Stress by design

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Stress by design

Hunting and collecting is easily combined with taking rest and digesting food. In our collective history we recognize the success of homo sapiens. The modern human brain allows us to develop complicated languages, to work together on a large scale and to use many techniques. The world that we live in today is increasingly digital, thus creating a new relationship between humans and technology. Yet we entered the technological revolution and the collective pace acceleration with the same brain as our ancestors in the stone age. “Our brain evolutionary lags, which means that we must learn to deal with stress” (W. Hoogendijk, From Big Bang to Burnout, 2017).

There is a plea for calm technology, which is technology that informs you in the background, but doesn’t demand your focus or attention. When I am looking around it does not seem very successful. The addictive effect of digital apps is undeniable. In a number of relaxation exercises that I gave to a total of 70 participants I found that all of them struggled with stress, and that more than half of them said it was difficult to relax. Are we becoming slave of the technology instead of master? Do we slowly discover the price we are paying for that?

The design of our human brain builds on the design of the reptilian and mammalian brain, and is often classified on those three levels. The instinctive or reptilian brain is especially focused on individual survival and reproduction, the emotional or mammalian brain is mainly focused on rapprochement to others, and the rational- or new brain allows us to think. In the last two hundred years the design of our brain has not been adapted to the new technologies and the collective acceleration. The continuing increase of stimuli often leads to information overload and -addiction. We can no longer focus our attention and we can hardly relax. Moreover we neglect our body with a lack of rest, sleep and movement.

Technological developments have their own dynamics, which seems disengaged from our needs and capabilities. The scholars are divided over the best strategy to deal with this phenomenon. Some expect the information overload will adapt the structure of our brain, though so far no evidence was found for that. Based on our current brain design I would call for attention, relaxation, balance, slow down and quality time. Reduce digital stressors. Give time and attention to yourself and each other. Give more attention to physical relaxation and rest and do things that you really care about.
Maybe I’m just old fashioned and maybe I am wrong. But frankly I don’t think so. What do you think?