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By: Morris Massry

Whether it’s talking on our smartphones or typing away at our computers, technology has found its way into every nook and cranny of our everyday lives. Leaving these marvels of the modern world at home is no longer an option, and the average person is now texting their friend down the block instead of walking a few feet to see them face to face.

Don’t get me wrong, as an IT professional, I see the immense hurdles that technology has helped us transcend in bringing people from across the world together, but we don’t need social media notifications on what our friend is having for lunch. There is more to life than flickering pixels, status updates and e-mail alerts.

What’s the point of having friends, an education, or even a backyard if you cannot use it, since you’re too busy staring at a glowing display only inches from your face? What are we if we do not utilize our knowledge and spend time, in person, with the people around us? What if we aren’t grasping all the opportunities which are present to us because we’re holding ourselves hostage with some electronic device?

Experts say this constant screen time is causing some major health issues, as well. There's a condition called Screen Apnea where, as you stare at your screen, you literally stop breathing. As you anticipate the next email or news item, you hold your breath, cutting off oxygen to your brain. Related to this is a condition called Present Shock, which means you are constantly "in the moment" scanning for tweets, posts, and other tidbits. Having this constant flow of information can make you agitated, cause undue stress and even lead to depression.

Constant clicking from one thing to the next can be stressful, so it’s important to break that cycle. Fortunately, there are several ways to break free from this locked-in screen obsessiveness. First and foremost, become more aware of the problem. Take breaks from the screen, stand up and stretch, or go for a quick stroll. If your problem is that you stay glued to a daily news feed too much, add a calendar event to step outside every couple of hours.

Technology is great at helping you do more within your business and personal life, but it can develop a problem where having so many moving pieces can create more distraction in your brain, rather than less. Participating in something more physical or manual, such as athletic sports or a hands-on hobby, will help you get in the habit of completing tasks from start to finish and maintain your concentration. Taking the time to really engage with and focus on the world around you also has benefits. Studies have shown a dramatic positive impact on health when workers take their lunch hour to go for a walk or disengage from technology.

You can also fight fire with fire. Several apps have been designed to target this exact problem – “Take A Break” for the Chrome browser is a plugin that flashes a little icon every 15 minutes as a reminder to stop surfing. Browsing on your phone late at night from your bed? Download f.lux for iPhone or Lux for Android, and it will remove the blue hue from your screen, as blue light disrupts the brain’s natural sleep-wake cycles. Want to get an even better sleep? Sleep Cycle is an app which uses your phone’s motion sensors to figure out what state of sleep you are in, and wakes you at the appropriate time in your sleep-wake cycle.

Stepping away takes discipline, and it’s very easy to fall back into information overload. Use your tech time wisely — or it could use you up.