For the past month, I’ve decided to try something different. I’ve struggled with generalised anxiety for years. There are moments when I’m fine and then there are moments when everything is a trigger and it makes me really cranky. I already know that unexpected crowds is a huge trigger for me, but I discovered another one: my phone. Specifically notifications. For example, I HATE when people send me multiple messages that could’ve been consolidated into one message if they just took their time. Hearing the back to back ping drives me nuts and makes me want to throw my phone at the wall! I’ve told friends this, but some of them still do it. Another is responding to a message only to have someone else text me as soon as I put my phone down. Or someone texting me when I’m trying to take a photo of something. One of my solutions is leaving my phone on silent, but have you ever had to look for your phone when it’s on silent? It’s not fun. So I took it a step further. I’ve decided to reduce usage of my phone, sometimes ignoring messages completely.
Yes, I answer emails, respond to business-related texts, and a lot of my job as a blogger is dependent on being active on social media. In some ways, it provides me with endless inspiration, serves a fantastic place to interact with this community, and allows me to document moments in my life in an organized, appealing way. On the flip side, I occasionally find myself doubting my abilities, questioning why I wasn't included in social outings, and feeling an overall sense of inadequacy. Instagram’s algorithims have been a nightmare on my self esteem and I honestly got so tired of the fakeness that comes from the whole, “Living my best life” attitude (BTW, I really didn’t know that’s based on a song; I literally just heard the song last month for the first time). So I knew I had to make a change. Here’s what I did to use my phone less and bring about more piece!
MONITOR YOUR PHONE USAGE
I don’t have a phone addiction at all, but I know for sure there are times I unlock my phone, stare at the screen and wait to see if a message will pop up. As you can see, I really don’t use my phone often. There’s really no need when I work with kids and a desktop computer all day. Other than playing music in the car on my commute, randomly checking memes and reaching out to teachers throughout the day, I BARELY touch my phone. One day I went home with my phone on 91%.
2. START SLOW
Instead of going cold turkey and completely eliminating your cell phone use (which can be very anxiety provoking), begin by progressively reducing the amount of time you spend checking your phone. For example, start by limiting the amount you check your phone to once per 30 minutes, then once per 2 hours, as so on. Keep a tally of how many times you check your phone per hour. Use your phone only for necessary communications or emergencies.
3. CHANGE YOUR PHONE SETTINGS
One of the things I love that my phone can do is it lets me set a time for my phone to automatically turn off and automatically turn back on. I use this to create my own “quiet hours”. So from 11 PM to 4:55 AM (just before my first alarm) my phone will automatically shut off. I chose this time as a way to force myself to go to bed at a reasonable hour because I usually don’t even use my phone after 10. I still want to be reachable but I need my beauty sleep.
4. Put Your Phone Away
After a rather embarrassing moment when my explicit ringtone rang during a therapy session on the importance of using age appropriate language, my phone LIVES on vibrate at work. I set it to ring at home because I’m the master of randomly putting my phone down and forgetting that I even own a phone at times. But if you’re looking for a good way to reduce your phone use, this is a great way to start. Put your phone somewhere where you will not see it. Turn your phone on silent mode when you are at work, study or anywhere else, so it won't distract you. Out of sight, out of mind.
5. Focus on The Present
When I went to Church By The Glades last month, I was so preoccupied with capturing the moment on my cellphone that I wasn’t enjoying it. I had to stop and ask myself, “Are you really going to share all of these videos?” When I realised I wasn’t going to, I put my phone in my pocket and simply embraced the atmosphere. I felt a wave of emotion that I wouldn’t have felt if I was so busy trying to record it. Mindfulness, the art of being aware, can help you become centered and possibly reduce the impulse to engage in cell phone use. Try to be in the present moment by focusing on what is currently going on, including your own thoughts and reactions.
While cell phone use may feel positive, it can actually limit us and close us off from intimate relationships. If you or someone you know is struggling with a phone addiction, you need these tips! Simply tell your family and friends that you think you are using your cell phone too much and you are working on cutting down. You can explain that you would appreciate if they support you in this process. Additionally, you could give them specific suggestions and involve them in your plan. Instead of using your phone to feel better, engage in alternative activities such as exercise/sports or creative activities such as writing or drawing. If you have a specific plan for each day and you are focusing on your responsibilities, you will have less time to spend on your phone. The bonus is that you will spend more time focusing on your goals and being productive. Think of each reason you use your cell phone (games, texting, phone calls). Some of these habits may be necessary to your work and daily life (perhaps work emails, etc), while others could be disrupting your life if they take away from your normal interactions and responsibilities. Attempt to replace each of these disruptive habits into more productive, social, and quality experiences.