Managing My Phone and Screen Time
Almost 5 years ago, I had two TIA’s (also known as mini strokes) 6 weeks apart which resulted in me having to basically quit my life to rehabilitate. Brain injuries are no joke. Part of my rehabiitation therapy required me to have no screen time for a period of time and then when I was allowed to introduce it again, it needed to be only for a limited time each day. As a busy entrepreneur I used to be GLUED to my phone so it was challenging to give up my phone - I basically cried when my neurologist told me the course of treatment. But like most awful things, there were a few hidden life lessons buried in there.
After giving up my phone time and healing, I tried to go back to life the way it was before my strokes and found that my strokes changed the way that I process information and it’s very different than the way that I used to. I no longer could handle the barrage of constant information coming in that I had to process - it would send my into a full on panic attack. I realized that I was going to need to completely overhaul how I interacted with my phone. I did all these things to cope but they ended up just becoming habit. Over time I actually forgot that I had put these boundaries in place until a friend commented on them. It got me thinking that I really had changed the way I use my phone and what information I allow in and what I don’t. She started asking questions about what I did and how she could do the same thing. So this post is for her and anyone else that feels completely overwhelmed and on information overload.
First, you have control over your phone, what you allow to come through and how you respond to it. Again, YOU have ALL the control. The agendas of other people isn’t yours and you aren’t responsible for theirs. My mantra for this whole process is - I get to choose how I feel and what I allow to take up space in my head.
I’ve made a lot of changes about how information flows into my life and these are the top changes that I feel have made the biggest impact on the quality of my life - professional and personal:
Gutting my social media feeds and delete platforms that I didn’t connect with. After a big marketing meeting where it was suggested that I get back on Facebook, I did for about a week after being off of it for almost 2 years and found that I hated spending my time there. It gave me so much anxiety, I found it to be toxic and I felt like I was in a crowded room with everyone talking at once so I deleted my account. Simple as that.
On the platforms I did decide to stay on Instagram and Twitter (for news only), I cleaned up my feed by unfollowing or hiding anyone that makes me not feel great, even if it was a friend. I know this can be tricky for a lot of people and can lead to hurt feelings but you not feeling great isn’t worth following along just to make someone else feel better. If they are a true friend, they will understand, if not then maybe they weren’t meant to be in your life in the first place.
I turned off all push notifications - which at the mere thought might give some of you hives but again, this is all about taking back control over your phone. You don’t need to see if someone liked your Instagram post in real time - and this is coming from someone who works in social media. If you need to be on any platforms regularly, pick 2 - 3 times a day to check in and respond to comments and messages.
Same went for emails - emails and phone calls are two of the hardest places for me to process information so I really don’t email much. I have put parameters in place within my business since I just can’t opt out of emailing. I let people know how I prefer to be contacted and have someone that monitors my email and lets me know when I need to respond to something. Most emails she can answer since most emails end up being similar topics. Also, choosing certain times a day to check email has helped me have the rest of your day be for working or for my life.
I don’t answer every text message or phone call and usually silent group texts (which I have some very strong opinions about and the people that create them but we can talk about that another day). I know that not answering goes against everything that we’ve all been taught but here’s what I’ve learned - the world will take and take and take until you say no. I don’t mean this in a malicious way, it isn’t personal but it’s the truth. Becoming less available has cut down on my stress and actually helped my career - which again is counter intuitive I know. I answer all pertinent phone calls and messages but let the rest go.
I haven’t done these in a while but I used to regularly take weekends off social media and that was really life changing. The first little bit you will feel so uncomfortable but after a while it feels so freeing and I feel like I can really focus on what and who’s in front of me. I really need to get back to this.
I think the biggest takeaway that I’ve had from this experience is that you can’t make everyone happy, that my life is important to prioritize and that I need to sometimes remember what life was like without constant technology nagging at us.