Phone Addicts

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Hands up, I admit it – I am a phone addict! I often wonder how on earth I functioned in the days before smartphones. It was possible to exist without Google, social media and numerous messaging apps at our fingertips, wasn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, these things aren’t bad – I like social media, I like to meet new people this way (though there are some weirdos out there, don’t be weird people) and keep up with old friends. I would really feel lost without my phone. Which leads me to the question – is it healthy? Can there be too much of a good thing?

Unfortunately I think there can be. Speaking from past experience I know there’s been times when I’ve been distracted by my phone when I’m in company – it’s so rude, but there’s just something so compelling and addictive about that little flashing light that let’s me know something (potentially) exciting is waiting for my attention (though when is it ever anything that exciting or urgent?!).

On the plus side, there are many ways to make sure we can enjoy our phones and at the same time minimise the negative effects. Here are a few things to try, and if you have any more tips please share them in the comments:

  • The blue light from your phone is brighter than the sun (honestly!) and makes your body think it’s daytime. This is why looking at your phone before bed can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it difficult to sleep. Put your phone on night mode and lower the brightness.
  • Better still, turn your phone off 60-90 minutes before bed – if you live with other people, talk to them. If you live alone, read a great book, write in your journal, or write a good old-fashioned letter to your best friend. It’s especially important for children and teens to have a phone-free period before bed so that they can start to wind down for sleep.
  • Allocate certain times of the day for your personal social media and messaging friends
  • If work emails disrupt your evenings and weekends, decide on cut off point and use an Out of Office message to alert colleagues to the fact that you will reply in the morning. They’ll soon get the hint.
  • Turn your phone off or disable notifications when you’re working and need to focus.
  • Make a “no phones during dinner” rule – if you or your friends/family like to post food on social media then let them take a pic but then the phones go away. Imagine the novelty of actually talking to the people you’re sitting round the table with!
  • Don’t turn your phone on first thing in the morning – do your breathing exercise, do some stretching or journaling, take a shower, have breakfast. In short, do the things that set your morning up in a calm and relaxed way and then turn your phone on.
  • Try going for a day or even a weekend without your phone – go on, you can do it!!!

Start Small – Just Breath

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Breathing… It’s easy, right? We all do it, thousands and thousands of breaths each day to keep us alive. But wait! HOW do you breath? I can feel the eye rolls from here – “seriously, I got this far in life without knowing how to breath…?”

I get it, but bear with me.

So many of us have stress in our lives, and stress affects each of us differently – what could be just a small thing for one person can feel like the end of the world for someone else. There’s no right or wrong, you feel things how you feel them. Our daily lives throw stressors at us from all angles, seemingly from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until the moment we close them again at night.

Just imagine this scenario: Your alarm goes off but you’re not quite ready to get up yet, so you hit snooze. Only in your half-awake state you turned the alarm off and before you know it 10 more minutes has become 30 more minutes. You leap out of bed in panic, you’re going to be late! You have a quick shower and try to brush your teeth and get dressed at the same time. You run down stairs and put the kettle on, no matter what you can’t leave the house without coffee. You’re sorting out what you need for work, and where are your car keys?? You glance at your phone, you see messages from friends, your assistant has messaged to say she’s sick, and your calendar reminds me you have an important team meeting about a new project first thing. And you’re late! You pour the coffee into your mug, splash milk on the kitchen counter, leave it and run out the door. Your journey is going well, then you hit traffic 5 minutes from the office. It takes you 15 minutes to get there and another 5 to find a parking space. You run straight to the conference room and arrive hot and flustered to find the meeting already started.

How did you feel reading that? Were you nodding in recognition, we’ve all had mornings like that? Did you notice your breathing? Most likely not, after all how much attention do we give it really?

Stressors like those mentioned above are, individually, small things, but added together and prolonged over a period of an hour or so they can really set the tone for your day and cause some disruptive reactions in your body and mind. Cortisol and blood pressure can rise, your heart rate quickens, anxiety levels rise and breathing becomes shallower. These are all normal reactions when we encounter stress, our body prepares us for fight or flight. Years ago the cause of our stress would last for a short period of time while we dealt with the situation. Today, we deal with one little situation after the other; and as you likely know once this meeting is over that won’t be the end of your stress for the day. And you’re probably still beating yourself up for being disorganised, lazy, missing the start of the meeting, etc.

This is where the problems start – we are constantly in and out of flight or fight mode, running on adrenaline and cortisol, feeling anxious and on edge which in turn can lead to us having a bad mood, making snap decisions under pressure, grabbing sugary/salty snacks as we eat at our desk to make up for being late… But taking a few moments each day to breath consciously can make a huge difference to how we feel. So how do we do this?

Well, the good news is you can do this from your bed! But for now, let’s just practice so you get used to how it feels to breath deeply and exhale fully. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Breath normally and notice what hand moves first. If the hand on your chest moves first, slow your breath and breath deeper, imagining you are filling your belly with air. You should start to feel the hand on your belly move first. When you exhale, do it slowly and imagine pushing all of the air back out of your belly and lungs. Do this a couple of times until it starts to feel more natural.

Now get yourself comfortable. As I mentioned, it’s good to do this in bed – first thing when you wake up, and just before you go to sleep. But, of course, you can do it at any time during the day if you feel stressed.

Take a slow, deep breath in for a count of four. Pause for a count of four. Exhale slowly and deeply expelling all the air. Pause for a count of four and repeat 6-8 times.

And that’s it. It’s relaxing, it calms and quietens your mind and helps get oxygen flowing around your body. Best of all, you don’t need any special equipment, you don’t need to join a class or pay for lessons and you can do it anytime, anywhere.

Give it a try and let me know if it helps you feel less stressed.