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Stress: How Smart Phones Are Ruining Your Life

It’s 3am. You’ve been lying in bed for 15 minutes after your overnight trip to the bathroom. It hits you. The urge to see what’s been posted to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever social media platform you belong to.

You can tell you’re not falling asleep right now, so what’s the harm in spending 10 minutes on the phone while you get tired? Suddenly it’s 4am and you woke your partner after laughing at a funny YouTube cat video. Oops.

If you resemble this story, you aren’t alone by any stretch of the imagination. According to Statista, there are over 2 billion smart phone users across the globe and that includes 77 percent of Americans. According to eMarketer, the average user spends approximately 4 hours on their phone every day.

Smart phones make it easier than ever to keep up with old high school friends, find a new recipe for dinner, or learn how to change your own oil. Unfortunately, the ability to have all the information in the world at our fingertips also comes with some drawbacks such as poor sleep, addiction, and even anxiety.

Smart Phones Impair your Sleep

As in the example above, who hasn’t checked their phone during an overnight awakening? This habit could be costing you valuable sleep time!

Smartphones emit blue light. Blue light is the same type of light provided by the sun, which is interpreted by our brains as, “time to be awake doing things!” That’s not exactly the message you want to be sending your brain in the middle of the night.

That’s why it’s recommended that you put down your smartphone an hour before you intend to fall asleep and do not check it in the middle of the night. Ideally, it’d be in another room, but we all know that isn’t happening.

Try and maintain a consistent bedtime routine that involves calming activities and cut out devices that emit blue light in favor of books, magazines, kindle, music, etc.

Smart Phones Demand Your Attention

With the prevalence of dinner table phone-checking, some families and friend groups have resorted to making a game out of not touching their phones. The first person to reach for their phone picks up the entire check.

This game could sound fun to you if you’re a bit older, or it could be torture for you if you’re a millennial. In any event, the purpose is to encourage conversation and remaining in the present moment with your dinner party.

It’s not unusual for our family to all be in the same room together, with each person captivated by their individual device. While reading the latest updates around the world, we are missing out on life in the present moment.

Aren’t the family, friends, and others around us worth our focus?

Why Can’t We Put the Phone Down?

Every time we see a new notification, get an e-mail, or read the latest news, our brain emits a hit of dopamine. Dopamine is the feel-good chemical in the brain that we enjoy while doing something pleasurable.

It’s also what drug addicts are searching for when they use more and more of their drug of choice. That’s right, smartphones provide some of the same addictive properties as illicit drugs!

Thankfully you don’t need to be out on the street at 3am to get your hit, but smartphone addiction can still negatively impact your life.

The Smart Phone Diet to reduce stress

Just like someone addicted to drugs or alcohol can find ways to cope and live a full life, you too can find ways to reduce the impact of smartphone addiction.

But first, you may want to take a few minutes just to think about how your smartphone use is impacting your life.

If you’re one of those who is struggling in relationships because one or both of you are always on the phone, or if you’re losing sleep because you need to know what’s going on in the world, then these tips can help free you of the burden from smartphone addiction.

  • Schedule screen-free time – Have one day a week be dedicated to present moment awareness. Keep the phone on the charger and enjoy a day with your family and friends, free of the smartphone distraction. Use this time to notice the beautiful little things in life, and to have meaningful conversations that deepen relationships.
  • Delete apps that hook you – If you know that Facebook is the app that always has you reaching for the phone, delete it. You can always re-download it, but that process will take a few minutes and you might decide it isn’t worth it right now. You might even choose to take a longer break from that app and see how it affects your life. A few times I’ve given up Twitter for lent, and somehow, I survived. You can too!
  • Make it difficult to access during times you need to focus – When you have a task that needs your focus, it’s too tempting to have your phone in your pocket. Every interruption takes approximately 25 minutes to recover from when trying to re-focus. You can avoid this problem by having your phone someplace difficult to reach during your focus time.
  • Ask for help – Having an accountability partner can be so helpful in breaking free. You may not even realize when you pick up the phone because it’s an ingrained habit, but your partner, kids, or friend can point it out to you. Your desire to change may even prompt your loved ones to try it as well!

Now that you’ve given yourself some space from that constant urge to reach for the phone, you can find positive ways to fill the extra hours in your day.

Rewarding yourself by engaging in meaningful activities will be the best decision you ever made. Think about it, on your 80th birthday will you be reflecting on all those Facebook statuses you read, or the quality moments you had with your family?

It’s never too late to begin to add more of those valuable memories you can cherish for a lifetime.

If you’ve been struggling with addiction to your smart phone, or aren’t sure why you’re feeling so overwhelmed with stress, please reach out for a free consultation. I’d love to chat with you about what you can be doing to start taking control of your life again. I have a few spots available in my practice, so if we’re a good fit, we can discuss what that would look like.
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Dr. Kevin Hyde

Dr. Kevin Hyde

Dr. Kevin Hyde is a clinical psychologist licensed to practice in the state of Florida. He resides in Pinellas County with his wife and two young daughters. In his spare time, Dr. Hyde enjoys relaxing at the beach with family, Nationals baseball, baking bread, and keeping up with current events. He founded Pinellas Anxiety Specialists with the hope of reducing the stress and anxiety that so many cope with on a daily basis.