Perhaps you missed this dispatch from Reuters news service earlier this year: “The round-the-clock availability that cell phones and pagers have brought to people’s lives may be taking a toll on family life, a new study suggests.”

And chances are good a consumer alert issued last year from the American Society of Hand Therapists also slipped past you: Handheld electronics are causing an increasing amount of carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.

It’s an unfortunate consequence of Blackberry addiction. Feel any throbbing between your thumb and wrist lately?

Or have you experienced what a researcher terms “negative spillover”? It’s when life’s boundaries dissolve and you’re thumbing your Blackberry under the dinner table or fielding a call in the office from one of your kids whose practice was cancelled and wants to know how he’s getting home.

Spilling over

An association executive I was attempting to line up for an interview responded with an email that captures the essence of negative spillover: “This is a particularly busy time. Today is the deadline for spring registration and winter workshop feedback worksheets, we’re shipping off this year’s accreditation exam to the computer delivery vendor, I’m on travel this coming Sunday - Wednesday and I just moved my 89-year-old mother from an independent apartment to assisted living!”

Sometimes the spillover is more of a flood. Take this recent email from a well-known safety expert: “Sorry for my earlier email, but I get stressed out when my plate is overflowing. Let me know what else I can do to expedite the process. This project is a priority in my professional life. And that is the only life I have these days.”

Priority projects. Deadlines. Travel. Family matters. Overflowing plates. No wonder 50.2 percent of ISHN readers reported heightened levels of stress in their lives last year, according to our White Paper survey. A more fortunate 42.1 percent were at least able to keep a lid on stress, reporting levels unchanged from a year earlier. Intriguing are the 5.6 percent who actually figured out how to decrease their stress. Retirement? A job in OSHA’s standards-setting office?

Warning signs

Given life’s hectic pace, you might be too preoccupied to notice the effects of techno-stress. So here are ten warning signs to look for:

1 - That pain between your thumb and wrist.
2 - You start using your thumb to ring doorbells or to point directions.
3 - You start breakfast conversation by mentioning how many emails you answered last night.
4 - Your business card lists a general phone number, a direct line, an 800 number, a cell number, a facsimile number, a voice mail number, your home phone line, pager number, along with obligatory email and web site addresses. Double techno-stress points if you list offices in two or more states.
5 - A 50-foot spruce tree falls on your house in a wind storm. Your spouse is concerned about the roof. You worry about your DSL connection.
6 - You’re driving a stick-shift up a twisting mountain road, scrolling through your cell phone directory looking for a number, when the car in front of you stops suddenly. You jam on the brakes, your car stalls out, and starts sliding back toward the car coming up behind you. (Or a similar near-hit with a contributing tech factor.)
7 - Your plane reaches the gate and you have an involuntary reflex reaction: you reach for your cell. Or you leave the lobby of a customer and without thinking whip out your Blackberry or mobile. Can’t wait ’til you get back to your car? Double techno-stress points.
8 - A colleague critiques your report in a meeting in a manner you find rude and baseless. Instead of facing him afterward, or phoning him, you email your grievances.
9 - You find that more contact with your family (calls at work, text messages, etc.) leads to greater dysfunctionality.
10 - You doze off while reading this quote from David Greenfield, a Connecticut psychologist who specializes in high-tech issues: “Our culture is about distraction, numbing oneself. There is no self-reflection, no sitting still. It’s absolutely exhausting.”

Your inner Luddite

OK, if you’re feeling evidence of techno numbness and can’t sit still, what’s the antidote? An Internet search using keywords “techno stress” offered these recommendations:

First, speaking of Internet searches, if you don’t find what you’re looking for after the first two pages of links, stop. Ignore the other 537,864 listings.

Turn off all phones during family meal times — that’s if you have family meals.

Alternate with your spouse the days you will be “on call” for your kids. “Sorry about that migraine Johnny, but your mother’s on call today. Want her number?”

Keep your emails short. “Tank car derailed. More later.”

Take a gadget break. Do something completely different. Change the oil in your car.

Walk the dog. Find your inner Luddite.