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Are You Too Attached to Your iPhone?

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You may joke about being “addicted” to your iPhone, but you can become overly attached to it, say researchers at the University of Missouri. They had students work on puzzles while measuring their heart rate and blood pressure, and found that when students were separated from their phones and heard that familiar ring, they showed serious negative psychological and physiological effects, including increased anxiety, raised blood pressure and heart rate, and poorer performance on those cognitive tests.

Imagine how that would play out in a meeting: You’re giving a presentation at the front of the room, and your phone is at your seat. Out of the corner of your eye, you see it light up with an alert. According to these study results and other work on tech addiction, your anxiety levels could spike, your heart may start to race, and you might not do as good of a job as you had hoped. Not a great scenario. (You're not off the hook at home, either: Your Cell Phone is Ruining Your Down Time.) 

The fix isn’t attaching your phone permanently to your palm, says Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D., a psychology professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills and the author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us. Instead, he recommends weaning off compulsive use. “We think that something disastrous will happen if we aren’t constantly checking in,” he says. Start by paying attention to how many times you check your phone, even without a prompt like an alert or call. Are you doing it because you expect something positive (a sweet message from your guy) or because of a sense of anxiety (I might miss an important email)? Apps like Checky can tell you just how many times you look at your phone a day. Not happy with the number? Consider turning off all or some of your alerts, which may be stimulating your anxiety, says Rosen.

One possible route to phone-freedom: Limiting your communication to certain times of the day. However, this is a tough one: “We just did a study where participants were asked to check only three times a day, but people couldn’t do it. When they did manage to cap it at five times a day, the ended up feeling better.” If you want to go this route, he recommends setting a schedule of when you’re allowed to check (say, 8 a.m., noon, 4 p.m., and 7 p.m.) and only giving yourself 10 to 15 minutes to read emails, respond to texts, and scroll through Instagram. Just let people know what you’re up to, so friends and family members know why you’ve suddenly stopped replying instantly. If you can't give tech up at night, read 3 Ways to Use Tech at Night and Still Sleep Soundly.

Since this isn’t a practical solution for a lot of people, Rosen has an alternate approach: technology breaks. “Give yourself a minute or two to check everything—texts, emails, or social media—and then close them all out. Put your phone on silent and then put it face down in front of you. Set a timer for 15 minutes, and don’t let yourself check anything until then. Keep repeating until you feel comfortable with 15 minutes, and try to work up to an hour.” Rosen says that most people tap out at half an hour—and that’s okay. The goal is to slash the anxiety that comes with a constant impulse to be connected. “Ten years ago, if I felt a tingling where my pocket is, I would have scratched my leg,” says Rosen. “Now I assume it’s my phone.” (For instant calm, Try This Yoga Breathing Technique to Relieve Anxiety.)

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