Put your phone down and ask yourself: are you okay?

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, just stop everything for a moment. How’s your breathing? Is it shallow and relaxed? Is it deep and pronounced? Or is it erratic? Do you feel any tension deep within? Now, what is on your mind? There’s so much haze to navigate: sensory stimuli all around us, worries and anxieties, tasks that need completing; then, when the fog of our daily lives has cleared, there’s the little voice we have nestled far away. How is that voice sounding today?

Something I’ve come to realise very recently is that in our present day, with the prevalence of social media, it can be easy to begin giving our attention to a great number of apps or conversations in short bursts, leaving us scattered and unfocused, but tired, also. If you, like me, find yourself swapping through apps- responding to conversations, putting the phone down, then starting all over again in ten minutes, you might start to feel a bit fatigued. Very recently, I’ve noticed that my use of apps like TikTok and Instagram has increased. I can sit and scroll for a while through discovery pages, seeing familiar accounts that I enjoy; I can do this for some time. I may then respond to a message, or a few messages, then scroll again, and before I know it I’ve lost half an hour of my day. I haven’t read my books anywhere near as much as I normally would. Most interestingly, when I’m playing video games, I take more frequent pauses, as if I need a break from focusing for longer than ten minutes. What I have come to realise is that my attention is split between too many little tasks and not on what sustains healthy patterns of living: meditative time to pause and bring balance, longer, more rewarding tasks like reading, and not putting the phone away for a while.

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and written more than a few sentences before letting my attention go elsewhere. Because my attention has been constantly shared to quick bursts of social media use, I’ve somewhat lost the ability to focus for protracted periods of time. Not only this, I haven’t been able to keep a check on my mental health in the way I normally would do. Just in this past week, I’ve allowed myself to become completely overwhelmed and have found myself acting out. I should have taken pause to understand the source of what was going on. Instead, I allowed my attention to expand, to fragment, and to become hollow. In essence, I ignored my own inner turmoil, or failed to spot it. Either way, it got the better of me. It is extremely important that when we notice we’re spending too long scrolling, too long cycling between apps, taking in too much information, feeling the need to withdraw, that we stop and take a step back. We breathe and return to the basics. Once we have control again, we take steps to rescue our attention and to refocus it. If need be, we reduce how accessible we are to others by establishing and communicating healthy boundaries. Myself personally, I’m going to bring back a cut-off time for phone use. Some time ago, I would use my phone’s ‘bedtime’ feature to go into an enhanced form of ‘do not disturb.’ When this happened, that would be my cue to stop using the phone and to begin other evening routines, like reading or listening to music. I’ll bring this back, probably starting tomorrow now since it’s rather late on.