Power Down: Turning Off Your Phone Can Reduce Stress

Ben Groulx
Jun 01, 2015
Power Down: Turning Off Your Phone Can Reduce Stress

Take a quick break from your phone and see what’s important in life, like what we did.

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About two weeks ago, my iPhone was stolen. For the first day or so, I was bummed and people could tell. It was stressful. I was agitated. I felt something was missing. I'm used to constantly be checking my phone every 15-20 minutes, either scrolling up on my Twitter feed (which I prefer to use on my phone than on my desktop), looking at a notifications (texts, snaps, Facebook messages…), or getting distracted with the myriad of games and "content discovery" apps like Reddit and Buffer. I thought that having my phone right there all the time was making me a more productive person by being able to respond right away, but it turns out that was false.

For the past two weeks, I have been living a phone-free life, and it has been glorious. No notifications, no distractions… nothing to remove me from the moment.

It's not like I was completely thrown out with no communications, though. I of course still had email and Facebook messages for text-based communication, and Skype and FaceTime for talking with coworkers and friends. The "essentials," if you will, of my phone -- the communications part -- weren't lost, but the distracting parts were. Not having a phone made me realize what tools and services were priorities, and which were simply there filling up time.

iPhone Homescreen

Two days ago, I got a new phone. I plugged it into my computer, restored a backed up version from my previous phone, so everything was exactly the way I had left it, and… I didn't like it. I immediately felt the stress return like a wave. I felt like I returned to an awful job after a vacation. So I cleared the backup and only put on a few apps. My girlfriend has a view on life and her belongings: Only keep the things that bring you delight when you see them. I applied this philosophy to the apps and services on my phone. If using it brings me delight, then it can stay. My home screen (image aside) now looks almost childish with its many colours and its vibrancy, but each of these apps are there because I enjoy using them. They bring me delight.

I am also using some other tactics to keep the stress my phone brings to a minimum, like only checking my phone every hour for no more than 5 minutes. It's on Do Not Disturb for the rest of the time, other than letting phone calls through.

I remind myself that my phone is a tool for me to use. If I can't use it, that's fine, I can find another method to do what I need to do.

The circumstances that forced me to "take a break" from my phone were, of course, unfortunate, but I mean, come on; it's a damn phone. I'm glad it got stolen.

So may I humbly suggest you power down your phone, too, and stick it in a lockbox for a week or two. You might be surprised at the results.

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