We’re all exhausted by the alerts, emails, and notifications we constantly get from our phones. But being tired of technology can feel like a no-win problem: How can we possibly evade tech in an almost entirely digital world? Here, our experts provide some simple ways to take back control and dial down tech stress.
Meet our expert panel
- Erik Peper, PhD, author of Tech Stress: How Technology is Hijacking Our Lives, Strategies for Coping, and Pragmatic Ergonomics, is a professor at San Francisco State University.
- Julie R. Ancis, PhD, is a Distinguished Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Informatics and Founding Director of the Cyberpsychology Program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
- Sharon Martin, LSCW, author of The Better Boundaries Workbook is a psychotherapist, mental health writer, and media contributor on emotional health and relationships.
End ‘digital doldrums.’
Simply gazing at your phone can make you less happy, says expert Erik Peper, PhD. “Our research shows that people looking down at their device have a much harder time evoking a positive, hopeful memory than people looking up,” he reveals. “Putting ourselves in this hunched body position makes us feel less optimistic.” To effortlessly break this habit, Peper advises hanging more family photos on your walls to encourage you to look up more often.
Cue calm easily.
Almost all of us get frustrated with our devices. “If you’re having trouble with your phone, studies show simply telling yourself, ‘I haven’t yet learned this,’ as opposed to, ‘I can’t do this,’ calms you down and helps you problem-solve,” reveals Peper. Along with this positive internal language, it’s important to breathe deeply and sit up straight. Peper explains that this one-two punch of positive self-talk and positive posture switches us from a stressed, reactive state into one of action, spurring us to find ways to solve our tech troubles.
Take mini breaks.
We rely on our phones for so much, it’s unrealistic to ditch our devices completely. “But taking breaks helps your mind, body and spirit,” says expert Julie R. Ancis, PhD, who suggests finding small ways to be more mindful with your tech. “Research shows that just the presence of our phone at dinner conveys disconnection and negatively impacts face-to-face interactions, so you could start by just putting away your phone for that hour.” Such small breaks decrease your stress significantly without making you miss your device.
Share phone positivity.
From emails to social media, our phone often symbolizes stress. But using it to share good news is an easy way to turn it into a symbol of joy. “Consider sending a friend a ‘thinking of you’ text or emailing a link to an uplifting article,” says Ancis. These little gestures trigger a ripple effect of positivity that helps others in your circle dial down their digital stress too.
Tune out together.
Encourage loved ones to take a “tech holiday” with you, urges expert Sharon Martin. “Find enjoyable alternatives, like a board game night or getting together for coffee,” she says. “You might say, ‘I really value my time with you — do you mind if we put our phones away so we can be present with each other?’ Minimizing distractions lets us make deeper connections.”
Be patient with others.
Don’t be disheartened if you can’t get everyone in your life to put down their phone. “Different generations have very different habits with technology, and it can feel like you’re dealing with a foreign culture,” says Martin. “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing: You could have a phone-free get-together one weekend, and another time, you might ask your grandson to teach you something new on your device. Technology isn’t all bad or all good; it’s how we use it that matters, and we can use it to grow closer to each other.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.