Wellbeing

How To Tame Your Crippling Smartphone Anxiety

With all the good that they bring, smartphones are making us more anxious than ever. Having them with us has been proven to promote elevated levels of stress, depression and distraction, yet being without our phones makes us equally as stressed and anxious. Before you throw your hands up at life’s latest catch 22, there might be a few ways to ease our smartphone anxiety (and we promise, no digital detox).

Smartphones, by design, are making our lives easier: email is now a cinch; cooking meals is as simple as finding the perfect recipe; organising your calendar is a breeze; and thanks to smartphones, learning something new is easier than you think. It’s no surprise then that the majority of us are glued to our phones – so much so that it makes you wonder what that constant connection is actually doing to us.

Are you take-it-to-the-toilet addicted?

When was the last time time you went without using your phone? A recent survey by Coupofy found that 43% of Millennials won’t go to the bathroom without their smartphones, and that one in three chooses to hop on their trusty digital companion right after sex.

While the stats might be a little alarming, we have to look at it in terms of the digital age in which we live. Once upon a time you would take a book or a magazine to the loo, and post-sex protocol meant lighting a cigarette, eating or just falling asleep. Nowadays we turn to our digital devices to break away.

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Smartphone-induced anxiety from addiction and separation

Multiple studies have found that those who rely heavily on their phones and/or social media experience elevated levels of stress, aggression, depression and distraction, as well as lower self-esteem and lack of sleep.

But taking away phones has proven equally as detrimental. A study of British mobile phone users found that when they were without their phones, they reported feeling heightened anxiousness. Another study found that 45% of responders were “worried or uncomfortable” when email and Facebook are inaccessible. So then, what’s the solution?

A recent article by Forbes found it wasn’t about getting rid of phones altogether (that’s impossible in our current climate) but instead finding a way to use smartphones to our advantage. That way we’re milking the benefits and mitigating the side affects of smartphone use.

Here’s five ways to help you do that.

#1 Be optimistic

Make being #highvibe a priority – studies have shown that optimistic people have larger friendship networks, less stress and depression and perceive more social support than pessimistic students do. “Try viewing your social network as social support, not randoms judging you,” says Caroline Beaton from Forbes. And the best way to cultivate that attitude? “Support others yourself, help solve their problems, contribute to online communities and stop umpiring everybody’s statuses.”

#2 Don’t abandon it

This is important – don’t ditch the phone completely. We all know that’s not realistic, and even psychologists know it’s not beneficial. Instead, try figuring out which apps or smartphone activities are making you more stressed or are completely wasting your time.

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Do you often find yourself mindlessly scrolling on reddit or getting caught up on level 46 on Candy Crush Saga? Ditch ’em. If they’re getting in the way of more important activities (or making you feel crappy) nuke it from your repertoire – you won’t miss it, we promise.

#3 Turn off all notifications

Psychological conditioning since the early days of mobile phones has created something called variable interval reinforcement schedules. Basically, that means specific actions (like checking your phone) are only rewarded occasionally, which keeps you coming back. So if checking your phone once does nothing, you’ll check again soon in the hope that the next time you’ll have a reward in the form of a text/notification/Snpachat. You want to feel that thrill of getting a new message or notification because then you’ll have a new action to attend to.

It’s the hope of something good that’s triggering our dependence on devices where the notifications are uneventful a majority of the time. To solve this, turn off all push notifications. Facebook updates, Twitter mentions, even email notifications can just be unnecessary interruptions. “It’s time to regain control,” says Caroline, and we couldn’t agree more.

#4 See people face-to-face

Social interaction via texting can’t substitute a face-to-face interaction, or so says Canadian psychologist Susan Pinker. She concluded that relationships without face-to-face contact don’t create the trust necessary to keep up authentic personal connections. Another study found that connecting via Facebook often makes us feel sad and dissatisfied, but if we follow it up with a phone conversation or a face-to-face exchange, we feel “quickly uplifted”. Read: it’s time to call up that friend or make an IRL date.

#5 Seek solitude

So obviously, taking some time away from your phone is beneficial when you’re addicted. But taking time doesn’t mean a full blown detox – in fact, as we’ve mentioned, that’s counterintuitive. Small periods of being phone-free will help ease other stresses, especially if that time is spent in nature. Even if it’s just 30 minutes to go for a walk or a swim without it stashed in your pocket or bag.

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Smartphones are serious attention grabbers, and they make it hard for us to be truly alone, so contemplation and reflection are often affected as a result. Being alone with your own thoughts, while a little daunting, is pretty important part of your psychological development. If you’re having a difficulty, try some meditation or yoga to kick things into high gear.

h/t Forbes


Rebecca Russo is a freelance writer, editor, community radio dabbler, occasional hiker and celebrity autobiography enthusiast. She has written for online publications including Junkee, AWOL, Fashion Journal and Tone Deaf. Find her online here.