We’ve all had to use our phones more in lockdown but how do you know when your use is straying from helpful into harmful? Did you go into the pandemic struggling with phone addiction? Has it now got even worse?
A helpful way of deciding whether you’re addicted to any process or substance, is to look at the impact it’s having on the rest of your life. If there are aspects of your use of your smartphone which are stopping you from enjoying, and taking part in, things which you used to get a great deal of pleasure out of, you need to take a closer look.
Some warning signs of phone addiction that might have got worse in lockdown are:
You’re ignoring the people you’re with for your phone
Snubbing people who you’re with because of an uncontrollable urge to check your phone even has it’s own name – phubbing – and it’s a real problem. Relationships with others are a key element of our health and happiness and investing our time and attention in them pays dividends.
It’s likely you’re doing this in a completely unconscious way as you absent-mindedly pick up your phone mid-conversation. Try and employ some mindfulness techniques to be aware of when you’re scrolling without thinking. Better still, put your phone away completely when you’re 1-2-1 with anyone, or when you’re with a group of friends or family enjoying spending time together.
You check your phone in the middle of the night
Most people use their phones as alarm clocks, which means they sleep with them very close by to their beds in their bedroom. Checking your phone in the middle of the night when you’re in that semi-alert state between sleep and full wakefulness, is likely to wrench you abruptly awake and interrupt your sleep patterns. If night-time phone checking is getting out of hand, banish your phone from your bedroom, or leave it the other side of the room from your bed for a while.
You panic when you don’t know where your phone is
We’ve all had that slightly panicky feeling when we pat our coat and trouser pockets, trying to check where our phone is. But if you suddenly realise you don’t know where your phone is and you then feel a rising tide of panic, you’re definitely getting over-attached. Think back to how you felt about temporarily misplacing your phone a year ago. Now compare it to how you feel about it now. If your panic is getting greater, you need to take some steps to control that. Deep breathing and counting to ten will give you a chance to calm yourself before panic sets in.
You take it with you into the bathroom…
…and you send texts and messages, or scroll through social media while sitting on the loo! This is a habit we can all definitely stop. The bathroom is one place you can do without your phone for a few minutes. Get into the habit of leaving it outside. There’s also the issue of germs and bacteria to contend with which isn’t helpful in a pandemic – keep your phone away from that environment.
You simply can’t leave it in another room of the house from you
If carrying your smartphone from room to room, even when you’re in your own home, has got into a bad habit you need to untether yourself. Designate a few rooms in the home where you won’t take your smartphone and decide on a central location where you can leave your phone when you want to focus on other things. Treat your smartphone like a landline for a while, detach yourself from it as you go about your life. Turn the notification volume up loud if your panic about missing something feels overwhelming. Or turn it off completely if you really want to disconnect.
So what can you do about your phone addiction?
If you recognise yourself in any of these unhealthy habits then we recommend thinking about a full or partial digital detox and stepping away from your smartphone for a while.
Be more mindful with your use of your phone. Try and go out for short periods of time and leave it behind, even for small trips or shopping errands. Put it firmly away when you’re with other people. Anxiety may be driving your increased vigilance over your phone right now, so find other ways to self-soothe and seek reassurance. Any habit that stops you from being present with your own feelings isn’t serving you well, your smartphone addiction is no different.