A RECENT SURVEY conducted by the American Psychological Association found 86 percent of Americans report constantly checking their smartphones, and those who use their phones the most have the highest stress levels.
“If we don’t take a break from our phones, that stress can affect our bodies, causing headaches, backaches, nausea, and sleeplessness,” says Andrea Hess, MS, LPC, employee assistance program counselor at Prevea Health. “Constant use can also interrupt our daily lives and function.”
YOUR PHONE, YOUR TERMS
Breaking the cycle of smartphone-related stress starts with understanding why you feel the need to frequently check your device.
“The 24/7 news cycle and fear of missing out fuel an endless need to check our phones,” Hess says. “Every time we hear a buzz or a ring, the brain’s pleasure center releases dopamine, and I think people get addicted to that.”
To control your relationship with your smartphone, Hess recommends setting a schedule for daily use. Instead of constantly checking your device, for example, only check in every one or two hours.
“By creating balance, we ensure we respond to our phones on our terms, not those set by society or other people,” Hess says.
To schedule an appointment with Prevea Behavioral Care, call 715.717.5899.
Helping teens disconnect
PARENTS PLAY AN essential role in helping teens set healthy boundaries with technology. The best way to do that? Lead by example.
“As parents, we have to be honest with ourselves about the example we set,” says Andrea Hess, MS, LPC, employee assistance program counselor for Prevea Health. “Ask yourself, ‘Am I living by the rules I want my kids to live by?’”
Start building healthier habits by turning cell phones off during meals and keeping cell phones out of bedrooms—these devices can interfere with the sleep needed for healthy development. In addition, establish chunks of tech-free time where kids and parents unplug.
Try filling your family’s tech-free hours with other activities:
• Ask your teen to show you how to play a favorite video game or simply set aside time to journal, draw, or talk.
• Introduce your teen to one of your favorite physical activities by, for example, attending a yoga class or taking a walk after dinner.
• Spend time in the kitchen showing your teen how to prepare a favorite meal or dessert.
• Plant a garden.
• Volunteer to help a local organization.
“The more technologically connected we become, the more disconnected we can feel,” Hess says. “When we unplug from technology, we find time to create healthier relationships with our children.”