The Real Reason You're Tired, Cranky, & Anxious

Physician By Eva Selhub, M.D.
Dr. Eva Selhub is a resiliency expert, physician, author, speaker, scientist, and consultant. She studied medicine at Boston University and is board certified in Internal Medicine.
The Real Reason You're Tired, Cranky, & Anxious

Ahhh. The smell of spring! Don't you just love it? Oh wait. You haven't noticed a thing because you're glued to your smartphone—even when crossing the street.

If you're like most people in the United States, your own a smartphone and you're addicted to it. Did you know that 64 percent of American adults own a smartphone, which is up 35 percent from 2011? And did you know that 46 percent (almost half!) of these smartphone users say they couldn't live without it? Did you know that, on average we look at or touch our phones for something 2,617 times per day? I think it's time we all learned about the consequences of these staggering statistics.

Smartphone addiction is not without consequences.

When is the last time you took a day—or even a few hours—without connecting digitally? If you haven't done so or believe you would have withdrawal trying, you're not alone. Many people are choosing their phone over social interaction, getting outdoors, sleeping, or mindfully eating meals—even at restaurants when they're with other people. What are the consequences? Science is telling us that a strong correlation exists between screen time and higher rates of depression, anxiety, attention deficit, fatigue, and poor performance.

But don't worry—there is good news. You can detox yourself from your smartphone and then learn how to use it wisely. In other words, you have the ability to get control over your phone rather than letting it control you. Here are four simple tips to detox yourself from your technology:


1. Step into nature.

Spending time in nature will lower your stress hormones and improve your immune system along with your energy and mood. You can go for a walk in a park, go for a hike, spend time at the beach, garden, exercise outdoors, or have a picnic. You actually only need 20 minutes to access the health benefits, but there is a caveat: You need to be unplugged for that period of time. NO phone. NO photos. The benefits come from being mindful and fully present while spending time in nature, using your sense of smell, taste, sound, sight, or touch. The longer you unplug and spend in nature, the better. Start with 20 minutes and try extending it to one hour, or take several 20-minute breaks a day.

2. Turn off notifications.

Since we do need to answer emails and look up information, you likely can't get rid of your phone altogether. So what you want to do is schedule times during the day when you look at it and answer emails, texts, and so forth. You want to turn off notifications so that your phone isn't always alerting you to an incoming message or update. Unless there is a big deadline or emergency, it's unlikely you need to respond to anything right away. Schedule a check-in every two hours to start and then see if you can extend it by 30 minutes after a week or two, then another 30 minutes, and so forth.

3. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a meditative practice that involves being in the present moment. It is a wonderful way to meditate if you have a brain that doesn't stop and is also really good for you. You can eat mindfully, walk, cook, listen, speak…the list is endless. It essentially involves you paying attention to nuances and details without judgment. For example, you can shower mindfully, appreciating the aroma of the soap, the feel of the water against your skin, the way the shampoo lathers up, and the sound of the running water, while also noticing the sounds of the birds outside or a moving car. NO judgment. NO phone. NO thinking brain. Just being in the now. The more you practice being mindful in everything that you do, the more you will be mindful of how, when, and if you use your phone.


4. Make a schedule to unplug.

The more of a schedule you put yourself on, the more likely you will stick to any rules you set when using your phone. For example, it's important that you are not too stimulated first thing in the morning and late at night. So set a rule that you will not check your phone for at least 30 minutes to an hour after getting up in the morning, as this is your time to take care of yourself. Eat your breakfast mindfully and enjoy the time. Same thing goes for the evening, but I would suggest it being an hour at least, or decide that after 10 p.m., you turn the phone off. Choose to unplug during all of your mealtimes and at least one afternoon, morning, or full day each week. Use this time to be mindful, read, spend social time with people you love, or go out in nature.

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