Beeps, buzzing, dings, vibrations, flashing lights. These are the sounds, sights and sensations our phones in our pockets make. Add earbuds to listen to podcasts and music while at our computers and tasks at work and home and there’s some serious screen time. Next, throw in friends who want to talk or text. Then add a dash of all the activities we want to do: Coachella and all the music festivals, sports games, shopping for new clothes, shiny cars to test drive, bling-y jewelry to adorn ourselves, Netflix and Hulu shows to watch, new movies on the screen, Disneyland or amusement park trips and the list gets longer.
One of my friends, a yoga teacher and retreat planner, recently told me she falls prey to overstimulation all the time, not knowing when to put down her phone or which task to do first. “They’re all important priorities,” she told me. You wouldn’t expect a chill yoga teacher to be uncertain about relaxing and letting her mind chill.
Yesterday I went to the beach and debated bringing my phone. I decided to leave it in the car so I could truly unwind. While at the beach, I observed most people hunched over their phones and missing the pelicans nose-diving into the sea for food. Even groups of people sitting together were all on their phones and occasionally looked up to show each other things on their own screens. I was aware of this because I didn’t have my phone. If I’d have had my phone, I’d have likely been distracted by Words With Friends or scrolling mindlessly through Instagram.
Why is it so hard to put down our phones and enjoy the silence or connect with people in front of us? I think we’ve gotten accustomed to the overstimulation mindset and we don’t know how to cope without it. We butt into each other’s lives through social media but don’t want others in our business. We feel bored or insignificant when not connected to others electronically, even though we could have a deep connection to someone three feet in front of us if we only made eye contact.
Overstimulation has become the new norm in our lives. I often get impatient when not hearing back from people within a few minutes. Conversely, and unfairly, I’m frustrated when I’m trying to hang out with someone who is always looking down at a phone. It feels off-putting to try to connect unsuccessfully. All of the phone and computer time in our lives causes me great anxiety and I sometimes need a break, as I took one at the beach yesterday.
Many parents limit the screen time for children, but what about limiting it for ourselves? Here are my tips:
- Notice when you actually feel overstimulated. Remember times when you felt free and compare that to the feeling you have now.
- Schedule times to be without your phone, especially in live social moments or during quiet times.
- Learn how to sit in silence.
- Spend time outside without feeling the need to document your experience on social media.
- Think about what animals and kids do: they enjoy the moment and love to play and connect. Emulate that mindset.
- Reserve phone and computer time for a “time and place” mindset.
Try a day of limited stimulation and see what happens!
My last post was about nonverbal communication. Check it out!
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