Technology is awesome–it keeps us connected, helps us hit our fitness goals, helps us track our calendar and of course, work.
Technology can also be overwhelming, addicting and not-so-healthy. Did you know there’s something called “tech neck” now, where people’s necks are getting wrinkled and their backs are in pain and strain from looking at their phones so often?
Carpal tunnel is another symptom of too much tech. Back and neck tension, headaches, eye strain–all stem from looking at our computers and phone all day long. Plus, there are emotional effects of tech too. We might experience stress, depression and anxiety because of our attachment to technology.
Too much screen time can interfere with our sleep. It can make us feel isolated and generally not-so-great. As wonderful as we feel when we’re in nature and outdoors, being indoors in front of a screen does just the opposite.
Clued into this pattern, people are now taking tech breaks–unplugging for just a few hours a day or even a full day or week. There are camps and retreats people visit to escape from tech. Even though technology is a great tool, like all thing, it’s best in moderation.
So how do you know if you’re looking at your phone too much? What are the signs you need a tech break, and what should you do about it?
Other areas of your life are slipping
A big red flag you need a tech break, is if you notice other areas of your life are slipping. If you used to enjoy leisure activities–cooking, crafts, art, reading, but now feel you’re always on a screen or need to be plugged in to have a good time.
Losing track of your diet goals and exercise can also be a sign of too much screen time. If you go for hours without standing or moving during the day, or spend long periods on the computer or your phone at night, it might be time for a break.
The other big area to look at is social time. Most of us don’t want to ask our spouse or significant other (or even best friend) if they feel we’re spending too much time on our phones, because we KNOW the answer already. If you’re concerned, get a second opinion (or get real with yourself). Chances are, if you suspect you’re spending too much time on your phone, you probably ARE.
Your sleep is suffering
Do you have a tough time getting up in the morning because you’ve stayed up late on Facebook or Pinterest once again? Do you feel you have to wake up in the night or first thing in the morning and check your phone to see the latest on the news?
There are a lot of scary current events in the world right now and it can leave many of us feeling like we have to be hypervigilant about following news stories and checking on our friends and family via social media. We can also feel the need to escape and retreat into our digital world by playing games, looking at photos of cute baby animals on Tumblr, or getting sucked in to Quora.
If you aren’t able to shut down at night, it could actually be the light from your phone disrupting your sleep patterns. Because our phones give off light, our brains can confuse our circadian rhythm and cause disruptions in our sleep. Unplugging and turning off a few hours before you sleep can really help.
You have anxiety about email
Do you worry about what’s in your inbox? Since I got my Apple Watch (which I seriously, LOVE for so many reasons, btw) I have this feeling like I am ALWAYS in front of my inbox. I get notifications right to my wrist all day long. I never miss a message and frankly, sometimes that’s stressful.
If you feel like you have to respond to emails immediately, or the world is going to come crashing down around you, it may be time to take a break. Do you respond to all emails immediately?
Most people who email us don’t expect an immediate response. There are plenty of ways to get ahold of someone (text, calling) that are more immediate than emails. Typically email only needs to be a once-or-twice a day check in. Respond to messages, archive items and turn off. Turn off the notifications on your phone too.
Time flies by
Want an hour to disappear? Go on Facebook. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes when I’m on social media. It’s like, fast forward.
When we go online we tend to lose track of time. Yet, when we reflect on time spent, how many of us really REMEMBER interactions we had on social media? One or two things might stand out–a correspondence from an old friend, or an in-depth post or discussion, but most things just scroll through our brain and disappear.
If you want to make time slow down, you have to get out there and DO something new. In Time Warped by Claudia Hammond, she explains how novel experiences can slow our perception of time. By doing new activities and finding new discoveries (probably not via Facebook) we can effectively slow down the feeling that time is just speeding by.
You’re experiencing FOMO
FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out. Many people look at social media and start to compare their lives, or feel they just don’t measure up. When we look at other’s lives online on the time we might become sad, depressed or anxious. We’re comparing ourselves to others.
All of us tend to post curated versions of our everyday life. We don’t post pictures of our messy house, our clothing pile on the floor or what we look like when we roll out of bed. We spend time putting up the perfect photo–our delicious lunch, or perfect hairstyle, our cute kids, pets and homes. If we’re editing the photos we post, we can pretty much rest assured that everyone else is editing theirs too.
When we compare ourselves to others and don’t measure up, it’s likely that it’s because they’re sharing a bright and shiny version of their reality. No one is perfect. If you’re experiencing too much comparison to others, it might be time to take a step back
Social situations have lost their luster
Do you prefer your phone to real life? Do you retweet, like and comment regularly on social media, but shut out or ignore your friends when you’re together? We’ve all experienced a date, or hanging out with a friend when he or she spends a crazy amount of time on their phone (fantasy football season comes to mind). It feels rude, cold and annoying, right?
Yet, many of us do it all the time. When we sit down at the table, we put our phones right next to us, as though we might miss a more important call or interaction. It sends a signal to the other person that they aren’t as important as whoever might be on the other end of the line (even if that’s not how it’s intended).
If you feel you’re avoiding social situations or just acting antisocial when you’re with others, then it might be time for a tech break.
What to do:
Ready to take a step back from technology?
Set a turn off time
Set up some designated “screen free” time. Mealtimes are a great place to start. Whenever there’s food in front of you, keep your phone out of your hand (remember, most of us take our phones in the bathroom–do you really want to put it on the table too)?
Put an alarm on your phone for a certain time (at least half an hour before bed) so you can put down your phone and read, or do another screen-free activity). Similarly, turn off the television before bed and during meal times too.
You also may want to designate screen-free time from the computer. If you work from home, or do work at home, it can be tough to avoid the screen in the evenings. Try to set aside an hour or two to turn off and engage with “real life.”
Don’t sleep by your phone
If you sleep next to your phone, it’s time to stop! Many of us keep our phone right next to our bed, or even on our bed. This gives us a “constantly connected” feeling where we can’t escape the barrage of news, current events and social attention.
Try keeping your phone across the room or even in another room. Reserve your bed for sleeping and turn it into a screen-free zone. If you like to have screen time to wind down at the end of the day, substitute it with another ritual. Try meditation, reading or listening to white noise to help you get into sleep mode.
Don’t check email first thing
If email gets your anxiety up, don’t go to your inbox first thing in the morning. Instead, get your biggest, toughest task done first. Once you’ve accomplished something on your to do list, then go back and give your email a read.
Let go of the urge to respond to everything right away. If you struggle with this, it can help to block out some time to check your email and work on responses. Put your email time right on your calendar and once that time has passed turn it off and move on to the net job.
Again, keep in mind-for most urgent issues, people will call or text. If you want to pause your notifications you can try installing Inbox Pause for Gmail. This allows you to “Pause” your email notifications and essentially put your email on hold for a given period of time. You can even set it to let others know your response will be delayed.
Use tech helpers
There are plenty of technology helpers out there, to assist you with unplugging. You can try to install the Forest app for iPhone, or StayFocusd for your browser. Turn on these helpers to cut out distractions and keep you on track.
Maximizing your productivity when you’re working online will help you get things done quicker, so you can get away from the screen and into life. Cutting out distractions is a great way to keep your focus and speed up your work.
Leave your phone at home the next time you go out with friends, or turn it off and keep it in your pocket or car. Try an experiment to see how long you can avoid screen time, or even unplug for a whole afternoon.
Once you get used to implementing tech breaks, it will get much easier to let go of your technology addiction!
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