Hello from our regular weekly column "Ask Your Counsellor", where we are collecting anonymous questions from our dear readers/clients about their struggles and problems.

Expat life brings a unique set of challenges. Whether it's struggling with the cultural and social adjustments, the emotional rollercoaster of dating abroad, or the complexities of family and relationships, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and isolated.

That's why we're introducing "Ask Your Counsellor", a weekly column where you can anonymously share your struggles, seek guidance, and find solace in the words of our experienced counsellors.

Our counsellors are here to provide you with a safe space to express your deepest thoughts and concerns without judgement. They'll offer valuable insights and empower you to navigate the challenges of expat life with greater confidence.

So, don't let your worries linger in silence. Reach out to us and let our counsellors help!

Writer:
I’m very addicted to my phone I can’t study, work, train or sleep because of it. I want to take a new step in my life by killing this addiction and I need any tips and help so I can do it. I feel I am just looking for another dose of dopamine constantly with it. Thank you.

Kate:
Dear Writer,
Thank you for contacting us with your concern.

You have already taken the first step by acknowledging addiction to your phone and you decided to address this issue, which you should praise yourself for.
👏👏👏
It is important to remember not to blame yourself. Phone addiction is a common challenge in our modern age.

You are also mentioning that this addiction is interfering with various aspects of your life and you would like to break this bad habit of yours.

The sensation you are describing, also known as a “dopamine hit”, is a common experience for many people who find themselves glued to their phones. Unfortunately, with constant notifications and features, smartphones tend to suck us in, which is one of their downsides. For some individuals, engaging with smartphones and their apps can trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, which reinforces this behaviour.

Here are some TIPS for you to consider:
📵 Set boundaries and consider a digital detox: Consider establishing clear boundaries with your phone usage, which may involve setting specific times when you will use your phone for certain purposes (e.g., checking messages only during designated breaks) and designated “phone-free” times (e.g., during meals or before bedtime). This will allow you to focus on other activities without distraction. Start with short periods after which you can gradually extend. Setting boundaries can be particularly challenging when dealing with any kind of addiction.

🏋️‍♂️ Find alternative activities: Try to find some other activities (hobbies, exercise, spending time with friends and family) to do instead of using your phone.

📱 Use “healthy apps”: Ironically, there are also apps and tools that can help manage phone usage. Consider trying Moment, an app available on iOS and Android, to track screen time and set daily limits with notifications. There is also the built-in Screen Time (iOS) or Digital Wellbeing (Android) features that work similarly. Forest is a very popular app which gamifies productivity by rewarding focus with virtual tree growth. Freedom, on the other hand, allows the blocking of distracting websites and apps across devices and Flipd comes with modes like “full lock” and “light lock” for focused work. Space fosters mindfulness with features like phone pickup tracking and daily exercises. Experiment with these apps to find the best fit for reducing screen time and getting your focus back.

🤝 Seek support: There is nothing wrong with reaching out to friends, family or a counsellor for support. Addictions are common and treatable phenomena. Remember, seeking support is a sign of strength and you do not have to face your addiction alone. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has shown success in treating addictions, helping individuals identify triggers, challenge negative thoughts, develop coping strategies and create a relapse prevention plan.

💖 Self-compassion: It takes time and patience to break any bad habit. Do not forget to be kind to yourself and appreciate any small successes along the way.

The positive news is that it is possible to reduce your phone addiction and get control over the time spent on your phone. Change is possible and you have already taken an important step. I believe in your ability and strength to work on yourself by implementing the tips above. Should you need further help, do not hesitate to contact one of our counsellors by booking a session. We are here to help you on your way.

Good luck!