Staying sane in this connected world


I took an in-person meditation course recently and there was quite a bit of talk about how addicted we are to our phones. I definitely pick up my phone far too often during the day but after chatting with some of my fellow students I realised I’ve developed some pretty healthy phone habits. One woman told me she allows notifications from news apps so that when she wakes up the first thing she sees is the news — unless you’re an actual journalist or working in politics, why would you do that? I honestly couldn’t get my little head around it. In my late 20s I worked as a journalist at several national newspapers and was in the newsroom of one of the biggest here in the UK when the twin towers went down. I’ve had my fill of news to last me a lifetime and gave up reading newspapers and watching TV a few years back — the amount of emotional energy and empathing I gave to it all took away from my ability to create my own work. The news still filters down to me, of course — I’m online all day and don’t have my head in the sand, but this way I also don’t go searching for direct hits of worry, stress and disappointment. My ability to take care of my own emotional health and effectively do my work in this world has increased tenfold.

As someone who’s prone to depression I try to start (and live) my day as mindfully as I can. For what it’s worth, here’s how I manage my tech:

1. I’ve turned off ALL notifications from ALL non-essential apps. No news, no Facebook, no Instagram, no OKCupid, no nothing. The only notifications I see on my home screen are text messages from friends and family who have my actual phone number. Lately I also allow messages from Bumble (but they’re from men I’m chatting with so they’re welcome) and Uber. Everything else is OFF.

2. I have my phone on silent at all times. This means it makes no sound — no dings, pings or chimes. If someone calls me my phone vibrates. I often miss calls but I don’t mind that — I’m happy to call back at a better time. The only exception to this is when I’m with family and we might need to contact each other when we’re out of the house or if I’m meeting up with friends and I anticipate a “where are you?!” call. But during my regular working day the sound is off. Of course, this means other people’s bells and chimes drive me nuts — I’m not used to the sound so the constant dings just sound obnoxious to me, especially on a train journey ;-) #sensitivesunflower

3. In the same vein, my computer does not notify me of anything or make any noises. If I receive an email I will only know this when I open my email program. The only sounds I hear are from Spotify playlists. Oh, and I’m getting better about only checking email until 7pm. Being self-employed means my boundaries are pretty lax when it comes to my email availability, but I’m working on it.

4. I charge my phone in the kitchen. In my 14 months of living in this house it has never been taken into the bedroom (quite proud of that!). If I ever need to use an alarm I have a little clock I can use.

4. I switch my phone to airplane mode at 9pm every night (and I loved learning that Tim Ferriss aka Mr Productivity does this too). It all began when I got serious about my morning meditation practice. I use the Insight Timer app, which is obviously on my phone, and I soon realised how easy it was to fall into reading text messages (and let’s face it, hoping for Bumble replies) when I unlocked my phone to use the timer. Solution? Airplane mode. That way I’m not tempted to use my phone in the evening (better for the pre-sleep wind down) AND I don’t see any messages when I pick up my phone in the morning. It’s heaven, I tell you! I can meditate and do all the morning rituals I love, have breakfast and then turn off airplane mode when I’m ready to begin my day. I should add that I DO have a landline but only family members have that number.

So there you have it. Obviously this is just what works for me. I don’t have kids and I’ve no doubt my way of relating to my phone would be very different if I had schools and tweens and even bosses who might need to get hold of me urgently. But I still believe that no matter what you do and who’s dependent on you, nobody needs to get world news notifications on their phone. Save your attention for messages from the people you love. Start your day from that place. <3

Related reading: How to unhijack your mind from your phone

You can be woke without waking up to the news


22 responses
  1. Jen Liminal Luminous

    Yes, I do so many of these things too. WHY would you allow the news in first thing. It’s not right! Far to much stress to fly into your brain

  2. Teodora

    I was telling someone that my phone is the last thing I touch in the evening and the first thing in the morning. They said I need a boyfriend. I think I might need to uninstall a few social media apps …

  3. Hazel

    I have decided to spend less time on social media. Such freedom! I can do all the things I used to do. Time to read, knit, crochet, meditate longer. Bliss. Who knows maybe I’ll return yo writing poetry again.

  4. Kerstin Pilz

    Thank you for this post, what I needed to read this weekend. I’ve been sleepless for a few weeks, I hate myself for it because I know that it’s from too much screen time. It’s been driving me nuts! Thank you for reminding me to set rules so that I can focus on what really matters.

  5. susannah

    I’m telling you – airplane mode. It’s been a game changer for me. It makes everything feel so peaceful (and i don’t even get pings or banners :) xx

  6. susannah


  7. susannah

    Leave it in the kitchen, honey ;-) xx

  8. susannah

    Right? It’s like going straight to panic-mode when you really truly don’t have to


  9. León

    My mobile is the only phone I have, so it does go to the bedroom with me at night, and I use Do Not Disturb rather than Airplane mode. That way calls can still come through from people on my Favorites list (which means family and one or two close friends). I’ve given up watching any kind of news program. They are just too upsetting these days. Maybe it is a “head in the sand” approach, but I figure if I can’t do anything about it, why do I need to know about it? Of course news still filters in, but not listening to all the negative stuff over and over does cut down on the knots in my stomach.

  10. Natalie

    Airplane mode!- brilliant! I have been doing all the other sacred boundary keeping practices for a long time, but the airplane mode addition is fabulous. I too meditate in the morning or use my phone to take pictures on my a.m dog walk and I LOVE the idea of being able to maintain my boundary around when the outer world intrudes until I am ready- while still using my phone. Thank you for this article, very timely as I struggle with some summer burnout.

  11. Sandra Pawula

    These are great tips, Susannah. The dings make me jump! I definitely don’t overuse my phone, but I want to employ some of these ideas so I’m not jarring my nervous system too much.

  12. Jo

    Agreed. All of these. Airplane mode is wonderful, as is turning the damn sound off : )I love tech, but I like it to work for me, not t’other way around.

  13. Kate Love Johnson

    Recently I’ve taken to leaving my phone in the house while I’m out in the yard or working in my studio. It’s a breath of fresh, undisturbed air!

    Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode sounds divinely inspired… I’m going to open a dialog with my sweetheart about both of us doing this as his phone has been known to make awful noises and vibrations too late and too early for my taste.

  14. Helen

    I’ve always believed that a phone is for my convenience not for the whole wide world to annoy me whenever ‘they’ choose. I don’t own a television; only notification is for local weather. Learned over time to limit my computer face time to an hour both in the morning/evening unless I’m working on a project that requires contact with others. No sounds from my phone or computer; I’ll find whatever when I reconnect. Such freedom and time for myself, my projects, crafts and various interests; all with much less stress. I’m not isolated, remain aware of current events and maintain contact with a few friends and some family members while leading a quiet life. I often encourage people to reclaim their space, sanity and time by tuning out and turning off. Most others consider me weird and hopelessly ‘old-fashioned’. I smile and sometimes laugh.

  15. Justine

    Hey Susannah, I just wanted to let you know that I love your blog posts so much that I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award

  16. Cindy L

    Very wise, indeed. While cell phones and computers were supposed to make life easier — and in many ways they do — they also create a lot more stress and sense of urgency every day. Like you, I started out as a journalist (I’m still freelancing for mags and newspapers) … and that was back in the day before laptops and cell phones. I was reporting and typing 4 or 5 stories a week at one point, and dropping my stories off in person at the newsroom (back before we emailed). I worked hard, but didn’t experience half the stress I do now, online, and I blame being over-connected with social media — and our current 24/7 nightmare of a political climate.

  17. Anne

    Hi Susannah, these are great tips. I too am looking at reducing my screen time (the synchronicity of your blogs and love letters with my own life blows me away sometimes!) and although I have been switching my phone off overnight for some time now, I do miss it if I want to listen to a meditation on waking, just as you describe. However, if I turn my phone onto aeroplane mode, it can’t get any signal for anything, including insight timer…. any ideas what I may be doing wrong?

  18. Wendy Bird

    I don’t look at my phone unless I get a call. I don’t use it for social media at all. I don’t use it for reading or TV or movies. It’s a phone. When I’m with friends or family, it stays in my purse, so I can focus my attention on them. When I’m walking in the city, I want to see where I’m going, and when I’m walking in the park, I want to enjoy the lake, the trees, and the birds. I want to enjoy my husband’s company when we’re together.

    But I do subscribe to my local newspaper, and I do read it every morning. Why? I want to stay informed. I read The New York Times, and articles from numerous other publications including Time, The Guardian, Esquire, even Teen Vogue. I get news alerts from the Hill, from Planned Parenthood, from the Southern Poverty Law Center, from various activist groups: Indivisible, Swing Blue, the local citizens council. I post links to articles that I think other people might find useful on my blog. I look through the link lists that other people and publications post.

    Do I find the news stressful? Of course I do. How could I not? But at least in my country, there is too much at stake to do otherwise. I don’t want to wake up one day to find that my country has been taken over by a military coup or that the president has dissolved Congress and suspended habeas corpus. It’s bad enough here as it is.

    If the worst does happen, I at least want to know that I’ve done everything in my power to preserve our democracy.

  19. Michelle

    I permanently have my phone on silence and do not disturb mode, so that only those on my favourites list can get in touch with me straight away. I don’t have any notifications from apps. And I don’t have a landline either.

    People just accept that I will return their call, text or email when it’s a convenient time. And I drop into IG or check my news app when I’ve got time to browse.

    I often get asked how I get time to fit so much into my day and I believe it’s because I’m not a slave to my phone or soap operas.

  20. Jennifer

    Loved the audio, it is easy to listen to when I am doing chores and felt like you were just chatting to me from the sofa. With regard to your allergies, check out Dynamic Neural Retraining System. I think it is now called The program was written by a woman who had multiple chemical sensitivities. She retrained her limbic system (Fight flight and freeze) as what can happen is it stays on and your body gets hyperstressed because it can’t relax and heal. It was a gamechanger with my Chronic Illness and although I didn’t follow the program to the letter, I went from 20% energy to 75% in 6months. Wishing you calm and peace.

  21. Sue

    I loved the audio message so much. Randomly clicked on it and felt very connected to your (I won’t say the word “authentic” ever again) very real voice and non-polished things you were thinking. As a person who is spending a LOT of time alone when I’m not at new job, this experience of your sharing was very calming. Thank you, yet again.

  22. Diane

    Reading your post make me realize I’m fairing well on the social media thing. I’m not much into social media, a little bit of Facebook and sharing art on Instagram. I don’t have notifications turned on but the hubby does and the noises his phone makes drives me insane! And the day of the presidential elections was the day we stopped watching the news. We opted for the weather channel in the mornings to plan our day/week. But will keep the Airplane mode in mind as it’s a great idea.

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