/ #self-care 

How to make your phone work for you, not against you

This mom’s attempt to actually use her phone so her phone doesn’t use her

A zombie used to wake up on my side of the bed.

The moment she opens her eyes, she reaches for the phone and looks for the screaming red badges calling for her attention.

Tap email. Scroll… scroll… click. She feels anxious over an email someone sent. Then quickly taps out and switches to Instagram instead. Scroll… scroll… heart… heart…

_Oh, picture perfect woman with the hot bod, flowing wavy hair, lounging by the beach_… Green trigger gets pulled. And so she taps out and goes to Facebook instead.

Scroll… scroll… thumbs up… heart emoji… lol… Click play… Click this link…

Her social media trance gets momentarily cut by a quick cursory glance at the clock.

It’s been more than 2 hours since she picked up her phone and now she’s got to jump out of bed and rush through the morning to make sure the kids are ready for school and out of the door just in time.

Stress is running high, patience running low and she snaps, snaps, snaps at everyone for being so slow.

At the end of the day, she resolves things will be better tomorrow.

The next morning, she wakes up, picks up her phone and the cycle starts all over again.

Until one day, in a miraculous moment of lucidity, she realized something had to change if she wanted life to be more than this.

She needed to do things differently and finally face her phone addiction.

The makings of my phone addiction

I had my first ever touch screen phone - an HTC desire - after my second child was born.

I was already blogging at the time and it fascinated me how I had a mini - laptop and camera in the palm of my hand.

There weren’t a lot of interesting apps for Android then so my phone use was still quite limited. I mostly used my phone to browse the internet, take photos of my babies and post on Instagram and Facebook.

A few years later, my husband got me my first iPhone. And I can say this was when my phone addiction really began.

Oh, all the apps you can find on the app store! And they all looked so pretty…

I couldn’t wait to download all of them.

I loaded my phone with apps for photography, shopping, books, games and almost every social media app that came into existence. I also downloaded productivity and office apps, you know, “just in case I need to work on the go.”

There was so much to do and explore, my phone almost seemed like a natural extension of my right hand.

One time, I felt a sharp pain in the joint of my right thumb so I trained my left hand to hold my phone instead.

My phone was the first thing I reached for in the morning and the last thing I was holding at night.

At first, it seemed like a harmless habit. I mean everybody always uses their phones right?

Every “bing - ding - ting!!!” was like an elevator door opening to another floor filled with photos, updates and videos galore.

Until I realized just how much my phone was affecting my emotional wellbeing and indirectly, my kids, too.

Spending two hours or more a day distracted with my phone didn’t actually qualify as “me time” or “self-care”. And I knew I could be spending that time on things that serve me that I actually love to do.

I decided I needed to learn self-discipline and control.

So the quest for change began.

The first step: Minimize distractions

With family living and working in different places during different times of the day, I needed my phone close to me so I couldn’t follow advice to keep my phone in another room throughout the night.

So I did the next best thing: Activate “Do not disturb” or what I like to call “Moon Mode”.

This way, I won’t be receiving any unnecessary notifications, messages or calls. But I’ll be reachable when important people need me a.k.a. family members on my Favorites list.

At first, I only activated “moon mode” at night but I liked the peace so much, I ended up having it activated the whole day.

Eliminate false urgencies

Having my phone on moon mode was a game changer for my phone habits.

Before I can’t help but have my phone on me every minute of every day. After moon mode, I could go for hours without even touching my phone.

Mostly because without the notification sounds, I would forget it was even there and I finally could actually focus on the things I had to do throughout the day.

But during the times, I did pick up my phone, I’d see my lock screen swamped with groups of notifications stacked one on top of the other.

And when I swipe right, I would see red numbered badges everywhere as if they’re screaming “Open me!” “Tap me!” “Me, me, me…”

It was like every red badge was an emergency I had to attend to right away with the most number of notifications being the most “important”, even if they really weren’t

So I knew my next step: Turn off all unnecessary app notifications, banners and badges.

Doing this was like a balm to my stressed phone because with one tap, the red chaos on my screens finally calmed down.

And I could check my apps in whatever way or order I liked regardless of how many updates there were.

The most important step

With these two modifications, I was doing pretty well. I was using my phone much, much less than before.

But I noticed I still had that nagging feeling whenever I checked my apps that I was somehow missing out because I wasn’t constantly connected and updated.

Then I realized I was dealing with more than just phone addiction. It was an addiction to FOMO and social validation.

Since I was introverted, I justified my social media use as a form of connection and communication.

But when I really got down to it, I could count the few times when using social media made me feel connected.

More often than not, it made me feel pressured, if not triggered.

It always made me feel as though I had to photograph a certain way, talk a certain way, have an image or brand so I can get likes and hearts.

Whenever I posted, I couldn’t help but constantly check how many hearts, follows or comments I’ve gotten — the amount of which dictated my mood and my feelings of self-worth.

If I wasn’t scrounging for validation, I was getting triggered seeing images of perfection everywhere, of people who seemingly were better or had better lives than me in every way.

Of course, this speaks more about my view of social media than the real purpose of social media itself.

But I realized the simplest way to go about it is just quit instant access to social media, in the meantime, while I figure out how I can use it in a way that actually serves me instead of diminishes me.

And so that’s what I did: I deleted Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and finally, Facebook.

Though I don’t post anymore, I still keep Instagram hidden in a page 2 folder because that’s where I follow some truly inspiring people whom I still want to hear from so it stays.

That’s not to say I don’t use social media anymore. I still do but primarily on my desktop where it’s easier for me to set a definite purpose and schedule for staying and leaving each one.

So far, not having any of these social apps instantly accessible on my phone has made me feel more peaceful and that feels really, really good.

Final step: Organize and de-clutter

Right now, my phone is organized with a few apps that actually serve a purpose for me and my well being.

My first page for example only has the apps that I use for my morning routine: apps for meditation, reading, gratitude and affirmations.

The second page screen has the rest of my apps for audio, banking + work, navigation + delivery, moon tracking, games and photo + video.

I review these apps weekly and try to delete apps that I don’t use frequently.

Technically, I don’t use the whole photo/video apps regularly so i can delete all of them. But most of them take so long to download so I just choose to keep them there.

Note to self: Your phone is not the enemy

Going through this process, I realized that my phone, technology or even social media is not the enemy.

As with most tools, they can be beneficial or harmful depending on why and how you use them.

In the end, it was less about self-discipline or self-control and more about mindfulness.

Previously, I tended to pick up and swipe through my phone mindlessly. Partly to ease boredom or to procrastinate. Mostly, out of habit. That made it so easy to fall into the rabbit hole of endless links and clicks.

Now, I’m learning slowly but surely to be more aware about why I’m picking up my phone and what I’m using it for.

Whether it’s for something I need (like messaging my husband or googling “natural cough remedies”) or want to do (like checking Tosha Silver’s latest IG post or finding “dresses to wear with sneakers”), I give myself a set time and make sure to click back to the present moment.

Sometimes I succeed. Other times, I still get lost. But no more judgments. Just second chances. Over. And over. And over again.

Every morning, a human being wakes up on my side of the bed. Feeling purposeful. Peaceful. Grateful that she gets to have another day to be fully alive.