Yup, phone separation anxiety (or nomophobia) IS a real thing. In fact, many of you who are probably reading this article on your phone right now may not even realise that you’re also experiencing some of its symptoms. Maybe every time you hear that ping (or whatever notification ringtone you have), you have this clawing feeling inside you that makes you check your phone. Or maybe you have to put your phone out of sight when you’re working, because you can’t resist the temptation of picking it up and plunge into the endless scrolling on Instagram. Whatever it is, there are signs that tell us it’s time to do something about nomophobia. What are these signs? How should we deal with phone separation anxiety? Therapist Alyssa Mancao, who specialises in client-centered therapy, emotional growth, and treating mental health issues, is here with some insights and advice for some of your concerns:-
1. “I feel the need to check my phone whenever there’s a notification. I have to know who it is or just know what’s going on in my social circle; if not, I will grow worried and anxious…”
Alyssa: I want you to know that this is a rather common sentiment when you have nomophobia. The moment we see a notification on our phone, our instinct is to check what it is right away. This is the instant gratification that we live in in this day and age – because everything can be delivered to us immediately, we have developed this belief that we also have to respond or know what is happening in real time as well. First, I want you to ask yourself “what could happen if delay reading the message for 20 minutes? 1 hour? A whole day?” The information will still be there. You may want to try a mini phone detox, for example, by having your phone in another room while eating your meals, putting your phone on aeroplane mode while you are watching TV, and ultimately turning off the notifications on your apps to help you detach from your notifications. It is possible to have a healthier relationship with your phone and its notifications, but this takes practice in managing the anxiety around checking (deep breathing, grounding, distraction skills).
2. “Every time I post something on my social media, I have to constantly open the apps to keep track of how many likes I have…”
Alyssa: Again, this is another common concern on nomophobia that I have come across and this can be remedied by redefining and reframing your relationship with social media and the amount of likes a post gets. First, ask yourself the following “What does it mean about me if I have a lot / not a lot of likes” “What value am I placing on my like count?” “In the big scheme of my life, how does this truly affect me?” Remind yourself that you are more than your likes, and your value is placed on your core as a person, how you treat yourself and others around you. Perhaps try this exercise: once you post something, delete the app, and sit with not knowing. You may find that worrying about the number of likes you receive on a photo becomes miniscule to what is happening in the present moment. Also, here’s another friendly reminder to remember that you are more than likes on social media.
3. “I have this fear of having to charge my phone. When the battery goes below 50%, I will start getting nervous and anxious that it will die soon…”
Alyssa: Ask yourself, what are you afraid of when your phone dies? How have you managed in the past when your phone has died or when you didn’t have your phone on you? When your phone is below or close to 50%, does this have a negative effect on you behaviorally? For example, do you refuse to go out, run errands, until your phone is fully charged? If you are worried about your phone dying, perhaps purchase a portable charger or ensure that you have a charger with you. It’s understandable that a lot of what we do requires phone use (from GPS, working and communication) so if your fear is your phone dying, stay prepared. If you are worried about ‘being connected’, remind yourself that you can always charge your phone once it dies. Practice a mantra to be okay with the discomfort of having your phone reach 50%, something such as “I am okay, I am safe, it is okay for my battery percentage to be where it is.”
4. “Sometimes I will hear notification sounds and vibrations but when I check my phone, there’s nothing…”
Alyssa: There are many questions I want to ask associated with this question, but going on with what we have, is there are part of you that feels very attached to your phone? Is there a part of you that wishes you had more notifications? How often is this happening? Perhaps, in order to manage this behavior, turn off notifications all around. So that when you hear a sound can be sure that it is not coming from your phone.
5. “I don’t trust anybody with my phone. Even if it’s within sight, just looking at someone holding my phone makes me anxious…”
Alyssa: I can understand how you could feel anxious with other people having your phone. Our phones are very personal to us and it holds a lot of intimate information. If you are afraid of something holding your phone, you can set boundaries with that person “I would appreciate if you did not look through my photos, messages, etc.” If there is something on your phone that you are worried about them finding, then this is a separate issue. If this isn’t the case, remind yourself that it is just a phone, you will get it back, and utilise skills to manage the anxiety when someone has your phone (such as distracting yourself, reminding yourself you have nothing to hide, reminding yourself that you will get your phone back) It is also important to note that if you do not want anyone holding your phone in general, you are allowed to set boundaries around that.
6. “Whenever I see my phone, my mind keeps telling me to go check it even when I know there’s no notifications. It has affected my productivity performance…”
Alyssa: This seems to be a common issue with many people. There is a certain dependence on our phones especially if you are experiencing nomophobia, and a need to check for something “new” and something “to do” within our phones. First, I think it is great that you are able to acknowledge that you are developing an unhealthy relationship with your phone and you’re able to acknowledge the impact it’s having on your productivity. Perhaps set some boundaries around your cell phone usage, for example, only allowing yourself to check your e-mails/ texts, during certain times of the day, not checking your phone when you are eating a meal, or watching TV. When your mind is telling you to check your phone, you want to gently say back to your mind “this is not necessary, I can tolerate not looking at my phone for a period of time, I will be okay.” Depending on what you have to do for productivity, perhaps make a rule to check your phone after you have completed various tasks.
Interested in working with Alyssa Mancao? Visit www.alyssamariewellness.com to learn more about how to overcome depression, anxiety and trauma through healing powers. Connect with Alyssa… / Instagram:@alyssamariewellness