It’s time to switch off
By Eleanor Jones
Modern life can be pretty overwhelming. As if ever-mounting financial, social and professional pressures weren’t enough, we’re all plugged into a device that leaves us contactable by anybody around the world 24/7 – and if your phone never gets switched off, it’s likely that you don’t either.
“We get hooked on the rush of dopamine we get with each new ‘hit’ of information that an email or news story gives us. Being glued to our phones means we never truly relax.”
While it’s not surprising that excessive smartphone use seems to have a direct correlation to anxious tendencies, you might be surprised at all of the ways your phone is invading your mental health on a daily basis. From your sleep patterns to your motivation for browsing, here’s what you need to know.
- Letting it affect your sleep cycle
Poor sleep is a common physical symptom of anxiety – but most of us use our mobile phone as our alarm clock. Chloe says:
“This means that it’s right there next to us before we go to bed and as we’re waking up – making it incredibly tempting to check out phones before bed and again first thing… Does checking stress-inducing work emails or comparing yourself to that blogger’s latest selfie sound like a good way to start and end your day? I don’t think so. Get a proper alarm clock and leave your phone in another room. It’s life-changing.”
- Allowing it cause noise pollution
“Does your phone beep, vibrate or ping every time someone likes a Facebook post or follows you on Instagram?” asks Chloe.
“It might be time to turn off notifications. Doing this means you’ll feel less harassed and overwhelmed by the number of incoming alerts.”
Endless updates can be exhausting to anyone at certain points, but it’s thought that people who suffer from anxiety often have a heightened sensitivity to noise– meaning that the constant sound of your phone could also be making existing symptoms even worse.
- Becoming too reliant on it
Can you remember the last time you read a map, booked a train journey or even ordered a pizza without using your phone? Neither can we. While the possibilities of technology are great in principle, they’re also zapping our independence, making us feel anxious when our battery dips and increasingly vulnerable when we don’t have them in our hands. In fact, recent research has shown that many young people exhibited significant signs of stress, and endured heartbeat patterns similar to those who have post traumatic stress disorder when parted from their device.
- Using it to escape reality
In 2016, the University of Illinois revealed that students who used their phones as a means of escapism had a much incidence of mental health difficulties, including depression and anxiety, than those who simply used theirs to alleviate boredom. Your motivation for going online is crucial, so take a minute to figure out what you’re really getting out of that scroll through Instagram. Are you comparing yourself to others? Are you avoiding problems that you should be addressing IRL? The more you question yourself, the clearer the connection to your anxiety is likely to become.
- Never turning it off
The average person in the UK checks their phone 28 times a day – that’s over 10,000 time a year – but it’s super important to take a break from this routine from time to time. Chloe’s advice? Out of sight, out of mind.
“Putting your phone in another room or tossing it under the sofa makes it just a little harder to get to, so you’ll be less likely to pick it up.”
And if you want to take it one stage further? Studies say that coming off of Facebook completely for just a week can boost your happiness – so applying that principle to your whole digital life could have a massive impact on your mood and more.