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Women Connect

Ring in the New Year — by Silencing Your Notifications.

Is It Time for a Digital Detox?

As soon as you wake up:
Tap, swipe, click.

Any time that notification pings:
Tap, swipe, click.

...Hold on for one second…
Tap, swipe, click.

Last thing at night:
Tap, swipe, click.

It’s addiction by design. Let’s face it—many of us are hooked.

Women Connect
  • The average American now spends upwards of 60 hours on screens per week, including TV, smartphones and computers at home and work.
  • Almost 50% of us spend close to five hours and 24 minutes on our mobile phones each day.
  • Americans check their phone on average 96 times a day or approximately once every 10 minutes.

Think about how distracting that is to our productivity—and even worse, how potentially damaging that is to our mental health.

Is it time to consider a digital detox?

Experts say smartphone overuse can create unhealthy dependencies that can trigger psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and behavioral and compulsive disorders.

Other psychological impacts include fear of missing out (FOMO), loss of focus, negativity, and self-absorption.

Smartphone addiction can also affect sleep patterns. In a study of almost 1,200 university students, nearly 16 percent reported phone-related sleep disturbances.

  • •    Do you wake up in the middle of the night to constantly check your phone?
    •    Do you experience increased feelings of loneliness, depression or boredom when you're not using your smartphone? 
    •    Do you have any irritability when your smartphone is not nearby or you've had to go without it? 
    •    Do you have trouble focusing on work or school? 
    •    Is there a growing anxiety tied to a fear of missing out (FOMO)? 
    •    Are you increasingly isolating from friends?

    If you are starting to experience some of the signs above, there are steps you can take to gain more freedom from our phones.

    “I know limiting cell phone usage can be frustrating, but the more a person overcomes the difficulties, the more resilient we become,” said Kim Hurst, a performance and leadership coach with Best Care Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

    1.    Recognize the triggers that cause you to engage with your smartphone. 
    For example, our phones may distract us from mood swings that are caused by depression, stress or anxiety. But reaching for a smartphone might make these mental health issues worse. Instead, try healthier alternatives like relaxation and stress management techniques.

    2.    Understand how in-person interactions differ from online interactions. 
    Social anxiety and avoidance are common in people with smartphone addictions. “Taking time to reconnect with others in person can help you alleviate those feelings of isolation,” Hurst said. “We need that relational connection such as a good talk with a friend.”

    3.    Take small steps to start modifying your cell phone use. 
    •    Keep your phone in the kitchen at night. 
    •    Turn off notifications. 
    •    Set time limits.
    •    Use social media limiting apps.

    “There's a lot of other great things that we can do,” Hurst said. “Make yourself accountable to somebody else, do other activities with those that you enjoy spending time with, and really make taking a digital detox a priority.”

    Psychology Today’s Rob Whitley, Ph.D., recommends a three-step approach to starting your digital detox. He notes – a detox does not have to mean complete abstinence.

    Step One: Set time limits.
    Resolve to not check your phone on certain days (Sunday, for example) or after certain times of day (a 9 p.m. digital curfew).

    Step Two: Set space boundaries. 
    Specify digital-free spaces in your homes, like the bedroom or dinner table.

    Step Three: Identify alternatives. 
    A successful digital detox will leave you with some free time to fill. Whitley recommends creating an action plan, which may include rekindling old interests, pursuing new hobbies, or volunteering.


Check out the video below for more insights from Best Care EAP expert trainer Kim Hurst: what phone overuse is really doing to our mental health, how to self-analyze our current usage and tips to create better habits.