A Challenge from a Mental Health Counselor: Part with your Phone for a Few Hours

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Out of my routine

It was an unusual Saturday where I woke up early and saw two clients via teletherapy. I was gone the last two weeks and wanted to be available to my people. After wrapping up my notes, I changed and left the house for an Orange Theory class. Little did I know, I remembered everything but my phone.

Well, this was better than the day before where I remembered everything but my runners. Needless to say, I couldn’t attend class then, and I wasn’t about to miss class again by turning around.

My device can’t be that important.

Waiting without my phone

The power class kicked my butt and I felt like it wasn’t going to end. When it finally did, I was so ready to reward myself with yummy take out! In Redmond, there are a number of Indian restaurants and I craved curry. After ordering a vegetarian curry and a lamb saag, I sat, waiting.

Remembering that I’d forgotten my phone, I was intentional in looking around and noticing things I would otherwise miss. The restaurant’s décor, the people working, the people dining. Perhaps I can finally take in what’s around me, rather than have my nose buried in a screen.

Phoneless and distracted

As I sat and looked around, my mind was distracted. I should check Whatsapp to see what’s up with my family. I don’t have my phone. Interesting art this restaurant has. This place is not very crowded at this hour. Oh, I wonder if that coffee shop around the corner is any good. Let me look up reviews. I don’t have my phone. What’s the weather like for the rest of the day? I don’t have my phone.

Why do any of these things matter anyway?

Takeout in hand, I strolled to a nearby coffee shop and ordered drinks. The line was long and I again waited patiently. Twice I found myself fumbling around in my purse for a phone I didn’t have. Instead of checking Facebook for the 3rd time that day, I noticed a hairstyle I’d like to try, a barista who spilled half the drink and had to remake it, a cute dog on the sidewalk, chalk art on the wall…

I would’ve missed all that if I had my device because I wouldn’t have spared a moment to simply wait. Like wait in line without engaging in something or with someone to distract me from the monotony of waiting.

What novelty.

I’m not that important

I finally got home and started eating. Normally, I would swipe my phone this way or that while eating and taste very little of my food. That day, I decided that if my phone could wait a few hours, then what’s another half hour? The curry and saag were very tasty. My drink was only so so.

When I finally picked up my phone, nothing important came through. My family said nothing out of the ordinary. The Bahamas are just as devastated by Hurricane Dorian. My husband was tired from SUP and had no reason to reach me. By then, I didn’t even bother with Facebook.

So much for FOMO.

Do you have your device or does your device have you?

Now, I understand you probably have more important apps on your phone. The stock market could have varied since the morning. Your friends are planning a meetup. Someone might have responded to you on LinkedIn. You might have a few more followers on Instagram. You couldn’t take a picture of the coffee shop line and mark your location.

But, when was the last time you were without your phone and how did that disrupt your routine? Were you agitated because you couldn’t get a hold of so and so and you wondered if the world was just passing you by? Or, did your mind conjure up the worst case scenario happening to the people you love and how you couldn’t be reached?

I understand you could be a very important person and your followers are hanging onto your every character on Twitter. But what if there could be a sense of freedom, of unburdening that happens when you’re not tethered to the lives of others, to the latest news, traffic or weather?

I know it’s hard to imagine, but we didn’t always have this. How did we wait in lines then? How did we know what restaurant to try when we didn’t have the reviews of others to draw upon? How did we go about our lives not knowing whether the roads are congested or exactly who responded to the invite?

How were we ever without our devices?

You’re going to be okay

As uncomfortable as it may be, you’re going to survive without your device. There’s a quality of presence that comes from being fully there, wherever you are, without the need to check this or get an update on that. Would you find yourself more engaged with the people who matter to you, who are right there with you? Could you notice something you’ve never seen before, even though you’ve been at that restaurant for the Nth time?

Might you learn something about yourself, if nothing other than, “I may be upset that I’m without my phone, but my phone is not my life. I can part with it. And the next time I pick it up, I can decide how I want to use it.”

Wanting to be less dependent on your phone is something many of us can relate to. Let us know if you need help with this or other areas of your life. Our mental health counselors are here.

People Bloom Counseling Redmond Couples Cancer Ada Pang.png

Ada Pang is the proud owner of People Bloom Counseling, a Redmond psychotherapy practice. She helps unhappy couples find safety and connection in their relationship. She also helps cancer thrivers and their caregivers integrate cancer into their life stories. While writing this blog, she only checked her phone once. She finished sooner because she didn't have to context switch. Ah-mazing. Okay, maybe not so ah-mazing. You can be pretty ordinary too, you know?