Am I alone here or are there those of you who get a bit anxious when thinking about opening up your inbox? I’m wondering if there is a new, 21st century psychological phobic name for the fear of emails. I must look it up. Yep, it’s called Inbox Fear. I’m a bit disappointed. I thought it would have a fancier name. First thing I found on the internet was this plea for help by a young adult:
I'm a 22-year-old college student who suffers from anxiety disorder. Although I've come to terms with my anxiety, I've started to discover a new source of stress in my life. Last year I started to avoid checking my e-mail for a few days at a time, but what started out as simple avoidance as turned into an agonizing process for me. Lately I've avoided checking my e-mail for upwards of three weeks at a time, but when I recently tried to check my e-mail it resulted in a panic attack. Is this fear of my e-mail normal? What can I do in order to avoid feeling this anxious every time I check my e-mail?
Wow, there’s at least one person out there who has similar behaviour patterns to me. The way I see this email anxiety thing, it’s like, let’s say, every time I go into the bathroom, I know, without any shadow of a doubt that there’s going to be at least one Huntsman spider waiting for me – maybe a huge daddy one or a baby one. Ok, maybe not THAT bad, but you know what I mean. So, let’s unpack this and see what this anxiety and fear looks like for me and maybe for you:
Curiosity – there’s a part of me that is curious to see what emails I have received. For this reason, I check to see what has arrived. Perhaps it’s important!
Dread – this is the feeling I get when I see there are 1,036 emails in the inbox. Sigh.
Fear – perhaps I was unkind in a previous email and now someone is going to answer back and give me a good dressing down.
Time – I sit down at the computer to do something specific but if I check my inbox first, one hour later I’m still attending to the emails and haven’t yet even got around to what I originally sat down to do! Soooooo annoying!
Too many – you know those companies/individuals whom you have actually given your email address to. You have an interest in following or receiving emails from them but they totally abuse this privilege and send you an email nearly every day! This is probably the most frustrating for me. The problem is that I’m actually interested in what they have to say and I find it really hard to delete or block their emails. I know! This leads to anxiety and frustration as I try my best to skim read what they have sent me but at the same time wishing I could give the information more attention as I’m also wishing that I had never received it in the first place! Anyone out there with me on this one? I mean this really is an ignorance is bliss situation, right?
FOMO – Yep, the fear of missing out. What if there is something in this email that I want to delete that could change my life completely? I’ll just take a quick look……..15 minutes later …… still reading.
So, what to do about this email anxiety? Well, the psychiatrist who answered the 22 year-old’s cry for help said to face the fear head on. Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said:
I gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience
in which I must stop and look fear in the face.
He advised the student to check her emails at a set time each morning and get it out of the way. He also gave her some advice, which I think I may do right now as I scan through my 1,036 emails:
If you can't cope with all the old e-mails and you know you’ll never
read them, take a deep breath, delete them all and start fresh.
There’s just SO much stuff going on in the world and in other people’s lives and the question I ask myself is, do I really need to know about all of it? It really is information overload but the curious, interested brain has a yearning to know as much as possible. This is the dilemma and the root of the anxiety.
So, I’ve decided to be ruthless. I’m going to go into the inbox and delete everything I’m not going to read. Right now. I’m going to block those senders who have become a pain in the neck by sending me too much information too regularly. I’m going to check my inbox every day and not let them build up. Please universe, give me the strength to actually do this! Will I? Can I?
They say a problem shared is a problem halved. If you too suffer from Inbox Fear, I hope this may have helped in some small way. Good luck with all those emails, and please know, you are not alone.