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Fall is here! A new season is upon us. The changes in the surroundings are sometimes good reminders to change something about our own routines, schedules, habits… do something differently if it is not working very well. Change doesn’t have to be major to have an impact. Thinking about minor habits that can be easily altered can be a good starting point. Like your relationship with your smartphone. Can you imagine leaving your smartphone in the next room overnight so that it is not the last thing you look at before falling asleep or the first thing you look at in the morning? Crazy!

Smartphones have become central to how we do life every day. Your smartphone may be your morning alarm, calendar, wallet, fitness tracker; it may be how you stay connected to your friends and family and access funny memes and videos as you wind down at the end of a long day. It is not surprising that we may find it hard to separate from such fun and useful tools.

The fact, however, is that there can be an association between smartphone use and stress and anxiety, and it is vital to be aware of this association in our daily lives. Think about the news stories that have popped up on your feed and put you in a bad mood, or when you spent way too many hours scrolling through funny videos that you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, or even that sometimes you may feel pressured to be constantly available to anyone trying to reach you, and how stressful this can be.

A small change such as having several "unplugged" hours a day can positively affect different areas of life. In fact, it is not so much the amount of smartphone use that is harmful or beneficial, but the ability to regulate smartphone use that can make a difference in fostering healthy habits. One way to unplug can be intentionally leaving your phone or keeping it out of sight so you can be fully present in other moments. You can also take regular social media breaks. I once heard someone say, "social media will always wait for you," and that is the truth. These and other small changes are all feasible, especially when you try one at a time and decide what works best for you.

There are many hard-to-control factors that can cause stress and anxiety in our lives, so when thinking about some changes that can make a difference, why not start with what you can control more easily. Pay attention to the emotions and behaviors related to your smartphone use and consider pulling the plug on what causes more harm than good.

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