You’ve probably experienced a lingering feeling that tweeting in traffic and checking your emails while grocery shopping is maybe not so great for your mental health. Or maybe you jump on Instagram and three hours later wonder why it feels like a tiny piece of your soul has gone missing. Now, the American Psychological Association wants to confirm that, yes, obsessively checking your devices is likely making you feel insane.
On February 23, the APA released the second part of its annual “Stress in America” study, revealing how social media use has exploded in the past ten years, breeding a new generation of stressed out “constant checkers.” As of 2015, 90 percent of young adults in the 18 to 29 age range use social media—up from just 12 percent of the same demographic in 2005.
Overall, 43 percent of Americans report being unable to peel themselves away from their phones and suffering as a result. On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being no stress and 10 being a great deal of stress), constant checkers register at an average of 5.3. Meanwhile, those who check their phones at a more reasonable pace reported an average stress level of 4.4. Those who check their work emails during their days off register at an average of 6.0.
No matter how often you check your work emails or obsess over your social media following, we could probably all benefit from some digital downtime. Here are a few steps you can take to clear your mind.
First, admit you have a problem
Like any addiction, whether it revolves around chardonnay or “likes,” you have to recognize you have a problem before you can solve it. Join the 65 percent of American respondents who agree that unplugging every now and then is a good idea. Just don’t be like the 79 percent of respondents who never actually get around to doing a digital detox.
Plan, plan, plan
If you want your digital detox to work, you need to have a plan in place and stick to it. Decide when you want to start your break and which devices you want to take a break from. Are you looking to cleanse for a solid week or just every Sunday? Are you trying to break free from social media or ditch your phone altogether? Depending on your objective, it might be as easy as deleting certain apps or it might a little more complicated, like scheduling transportation ahead of time. And if you communicate with your family on Facebook all the time, you might want to give them a heads up before you fall off the face of the earth.
Have fun (no, seriously)
It’ll be a little shocking to realize how much free time you suddenly have when you’re not keeping up with every dog meme known to man. Have some fun, technology-free plans in place so you’re not tempted to relapse before you’ve finished your cleanse. Take your fur-child on a hike and give her your full attention. Go inside that really cool thrift store you’ve been walking straight past for the last year and a half. Read a book. Write a book. Do nothing at all. Whatever you do, your mind will thank you for it.