Digital Detox Self-Help Guide

Ten device related self-care activities to try if you are suffering with anxiety, burnout, fatigue, neck pain, back ache, low mood, low self-esteem, or stress.

Our devices can have a negative impact on our psychological wellbeing without us even realising it. If you are struggling with your mental health, even if you know what the cause of your distress is, following the device detox activities below might have a positive impact for you.


Turn your phone onto aeroplane mode overnight.

When we wake up to multiple notifications on our phones, it can induce the release of cortisol into the blood stream, making us feel anxious before we have even left our bed in a morning which is not a good way to start the day. Worse, if you check the phone in the middle of the night to check the time, notifications may disrupt your sleep.


Don’t check your apps or emails until you have completed a morning routine, whatever that may look like.

Allowing yourself the opportunity to wake up, get ready for the day, spend time with family, being present in that situation can help to reduce the stress associated with the morning rush. When you feel yourself needing to reach for the device, take a few deep breaths and centre yourself on the moment you are in, pay attention to those around you so that you can stay present in the moment.


Delete apps from your phone or move the apps to a folder on a different page from the home screen.

This takes much more conscious effort to access the apps and may encourage us to think twice before scrolling on autopilot. Many of us are addicted to our phones and find ourselves flicking between apps and scrolling without even realising it.


Reduce the functionality of the phone outside of office hours.

Remove work e-mails from the phone, switch off the work number, sign out of apps so that notifications don’t ping in. Whenever we receive a notification, the brain is triggered into an alert state which can contribute to feelings of anxiety. The brain’s fight or flight system cannot differentiate between different threats in the environment, therefore it is activated when we see e-mails, notifications, or hear alert related sounds on the phone. This means that we are never truly allowing our body to enter a calm state. When we spend a lot of time like this, it can make us feel anxious, and when we feel anxious for a long time, it can make us feel burnt out and fatigued. We need time to recover and reset properly each day.


Switch your phone off completely at times where you can.

We are not designed to be constantly switched on, constantly on standby, or waiting for the next demand of this external object, the device. This very notion of always being available is contributing to a society of people who feel tired, burnt out, anxious and overwhelmed. Switch the phone off and see how you feel, it may feel uncomfortable at first, especially if you use your phone to soothe yourself, however it becomes a vicious cycle because apps have been designed to encourage addictive behaviours by exploiting the vulnerabilities of the human mind. If you find switching off from your phone difficult, try a graded exposure route first. This means building up the amount of time that you switch your phone off for. Start with whatever you can cope with at first, even if that is 15 minutes, do something good for yourself during that time, then gradually build up the amount of time that you switch the phone off.


Consider taking a social media break.

Social media can have a toxic effect on our mental health in so many ways. Viewing the photo worthy elements of everyone’s lives is not healthy, it gives a skewed viewpoint on life and can make us feel worse if we are already struggling. Even when we are feeling good, social media is overwhelming. We are consuming huge amounts of content in a short space of time which is too much for the brain to assimilate, we may therefore feel tired and fatigued by it. Furthermore, algorithms have been designed to track huge amounts of data about our online habits and they know an alarming amount of information about us. They will know how we feel at any time of the day, week, month, or year, when you are most likely to spend money, the types of things that you will spend money on during those days and times, and the types of content that will keep you engaged. This is then used in an exploitative manner to keep individuals engaged on the apps and to push certain types of content or advertising to them. This content, may worsen your mood and can influence your attitudes, beliefs and behaviours on any given subject which you may have showed an interest in.


Learn more about social media.

Once you understand how it works properly in relation to the psychological mechanisms used on these apps, you will have more power over your usage on the app. To note, the people who designed these social media platforms don’t allow their own children to use them, which I think says a lot. I would recommend reading “Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now” if you wish to learn more about this.


Create some strict rules around device use within the home and encourage all of your family to agree to these rules.

Devices should be used with boundaries. When there are some rules on device use it can prevent the arguments related to the device tug of war, it also ensures that time is set for interacting in person, not online.


Go out and connect with people, at a group, with family or friends, at a class or any other activity.

When we spend a lot of time online, as we all have over the past few years, although we may be speaking with people all day, we are not feeling the real benefits of communication and interaction. Online relationships are often pseudo-relationships, lacking in meaningfulness and connection. As humans, other than food and water, interpersonal relating is primary importance for survival, without human interaction we start to suffer with mental health problems. When interacting online, we may feel like we are meeting and seeing people but the elements of human interactions that are important for our mental health and psychological wellbeing don’t exist in an online relationship. Seeing people face to face, even just a smile and a hello to a stranger, can help your mood.


Take note of how you feel when your device is turned off, you can do this by monitoring your thoughts and feelings in a notebook.

When we are struggling with our mental health, we tend to seek out ways of self-soothing, whether that be alcohol, working, social media, gaming, exercising, eating or something else. Ultimately, this can act as a distraction from what is really going on for us. When we sit with those feelings and allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable, it gives us the opportunity to process our emotions, this is the healthiest way of dealing with our mental health and sadly, devices are a barrier to this. You may find that when you take time away from the device that you start to feel different emotions, you may start to notice new thoughts or frustrations, this is your mind allowing itself to process. You may wish to use our behaviour monitoring sheet to help you monitor your device usage, our thought record provides a space to monitor how you are feeling whilst not using devices.

If you are struggling with your mental health we recommend that you seek professional support from your GP.

The NHS has a webpage that lists a number of different helplines and services which can be incredibly useful if you need to speak to someone instantly. Please follow this link for further information:

If you do the device detox and wish to share how it has gone for you, please e-mail us at, we look forward to hearing from you.