Have we all become a bunch of anxious, depressed, sleep-deprived irritable stress-heads?

Let's face it, the last few years have been a challenge for just about anyone's tolerance of stress and has made even the most "stable" of us question our own emotional and mental health.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

I've discovered that IT workers in particular, or anyone who is tightly tied to the use of technology is now on the border of becoming a quivering pile of jelly.

I'm no mental health expert, but I've been around the block a few times, so I thought that given everyone's mood these days I would divert from our usual discussion of computers and technology and center around the most overlooked mission-critical systems component: Our own grey matter.

IT workers, particularly those that are in IT service delivery or are in operational/support roles are constantly trying to meet employer and customer demands. We're tied to email and instant messaging, and not just on our computers.

We're now permanently attached to our smartphones and other smart devices. We're expected to be available at all times, and to be responsive, no matter where we are or what time of day it is.

We live in productivity applications like Microsoft Project or support systems like Remedy and our job performance is defined by chargeability/utilization and deadlines and customer satisfaction. And because we have to be so connected and so well informed to do our jobs, we've now extended our personal lives and non-work time into the realm of electronic news sources, blogging, Twitter, and Social Networking.

The amount of information that we now have to process on a daily basis has now become overwhelming. Our collective synapses are firing like the spark plugs on a V-12 Ferrari.


Yes, really. I mean it. Come home from work, have a pleasing beverage (perhaps a nice glass of red wine) and decompress for a few hours, especially before turning on your home computer or turning on the TV. Learn to have some "me" time disconnected from news and the Internet.

Your Facebook profile and Twitter updates and your blog will still be there later, trust me. Converse with your spouse or partner and talk about the day, eat a real meal at your kitchen table like a human being, and for the rest of the evening, stop doing stuff that involves technology. Seriously.

That includes playing violent video games or anything that would otherwise over-stimulate you. Read a book for a change, or lie down and listen to some relaxing music.

At the very least, by 9PM, put all the damn devices in their chargers, set the IM client to "away", shut your screen off, and if you have to watch TV, for Pete's sake, stop watching the damn news and pick something completely stupid and escapist from your TiVo programs list.

I realize that it's hard, but when you get home, disconnect from the depressing news and the political garbage least a few days a week.

(Edit: After reading this post, a colleague pointed me to this informative piece that was recently published in Conputerworld that many of you should read.)

Many of my colleagues tell me that they are irritable and don't get enough sleep. Hmmm. Let's see.... They're having cups of coffee every 75 minutes, are making twice daily visits to Starbucks and are having triple and quad-shot espresso drinks, and are chain-drinking Diet Cokes, Mountain Dew and Red Bulls.

Wanna hint? Ratchet down the caffeine. Guess what Gen-Xers, you're not 25 anymore. At 6PM, switch to decaf and caffeine-free beverages. And try to avoid eating a heavy meal after 9PM.

Lack of sleep is no joke. It will have a major impact on your personality and job performance.

If you find you're nodding off in the middle of the afternoon, or are chronically fatigued and people are saying that you are irritable, you might want to have yourself checked out by a health professional such as an Ear/Nose/Throat specialist (ENT) or a doctor that specializes in Pulmonary medicine and get a Sleep Study done.

Has your partner or spouse ever told you that you snore or do you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night gasping for breath? Do you go to the bathroom several times a night? Is your sleep restless? Do you wake up in the morning feeling extremely tired and find it difficult to get up?

Although some anxiety problems and some sleep issues and can be resolved with prescription drugs such as Xanax and Ambien, you could have something much more serious -- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

Whazzat? It's estimated that up to 1/5th of all adult Americans may have the disorder, which tends to affect people that are overweight (although anyone can get it). And I know a lot of us who work in desk-bound IT jobs don't live super-active lifestyles and could probably shed a few pounds.

I was diagnosed with OSA last year, and since I started using a CPAP machine (a small computerized device which sends regulated pressurized air flow down your windpipe down a hose through a face mask or nosepeice that you sleep with at night) I've been getting at least six hours of uninterrupted deep sleep at night and my mood has improved considerably as well as my overall energy.

I now can get up at 6AM no problem and I no longer feel fatigued in the middle of the day. The downside is you'll look and sound like Darth Vader when you sleep, and the device makes a small amount of noise and takes several weeks to get used to, but it's a small price to pay for increased health (avoiding very serious problems such as Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease, high blood pressure, cardiac issues and heart attacks and stroke down the road) and greatly reduced anxiety and depression.

If OSA sounds like a rare condition, it isn't. It's extremely common, and most people that have it go undiagnosed with it for their entire lives. The technology to effectively treat it has only existed for about 20 years, and CPAPs are now smaller and quieter than ever.

To put this in perspective, since telling some of my colleagues about the condition, several of them have gone on to have sleep studies done (something that your insurance plan will pay for) and were diagnosed with OSA and were given CPAP/BiPAP machines.

A very close friend and two family members on my wife's side also now been diagnosed have OSA, and all three of these people aren't "obese" either. And now they're finally sleeping properly.

Has your job, your enabling technology and the events of the day turned you into a sleep deprived head case? Talk Back and let me know.

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