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Sometimes you have to let yourself feel

Are you using your mobile devices as just another way to ignore your true feelings

Surveys have shown that technology is causing us all more stress

Everyone agrees that millennials are an overwhelmingly “plugged in” generation. Eighty-five per cent of millennials own smartphones, and most of them sleep with their phones beside them in bed. I am one such millennial.

Surveys have shown that technology is causing us all more stress. But according to a recent study by the University of Cambridge and another recent study by the University of Southern California, millennials are even more stressed out by technology than older generations are. Moreover, a 2014 study out of California State University suggested that millennials regard not being around their smartphones as a major anxiety trigger.

Every day, I probably hear at least one person complain about their phone, their inundated inbox, or the fact that they’re reachable all the time.

We know our existence of hyperconnectivity is exhausting, and ostensibly we yearn for a more balanced relationship with technology. But in technology’s absence, we tend to feel afraid. What is the cause of this stress? What are we really afraid of missing out on?

In my personal experience, mindlessly relying on my phone and computer has been a useful, albeit insidious, way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings.

In my own life, I noticed this habit when I quit smoking cigarettes last year.

Around that time, a yoga teacher advised me to meditate on what I was feeling during the moments when I craved a cigarette. I realised that I wanted a cigarette most intensely when I had nothing to distract me from the discomfort of simply being with myself.

In those weeks after making my decision to quit smoking, I found my anxiety nearly insurmountable. My reaction certainly was not to practise mindfulness and explore the feelings that were coming up for me in each moment.

Instead, I found myself completely glued to my phone in the moments in which I’d typically want a cigarette.

In enabling us to avoid ourselves, our phones allow us to look away from anxious feelings instead of trying to resolve them.

It’s possible, and often necessary, to write a memo or lengthy email in the midst of feeling lonely or angry at a friend. But mindlessly refreshing your email or smoking a cigarette will not eradicate the loneliness or the anger.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we’re all stuck between a metaphorical rock and a hard place when it comes to reconciling difficult feelings with the demands of our to-do list.

Work-life balance is about noticing those moments in which you really don’t want to deal with yourself. If you’re sad at the office, give yourself permission to feel that way. Allow your feelings to exist long enough for you to realise that they’re not permanent. – (Copyright Harvard Business Review 2016)

Charlotte Lieberman is a New York-based writer and editor