LIFESTYLE

Depressed, Stressed And Lonely: Signs You're In Deep Need Of Disconnecting From Your Devices

09/06/2014 14:56 BST | Updated 10/06/2014 16:59 BST

Right now as a society, we're losing touch with the real world.

For us, the real world isn't finding out what Sally had for breakfast via Instagram or reading that Dave had a heavy night on Facebook.

We mean spending time with our loved ones, listening to the sounds going on around us and actually paying attention. That desire to remain connected with our devices because we are so afraid of missing out, means the present moment is slipping away from us more and more.

In fact, filmmaker Gary Turk's video about how addicted we are to our technology Look Up has been a wake-up call for over 40 million people.

Alongside Arianna Huffington's mission to get the world to unplug and reconnect with each other, the message has resonated that it's time to start changing our ways.

phone ban

For me, that video sparked a chain of thoughts. I knew I was addicted to my phone, yet I didn't know what to do about it.

So I tried an experiment - I went on a holiday for nine days, and before I boarded that plane to Morocco, I switched off my devices. I didn't switch back on until I returned to London.

And I felt normal again, and present.

But of course, it wasn't easy.

Before my digital detox, I would wake-up to my alarm on my phone. Inevitably I would then check social media. Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, Whatsapp. I'd then leave the house, listening to music on my phone whilst I commuted to the office.

Arriving at the office, laptop goes on, phones sit beside me and I remain connected through the day.

After work, I remain on. Music from my devices on my commute home, then TV and laptop on, if I'm hanging around the flat for the evening. Of course, before I go to bed, all devices are hooked up and charged by my bedside.

Vibrations and beeps go on through the night.

SEE ALSO:

How To Cut Down On Your Emails And Unplug

Why I'm Switching Off To Switch On

ALWAYS ON.

A pattern of emotions started to emerge and by the time I was ready to go on holidays, I was so tightly wound and disconnected from the real-world, I couldn't think straight. Stressed, sleepless, somewhat lonely and unable to focus.

So on that plane to Morocco I made the vow to switch off, and say goodbye to the digital world. All connections would be cut except my camera, though I restricted the use of that, too.

yoga beach

I was able to focus on being in the present moment, in the real world. Not through the lens of an Instagram account, or with a conversation to friends via a status on my Facebook page.

I didn't know what was going on back in London and so I was unable to be distracted by anything other than what was going on right there, right in front of me. My mind wasn't being pulled in more than one direction, for the first time in a long time.

So I relaxed.

I was active, I slept deeply and I laughed a lot. My travel buddies also took the chance to disconnect as well. So we remained in this present world together. Since coming home, I've spent the last three weeks prioritising switching off.

Leading up to my decision to unplug, five things really rang the alarm bell that it was time to change my ways.

Here are some of the signs you may also notice within yourself. If you do, perhaps it's time to take switching off seriously, too.

Your attention is split and your memory is shot

I found that prior to my detox, my mind was split in three. One part was with work (my laptop), the other part on my social networks and the third part was hovering somewhere in the present moment. I was struggling to centralise my mind. My memory was shot and I was tuning in and out of conversations.

The problem is, the over-use of technology can affect your memory in many ways, like making it harder to retain information, while the constant distractions make it hard for you to form memories.

Your body is tense

I was feeling wound up. A direct result of the stress I was accumulating from always being on. And there's actually a term for this. It's 'technostress'.

When we're connected to more than one communication tool, we can begin to feel as though we're no longer in control and over-burdened by multi-tasking.

You're feeling down

Like other addictions, an addiction to social media can harm our self-esteem.

When you're flicking through your newsfeed on Facebook, Twitter and Instragram, it's hard not to feel as though you're falling behind. It's can cause anxiety, stress and inevitably this can conclude in feelings of depression.

You're having trouble sleeping

The last thing I would do before bed, most nights, was be on my phone or watching something on my laptop. When looking into why this was disrupting my sleep, much research concludes that exposure to artificial light at night actually suppresses the production of the major hormone that controls our sleep and wake cycles, melatonin. So if exposing ourselves to this light before we go to bed, it makes sense that our sleep follows as interrupted.

I had my phones and laptop charging next to my bed; alerts would buzz throughout the night. I don't know why I didn't switch these off. Perhaps it's apart of that addiction to being immediately contactable. But my sleep was interfered with by the constant noise and light of these devices.

You're lonely

This was the killer. And when I watched Look up it really hit home.

I'd be talking to people all day long, and yet whenever I did 'look up', I'd feel lonely. I would be out a dinner with friends, and if I was left alone at the table, you bet I picked up my phone to keep me distracted. I'd forgotten how to be on my own without feeling intense loneliness.

Then there's this video, I forgot my phone by Charlene deGuzman and Miles Crawford. Another short film that wakes you up to the irony of just how much we're isolating ourselves from each other, yet remaining obsessed with staying connected.

So if you recognise yourself in any of this, which I would assume most of you do, then it's time to force yourself to detox and then begin implementing these changes into your life.