Mental Health Awareness Month – Take a Break From Technology

By: Tanya Kramer

It was not that long ago that we did not have cell phones, no one had an email address, and the internet was just a dream in someone’s brain.

For those that may not remember or were not even born yet, the internet was “born” on January 1, 1983.

The birth of email is a bit more involved. Technically it started in 1969 when the US Department of Defense started connecting its computers and using a messaging process. 

I can say from my own experience, email started to feel like a real thing around 1994.  

You might be surprised (at least I was) that the first video game was invented in 1958.  It was a simple tennis game similar to the 1970’s favorite Pong. 

But here we are with computers in our pocket, including as many games as we can make time for, and various messaging platforms which provide the ability for others to reach us literally 24/7. 

There are benefits that come with this technology, but there is also harm if we are not careful.

Here are some simple red flags that demonstrate you might have crossed the gray line between using this technology in a healthy way or resulting in using it to a degree that might be harming you.

  • Feel stressed when you can’t find your phone.
  • Check your phone every few minutes.
  • Feel depressed, lonely, or angry after spending time on social media or the internet.
  • Preoccupied with responses on social media.
  • Feeling distracted by your phone when you are doing work, school, or some other tasks.
  • Noticing you are not moving your body as much as you used to due to time on your phone.
  • Checking emails first thing in the morning when you wake up.
  • Physical pain and strain of the eyes.
  • Not sleeping well.
  • Fear of missing out (FOMO).

There is a BIG push for all of us to find ways to limit our use of screens. 

There is even a designated Screen Free Week which this year was May 1-7, 2023. 

Benefits you could experience by taking a phone vacation

  • Being more in the moment.
  • Improved sleep.
  • Deepened connections – the ones that are face to face.
  • Less eye strain.
  • Feeling calmer and happier.
  • Increased self worth.
  • Less stress.

If you are not ready to take a full vacation from your phone, then try some of these simple tips first. 

  1. Consider deleting specific apps that simply are not bringing you happiness.
  2. Moving some apps from the front page (easily accessible) to another page, creating a few more steps (this actually works).
  3. Put your phone down during lunch and talk to a coworker or read a book.
  4. Monitor your screen time and give yourself a specific allowance.
  5. Use the do not disturb setting on your phone.
  6. If you work at a computer all day, designate time away from the computer or screen. 
  7. Replace digital habits with healthy habits such as exercise or meditation. 

Taking a real vacation from your phone will likely require you to practice taking short breaks from your phone first, maybe on a Saturday morning.  

Then when you are ready to take a full day or more, there might be key people you need to notify so they don’t worry about you. 

But after that, put your phone down, slow down, and see where your focus goes.  You might find you have the energy or desire to work on a project or explore a new place that you have not made time for before.