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Tame the Email Monster: How to Manage Stress, Anxiety, and Email Overload

February 1st, 2019

Are you suffering from information obesity? Subconsciously, are all your unanswered emails sending your stress levels soaring? Or have text messages become the source of your anxiety?

Email overload is frustrating—and sometimes terrifying. An over-crowded inbox is distracting and will divert your attention from what is important if you don’t take charge and do something about it. Your inbox can also house infectious contact from toxic people.

Email, or as my partner calls it, the Email Monster, is the source of many people’s anxiety.

 

Remember that anxiety feeds off fear, uncertainty, overwhelm, and overload. It also loves to distract you from doing the things you enjoy—burying you in a pyre of often meaningless distractions.

In the last few years, I’ve also noticed a level of toxicity creeping into emails. Some people are discourteous, and in some instances downright rude and inconsiderate. People rant and vent and type things they might not otherwise have had the courage or lack of manners to say in person.

I’m sure, rather than cowering behind their phone or computer and firing off emails if people stood face-to-face with someone before sending their tirade they wouldn’t feel so empowered and emboldened.

The rise in bullying has also led to a whole new malaise—cyberbullying.

Research by Swansea University in 2018, cites that children and young people under 25 who are victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to self-harm and enact suicidal behavior.

The findings also suggest that the perpetrators themselves are at higher risk of experiencing these same suicidal thoughts and behaviors. It’s worth remembering that it’s the sick who vomit over others, so don’t ever take it personally. This is easier said than done.

I’ve experienced a few toxic battles provoked by others, and there’s nothing that spikes my anxiety than the thought of opening my email. It’s hard to escape and the scathing words do tend to linger.

Some people clients and customers also send incessant demands, often during the oddest of hours, that they might not request if sending an email were not so spontaneous and instantaneous. Some emails are also lengthy and often arduous to read.

I’ve also worked with clients, who rather than have honest and frank conversations with each other send emails and texts—corroding their communication with all the mixed messages words not spoken convey.

My partner Laurie feels anxious if he ends his day with one email remaining in his inbox. He receives over 1200 emails a week, and many of his tasks are deadline driven. He manages his anxiety by slaying the Email Monster. He doesn’t subscribe to erroneous marketing campaigns promising the golden elixir that will cure us all. Nor does he subscribe to marketing campaigns offering some redundant e-book he would never have time to read and does not care for.

Me? I’m an email hoarder or was. It’s stressful and anxiety-producing running my eye over old emails.

This year it’s time for the old ways to die.

Before writing this book I was storing over three thousand emails!

It was liberating to press delete. You may gasp in horror at this strategy. But I thought, ‘will it really matter, six months from now?’ If it does, I’m sure the sender will email me again.

My partner, who I consider to be the king of email efficiency, says you have four choices: answer, unsubscribe, file—out of your inbox and into a ‘to answer’ file—delete.

“If I don’t answer within the timeframe that I feel intuitively is acceptable,” he says about his parking strategy, “I go back and delete it. Clearly, it wasn’t as important as I first thought.”

Consider, simply picking up the phone, or, if you can meet in person, and deal with the issues in the old-fashioned way. It’s a myth to think that emails always lead to greater efficiencies.

Be on guard for the Email Monster’s equally insidious brother, “Text Dragon.” With the advent of voice activation software, I’ve noticed a lot of people sending lengthy texts.  In addition, many people are leaving voice messages on their phones saying, “I don’t pick up my messages, if you can’t reach me, text instead.”

Considerable bullying and abusive behavior, spiking not just anxiety, but also suicidal thoughts and behavior, is being triggered not just by email but text messages too.

Cyber-bullies and those they bully don’t just exist with the young, naïve, or immature. In 2019, New Zealand Police began investigating a ‘you deserve to die’ text sent by one Minister of Parliament to another Minister. Hardly, model leadership behavior.

The recipient received the text well before being sectioned to a mental institution months later, but said in an interview that he re-read the text that day and after texting the MP to say she was going to get her wish, he ended up contemplating suicide.

The text was sent at 1:19am on a Saturday morning—making it even more abusive.

“It was my children that actively stopped me from going through with hurting myself,” he told Newshub. “I was just lucky there were people looking for me and lucky that I thought about my little girl’s happy face – and not wanting to crush that.”

The text message is potentially a breach of the Harmful Digital Communications Act, passed under the then National Government in response to cyberbullying. The law regulated digital communications, including text messages, making it illegal to urge someone to self-harm.

Become skilled with how to block contact from malicious people, and become affirmed with new legislation which offers some protection. Be the change you want to see. Cut down on your digital communication and get real—if you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t text or email.

If you are ever the target of bullying or abusive behavior seek help and know your rights. Don’t horde abusive messages. Slay the Text Dragon and Email Monster and put them firmly in their place.

Think how great it will be with hardly any messages in your inbox. This is how to manage email overload or cyberbullies and reclaim your life!

 

This is an edited extract of Anxiety Rescue, due for release in February 2019

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up for Cassandra’s newsletters to get more stories like this and be the first to know when her new book, Anxiety Rescue: How to Overcome Anxiety, Panic, and Stress and Reclaim Joy, will be released.

 

Did you enjoy this post?

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