Q&A

Anxious, tired and irritable? Digital detox might be the cure, says Saskatoon therapist

Therapist Frances Sreedhar said that access to powerful, portable technology may make us feel more connected, but in reality, we may be losing touch with people in the real world, making some lonely and anxious.

Taking time offline may be good for your health

A Saskatoon therapist says people are spending so much time on smart phones that it may be having a negative effect on their relationships. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Are you sleeping with your phone, feeling anxiety when away from your device, or unable to carry on real-life conversations? Are you also feeling tired, irritable and achy?

With every buzz, with every boop, with every bing, we are getting a hit of dopamine.- Frances Sreedhar

If so, you might be suffering from a modern malady and may be in need of digital detox, according to a Saskatoon therapist.

Frances Sreedhar, a therapist at Crossroads Therapeutic Solutions, said that access to powerful, portable technology may make us feel more connected, but in reality, we may be losing touch with people in the real world. 

If you are seeing signs in your own life that your connection to your phone is cutting you off from the real world, Sreedhar suggests experimenting with taking time away from your phone. As you progress it should become easier and the anxiety should fade.

Sreedhar sat down for an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning to offer some insights and advice for staying healthy while navigating a digital world.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

CBC: What have you noticed about the amount of time we spend on our mobile devices?

Sreedhar: There's just been this tremendous change in the way that we are looking at the world.

I would see on a beach people hidden under towels on their laptops, I would see people carrying their telephones with them in a vacuum packed bag through the pool and then when I was in Europe I actually noticed that people would take a quick picture of a national monument, a thing of beauty, a sculpture and then continue on without actually taking in the experience.

Therapist Frances Sreedhar says spending too much time online or on a phone can lead to anxiety and loneliness. (CBC)

Why do you think we are seeing more digital stress?

It's actually difficult to pay attention just with the phone, the mere presence of it. It's a distraction, even having it in your purse knowing it's within reach.

We also see sleep problems, and we see trouble with tracking and paying attention to conversations.

When we are online our digital life may look very exciting, very appealing, we present the best of ourselves online and so it leads to comparison. It leads to a feeling of something I'm not, or I'm missing and so there is actually a term FOMO, fear of missing out, another one FOBO, fear of being offline and in fact many of us are having Nomophobia, the anxiety that you feel when you leave your phone at home or your phone is not available to you.

How can people do a digital detox?

I think we have to start recognizing what's urgent, what's not urgent, what's actually something that I have to reply to.

With every buzz, with every boop, with every bing, we are getting a hit of dopamine in the brain and dopamine is tied to pleasure and then it makes us want to seek out that activity again.

Is my device actually starting to shut down communication, is my device getting in the way of actual connection in the real world? We forget that we have to expand the capacity to connect with others and that capacity to actually achieve that rare privilege of boredom.

- with files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning