How to Take Time Away from Your Phone

How to Take Time Away from Your Phone

2009: I had a flip phone. It was only my second year using a phone, but I was obsessed with it- the way it felt in my hand, the rhythm of flipping it open to text, even just the comfort of having it in my pocket. When my family took a trip to a third world country that Christmas, it seemed silly to take that phone with me- there would be no data to text or call, I couldn’t act on my FOMO, and the phone could always be lost or stolen. Yet, when I sat on that plane, ready for take-off, I still felt familiar pressure in my pocket. I swore I could feel the buzz of a new text. My hands even did the flipping and tapping motion of texting. I started to feel pressure on my chest. There was no phone in my hands, but I needed it, where was it? Why couldn’t I have it with me, even if it was more of a liability than benefit at the time? It didn’t need to go off, I just…wanted it.

Now, this was over a decade ago. The Global South has widespread mobile access and nearly everyone has a smart phone complete with apps, videos, music, and games. In short, a long way from the little EnV3 I was missing on my trip abroad. However, that anxiety never went away. In fact, it seems like the more we can do on our phones, the more it demands our attention, even in situations that don’t require a phone. By making our phones such a huge part of our lives, it causes us, even unconsciously, to always consider the connections our phones bring us. It’s not uncommon for “What-Ifs” to swirl around in our heads when we don’t have that iPhone or Android next to us: What if I’m bored? What if I miss an invitation? What if there’s an emergency? What if I see something really cool and can’t show anyone fast enough? What if people think I’m lame?

Those “What Ifs,” make us susceptible to anxiety, which is more intense than just a passing fear. Technology helped us bridge the gaps in education and work during COVID-19 restrictions, but it introduced our youngest kids to being online sooner and more in-depth than ever before. Now, parents and kids alike are creating a dependence on phones and being online. Here are some ways to combat that:

  1. Mini-challenges:The Internet is full of 30-day endurance building challenges. This works for your phone too! Place your phone on Do Not Disturb, then set a timer (on your phone is totally okay!). Set the phone down and walk away from it until the timer goes off. Make it a family challenge, where everyone starts at 5 or 10 minutes then keep building as the month goes on! Take time to process after to explore feelings of stress or relief while waiting for the timer.
  2. Go Old-School:Set your phone to charge in the living room and invest in one of those classic alarm clocks. This separates you from sleep-disturbing notifications and makes it a hassle to get out of bed and go somewhere to access your device.
  3. Get Active:Involve your hands in something! Put yourself on Do Not Disturb, throw on some music or a podcast and get those hands to work- knitting, baking, weightlifting, heck, even reading a book printed on paper or crossing your hands to pray. Being involved in something both physically and mentally can help alleviate the stress of not having a phone in your hands.

Try out these tips to encourage yourself and loved ones to spend some time in the physical world and make in-person connections with ourselves and one another. Of course, counseling can always help any of the more persistent or serious anxious thoughts that may present even away from your phone.