Mobile phones are a fantastic invention and I love mine. However the speed and instancy of communication does have a downside when you’re trying to relax or get other important tasks done. Not to mention those Facebook messenger alerts and Candy Crush Saga requests. Many people report feeling stressed by their phones and with constant alerts, it can feel difficult to switch off.
I’ve compiled some useful suggestions for reducing stress from our mobile devices.
Some of these tips may seem like common sense, which of course they are, but in the words of Albert Einstein, “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
1]Set up voicemail with a personalised message.
This takes the urgency out of feeling that you have to answer every call. Those that really need to reach you will leave a message which you can reply to when you are free. This also gives you time to formulate a response. A friendly greeting informing your callers that you will return their call later helps to manage any expectations.
2] Earmark nuisance calls
We get so many nuisance calls these days from all sorts of people about all sorts of services from loans to PPI refunds. Many of them appear to come from landlines or mobiles and so it is easy to mistake them for legitimate calls. My work colleague has a simple solution for these calls. He saves them in his phone as nuisance 1,2,3 etc. When these companies ring back, it’s easy to see in the display which calls to answer and which to reject.
3] Use text messaging
Many smart phones have the option to send a text message to the caller as you decline their call. Many of these are prewritten – “Please call later” . Some phones allow you to write your own custom message which you can personalise to your situation. This is a softer way to set a boundary rather than to just decline the call. You can then arrange a time to talk that suits you both and you will have a more productive, enjoyable conversation.
4] Set a time when you will be available to answer your phone
This can be useful if your day to day work involves taking calls from others. Consider building time into your timetable to take calls and let prospective clients know that this is when you will be available. Try not to make it your lunch hour if possible as it is helpful to use this time to unwind and focus on something un-work related. Or alternatively, encourage them to communicate via email.
5] Manage expectations
Many people tell me that they struggle with the demands of others. They may have friends who contact them frequently and expect them to drop everything to listen or help them. Listening and helping our friends is part of being a good friend but there are times when it can get too much. We are all human and need downtime and if resentment and frustration is building, it’s time for a time out.
First of all, it’s helpful to put yourself in the shoes of the other person and try and understand what is going on for them. Perhaps they are stressed or anxious themselves or they may not be aware of the impact of their behaviour. Again settling specific times to talk when you are able to listen is helpful. You may also choose to discuss directly with your friend the impact that the constant calls are having if you feel that this would be helpful.
It’s also helpful to examine your own behaviour if you find this is happening a lot with different friends. Are you someone who likes to “fix” or rescue others from their problems? This can seem like a noble quality on the surface but tends to create more stress for you and stops the other person taking responsibility for themselves.
6] Phones and the bedroom
If you read advice on sleeping well, the general consensus is to keep phones and other illuminated tablets out of the bedroom. The reasons behind this are that too much stimulation at bedtime is thought to be a bad idea and looking at illuminated devices in a darkened room (particularly text on a small screen) can lead to eye strain. If (like me) you just have to read Kindle books on your phone at night, dim the screen or invest in a screen dimmer app. The other option is to leave the bedroom light on whilst you read.
7] Be self-aware when using social media
I think social media is great for keeping up with people. Too much of it can be time consuming and in some cases quite mood altering. So be self-aware when using Facebook or other social media. If you start feeling fed-up, frustrated and down on yourself when reading other peoples’ posts, perhaps you should stop browsing, be compassionate towards yourself and return when you are feeling better.
8] Consider turning your phone off
Sounds simple doesn’t it? It can be notoriously difficult to do and it’s helpful to look at what our expectations are with regards to this issue. Are we frightened that we may miss an important call? Do we fear that others won’t be able to cope without us? Or do we enjoy the feeling of being indispensable to everyone? It can be quite empowering to turn the phone off for periods of time and let the answer phone take the strain!
9) Reduce or stop browsing in social situations
This is something I’ve been tasking myself to do recently and it has been easier than I thought. When I’m with friends or family I keep my phone out of sight and resist the urge to fiddle with it or check messages. I’ve also taken the Facebook app off my mobile phone and now check my timeline once daily. This has improved the quality of my conversations and helped me stay more present in the present. I’m more focussed on others and I enjoy social conversations more. I encourage you to try it!
Dr Elizabeth Croton