They even have a word for it now: nomophobia. The fear of being out of mobile phone contact. With our lives constantly wired into our mobile devices, it’s hard to see ourselves apart of our social networks, constant emails and even our secret Candy Crush addiction. Despite the promise of streamlining your life, having a single, almost omnipotent device with you at all times (even in bed) can lead to increased stress and anxiety as you struggle to reply to that last text while seeing what your buddies are up to on Twitter, because it must be more interesting than what you’re currently doing (incidentally, there’s also a word for this—FOMO—or Fear of Missing Out). This can leave you worse for the wear over the long run, both mentally and physically, so you owe it to yourself to cut down. To combat the negative effects of being plugged in 24/7, try the following tips to minimize the impact your phone may be having on your livelihood.
For argument’s sake, let’s say we’re trying to minimize your phone usage, not eliminate it outright. The easiest place to start is by getting rid of things that keep you up at night for no reason, pull you away from your work or simply waste time. Take a moment for three days to write down what apps you use on your phone, and how long you used them. Was your time spent wisely on apps that make your life easier and stress free, or on pointless games and status updates? Clean your phone’s memory up a bit and delete apps that you may have noticed are too addictive, such as games and social media. You can always check Facebook on your desktop computer, which means you can quit pulling yourself away from the finer things in life like dinner with your girlfriend.
Don’t multitask, do one thing at a time. And that means scheduling a specific time to get it out of your system and check everything there is to check on your phone (the morning train commute is a perfect time that would otherwise go to waste). It also means cutting down the number of devices you use at once—your desktop computer, iPhone and iPad all can run several apps at once, so putting them together is a recipe of major stress. Same thing counts for when you’re watching a re-run on the couch: don’t whip out your phone to see what’s going on on Facebook. Do one or the other, because excessive stimulation creates anxiety (plus it’s more enjoyable).
Take a planned break
Every day, in addition to planning certain hours for getting reacquainted with your digital friend, make sure you also plan a span of an hour or two to ditch the phone. Seriously, put it in your desk drawer, your briefcase, or your backpack—anything to keep it (literally) out of sight. If you don’t see your phone, you won’t feel that rush of anxiety associated with seeing a notification pop up for at least that period of time. Also: when you’re on your vacation, use your phone for emergencies only. You can #latergram those pictures when you get home (and if that’s not enough to persuade you, know that you’ll look like a loser tweeting instead of enjoying the whole beach you’ve got to yourself). A good idea is to plan an hour break in the morning and once again sometime before bed, so you can relax when it matters most.
Get some real sleep
Many people waft in and out of consciousness during healthy sleep; this is normal. However, if you sleep with your phone charging next to your bed or under your pillow, the temptation exists to check your emails, any late-night texts you may have garnered while you were in bed, or the latest news from parts of the world where it’s not friggin’ 3 a.m. You also run the risk of clueless telemarketers calling you in the small hours of the morning and waking you up. For a greatly improved sleep, and therefore lower levels of stress during your day, turn off any notifications from text messages and emails by turning on airplane mode. The goal is to eliminate any notifications at all (banners, previews, etc.) lest you take a quick peek, so vibrate won’t cut it. You can check them in the morning.
Focus on the real social media
The busier you are out having fun and interacting with others, the less are the chances you are going to whip your phone out and do something menial. Nothing beats having an organic break from your phone with something that is quite literally more fun and distracting than any app you have installed on there. On top of that, you will get the added benefit of bonding with your friends. However, if you run in an over-connected circle of social media gurus, you may be tempted to check your texts if you see everyone else doing it. Play a classic game with your buddies: stack your phones on top of one another, and the first person to check his pays for the next round (thus ensuring only emergencies are worth picking up). You’ll enjoy living in the moment, trust us.