Your smartphone belches email alerts, and you reply — even if you’re sitting on a beach or riding up a ski lift. You take work home from the office on your tablet or phone. You share your life minute by minute on Facebook and Twitter. Where is the “off” button?
“These devices are spinning into addictions,” says Michael McKee, PhD, a psychologist in the Center for Behavioral Health at Cleveland Clinic. “People are not just getting overloaded. The technology is interfering with their lives — and they’re developing withdrawal symptoms if they try to cut back.”
If plugging in is your vice, use these tips to kick bad habits.
1. Tune in to overuse
If nothing — not even family — comes between you and your iPhone, it’s time to rethink your priorities. “Technology can interfere with relationships, work, activities and health because it prevents people from getting together and getting exercise,” Dr. McKee says.
2. End your digital day earlier
You need a solid hour to unwind before bedtime. Instead of scanning texts and checking email in bed, try meditation, deep breathing or listening to soothing music to prepare for sleep.
3. Be reasonable
If you check text messages at stoplights, you might have a problem. If you fire off emails at 2 a.m. to show coworkers your dedication, you may be putting too much pressure on yourself. Ask yourself, “Can it wait?” Usually the answer is “Yes.”
4. Give it a rest
Consider designating a no-device day — or at least a few no-device hours — every day. Decide what will replace the technology: family time, a good book, exercise. Set goals and write them down. It helps to hold yourself accountable.
5. Find the off button
If the constant “ding” of alert messages triggers stress for you, turn your phone off (or down). And if you can’t bring yourself to turn the device off completely, most give you the option of turning off alerts.
6. If all else fails, breathe
Whenever you feel like you’re overdoing something — food, technology, gambling — Dr. McKee’s advice is to pause and breathe: “Slow down your breathing to six breaths a minute, which calms down your inner physiology.”