e-mail and preferred face to face communication. Maybe it should be like that with friends, ask them what their preference is?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think the rules of etiquette we were raised with, no longer apply since so many new forms of communications were developed so quickly. In a sense, new rules are just made and changed as we go along. So the biggest problem I see with/ text/Facebook, ect..on personal relationships, is the huge differing opinions on what exactly is rude! Then the following problem of how exactly to act, if you are not quite sure, if someone was rude!!

  3. EagleWings says:

    Anonymous, did you see my post farther down this page? I’m in the same spot as your friend, my mother died awhile ago.

    It sounds like you’re being a very good friend.

    I am sorry this ordeal is making you feel rejected.

    Just based on what I’m reading here, the fact that you have tried to be there for your friend, really be there, not just offered token gestures of support – I have a lot of respect for you.

    So even if your friend does not appreciate your efforts, please know that I do.

    I didn’t want to make my first post too long with qualifiers and exceptions, but the truth is, people do sometimes grieve in a different way from others.

    I’ve spoken to other grieving people on the web, and some of them don’t feel comfortable opening up and talking about their loss much, but there are so many who (like me) absolutely do.

    Maybe there are some grieving friends who actually prefer brief e-mails or Facebook posts as a form of support in place of face to face contact or phone calls (I’m not one of them, though).

    I think the wisest thing anyone can do is ask the grieving friend, “How can I support you through your loss?”

    Admit to your friend you want to be there for her, but you don’t know how to give her the support she needs, or what kind she prefers, so ask her if she could come right out and tell you?

    As for the religious differences.

    Maybe she feels it will offend you, or be a “turn off” to you any time she mentions her faith, even if it’s in the context of her loss, and that’s why she avoids discussing any of this with you.

    If you ask her how you can support her, it may be (brace yourself for it) that she might say while you two can remain friends, the religious difference makes talking about her grieving off limits with you, so she may say, “Thanks, but I do not want to discuss my loss with you. We can discuss anything but that.”

    I am a Christian, and sadly, other Christians have really let me down in regards to the loss of my mother.

    I have Non Christian friends who have shown me more compassion and understanding than most of the Christians I know, though one of them is hostile to most Christians (she says I’m one of the only ones she likes and respects), so I feel I have to be sensitive when talking to her about how my faith affects my grief.

    You said,

    But I do know I have tried to be there for in in so many ways, and yet in the end she seems to feel I have fallen short.

    That is a shame. It sounds like you tried so hard to be supportive of her, but she’s not seeing it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I have recently found myself in the position of being a friend who wants my widowed friend to open up and talk to me. I have phoned, sent cards and e-mails, etc., offered my time, day or night, should she want to call. And she does. BUT … she does not want to own her feelings of sadness too much. At least not to me. And probably not to others. I don’t really think she is in denial to an unhealthy extent. I think she only likes to talk about her loss in a certain religious context. And if you don’t share that context (I do not), you can’t be of help to her. She also attends a variety of support groups for loss, but all of them in her religious affiliation. We’ve actually had a few bumps because of this. I keep offering my ear should she need it. But it’s almost as if that’s not good enough. I feel a little rejected. I find out after the fact that she has had a rough day, and I feel so awful because I wish I could have known so I could have gone to see her to just be there for her. But she tells me after the fact. I guess what I’m saying is that some people who are grieving are selective in how they want to be consoled and by whom. It’s been a strange experience for me, and I am not sure how to cope with it. I still want to help, but almost feel that with every time I offer to be there to listen, I am driving us further apart rather than closer together. The real wedge has been the religious differences. I don’t criticize hers at all; but because I don’t adhere to it, she takes that as a rejection of her belief. And tries to convert me to her religion. It’s all very complicated. But I do know I have tried to be there for in in so many ways, and yet in the end she seems to feel I have fallen short.

  5. EagleWings says:

    This was a very interesting article, and another one I had several things in common with.

    I too have experienced feeling bad after sending an e-mail and the recipient doesn’t respond for days or weeks (or sometimes not at all).

    I still enjoy communicating with others using e-mail and social networking sites, but I have noticed those forms of communication also have their drawbacks.

    After my mother died, while some people ignored me, some of those who did bother to communicate, would use e-mail or Facebook in the place of in-person visits or phone calls.

    I’d like to encourage those of you who have a friend in grieving, that rather than rely only, or mainly, on e-mail, Facebook, or text messaging,

    to please, if you are serious about helping your mourning friend, to please invest the time (and it might be hours each month, for up to two years [when most people’s grief is the hardest]) on the phone or in- person, just listening to your friend discuss her loss.

    When you are in deep grieving, a brief e-mail, text message, or Facebook comment or message might be better than nothing, but it just does not cut it.

    Unfortunately, I think a lot of people view e-mail and other electronic communication as an easy way to wiggle out of their obligation to really, truly be there for a hurting or grieving person.

    And “truly being there” might mean, as I said before, spending hours listening to them talk about their loss uninterrupted, rather than just shooting off a three-sentence e-mail just because it’s convenient for you.

Leave a Reply