Written by: Kate Thieda, MS, LPCA, NCC
Does the thought of leaving your smartphone turned off spike your anxiety? If more than an hour goes by without looking at Facebook or Twitter, do you suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out)? When the internet is slow or (gasp!) down, do you feel rage rising? Do you text and drive?
It might be time for a technology detox.
Studies are showing that technology use can contribute to high levels of stress, increase strain on relationships, contribute to attention deficit disorder (ADD) symptoms, and even contribute to health problems.
If the mere thought of stepping away from your electronic devices makes you anxious, relax. With careful thought and planning, this detox can be a pleasant experience, once you get past the initial jolt of not having a phone in your hand or having your butt on a chair in front of your computer constantly.
Tip 1: Be intentional with your plan. Think about why, how, and for how long you are going to reduce or give up your technology. Being specific is best, i.e., I will only check Facebook once in the morning at 8:00 am and once in the evening, at 6:30 pm. Then tell others about it so you can be held accountable.
Tip 2: Replace the technology with other activities. If you simply take your tech toys away and don’t replace them with something else, you are going to find yourself “craving” the electronic fix. Decide ahead of time how you will spend the time that used to be taken up by the screen. Get a book you’ve been wanting to read from the library, or buy a magazine to have handy. Meet up with a friend for coffee. Walk the dog. Work on an art project. Run. Stretch. Do yoga.
Tip 3: Allow yourself small, total breaks from technology. Going to a party or your kid’s soccer game? Leave the phone in the car. Check your email every 15 minutes? Try checking it once an hour. Have the habit of using your phone while driving? Put it in the trunk of the car so it is inaccessible. Look at Facebook constantly? Look at it twice a day, or take every-other day off. Have alerts popping up on your phone and computer every minute? Turn them off.
Once you have mastered the tips above, think about expanding your technology-free times. Your physical and mental health will thank you!
Kate Thieda, MS, LPCA, NCC is a psychotherapist in Durham. You visit her website at www.durhamnctherapist.com, give her a call at 919-408-7706, or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/katethiedatherapy. All calls are confidential and you will receive a free 20-minute screening.