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Email Overload

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Many can relate to the stress caused by an overflowing email inbox at work. But what many may not know is how a healthy inbox can help promote a healthy lifestyle, beyond just what comes about from your emails.

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© Flickr user Aaron Escobar

For many of us, staying healthy is a numbers game. We should exercise more and eat less. We should gain muscle but shed pounds. We should raise our heart rate so that it can be lower on average. For better or for worse, we watch the scale, count calories and constantly measure our progress.

Physical wellness requires being conscientious. However, there are health factors far more significant than making it to one more spin class or deciding to enjoy one more strip of bacon. Among the most serious is stress. For most of us that stress arises from our job.

The American Psychological Association highlights how stress can be a serious problem:

Untreated chronic stress can result in serious health conditions including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Research shows that stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity.

Stress at work leads to long hours, which keeps us from sleep. Work stress threatens our personal relationships. Many people use alcohol or food to escape from their troubles at their office, which can only damage their overall well-being. Workplace stress is a major threat to our health.

Much of the mental anguish we endure at our jobs is out of our control. We are stressed by everything from demanding customers and personality conflicts with co-workers. There are no easy treatments for many of these frustrations. However, there is one universal source of annoyance that we can readily tackle. Almost everyone can relate to the incredible stress caused by email.

The main reason that we are overwhelmed by email is because we so rarely deal with email on our own time. Most of us leave our email program running constantly. Messages pop up throughout the day. They interrupt our current workflow and demand our attention. How many times have you stopped to deal with an incoming message and forgotten the task you just left? Because email is interruption-driven, we tend to treat every message as urgent—thus building up our stress over time.

Furthermore, we tend to use email as a catch-all storage system. The hundreds or perhaps thousands of messages in our inbox represent work we have not yet completed. It’s as if our mail is a gigantic, growing to-do list that we will never complete. It is no wonder that email contributes to stress.

Both of these problems require a change in perspective. First, we must recognize that email is never urgent. If someone needs our attention right away, they should call us on the telephone. That means we can turn off our email program and check messages on our own time. We don’t need to respond in minutes to requests that can be processed the following day.

Second, we should acknowledge that the destiny of any email is to be deleted. Inbound messages should be processed, not saved. If someone sends you a document, put it in the right folder. If they request an appointment, place it on your calendar. If they offer contact information, store the details in your address book. The ultimate fate of any email message is deletion. A shrinking inbox reduces stress.

Improve your health by improving the health of your email inbox. Reduce stress by controlling email. Choose wellness in your environment as well as within your body. Healthy inboxes make for healthy people!

If you want to learn more about ways of reducing stress at work, contact our Indianapolis consultants today.

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