HOW TO LIVE LONGER AND BETTER
Get a sneak peek at fitness guru Jillian Michaels’ new book, The 6 Keys.
Lynn Saladino, PSYD, shares her professional advice on harmful phone habits, social anxiety, and more.
My friends have accused me of phubbing (snubbing them to look at my phone). I don’t even realize I’m doing it anymore; it’s so automatic. How do I stop?
Phubbing is one of those habits that can seem harmless, yet be infuriating to those around you. Where you direct your attention indicates your priority at the moment.
Even if you’re an excellent multitasker, using your phone while hanging with your friends sends the message that they’re not important enough
to warrant your full attention, which doesn’t make anyone feel great!
To remedy the problem, try to figure out why you’re on your phone so often. Are you escaping to social media because you feel socially awkward? Or are you afraid of missing important messages?
Once you know the “why,” you can start problem-solving. For example, if you keep checking your screen because you don’t want to miss a call from your sitter, set your phone to ring only if it’s her; and let your friends know you’re expecting a call. This allows you to manage your own worry and eliminates any assumption that you’re disinterested in the conversation taking place right in front of you.
If you’re finding that your phubbing is, in fact, purely habit, try placing your phone out of reach, or actually turning it off. Your friends will appreciate it, and you’ll likely enjoy your social time a lot more when you’re not tethered to a device.
When I’m under the gun at work, I tend to get short with my partner. Any tips for leaving that tension at the office?
Isn’t it ironic that we often take out our worst stress on those we love most? One reason for this is that it takes energy to be patient and kind; and if you’re getting squeezed at work, your energy is likely in short supply. We also tend to feel that we can be our “true” selves with our partners—which, in your state, might be an overtired, grumpy monster. Lucky them!
Your acknowledgment of the issue is an important first step. Now think about what you don’t like about your current behavior and what you do like. Then set an intention about the kind of partner you want to be and write it down. Be specific and use positive language. For example, “I want to be kind by asking about your day” is a lot more powerful than “I don’t want to be a jerk.”
Once you’ve chosen an intention, ask yourself what you need to do to fulfill it. One possibility might be creating some sort of transition between work and home, so you can be more focused when you engage with your partner in the evenings. Using a meditation app on your commute, or walking the dog or taking a quick shower before dinner might do the trick.
It’s also a good idea to work with your partner to create a plan that allows you both to feel supported. That might include shifting household responsibilities or organizing a nice weekend together once the dust settles. This helps your partner feel like a priority, rather than feeling like a recipient of your “leftover” energy after a long day at the office.
As someone who struggles with social anxiety, the holidays are not my favorite time of year. What’s your advice for navigating all the parties and reunions in the weeks ahead?
For people with social anxiety, holiday cheer can easily turn into holiday fear. To stay calm and in control this season, do some advance planning: Take a look at your social calendar and carefully choose the events you’ll attend. Many people say yes to more than they can handle. Decide which parties are most important, and decline others quickly to get them off your mind. If guilt over missing a friend’s soiree is bothering you, arrange to get together for a low-stress dinner after the holidays, to show that you value the friendship even though you can’t make the big event.
To reduce your stress at the parties you do attend, do some prep work ahead of time. For example, if your efforts at small
talk often end in awkward silences, brainstorm topics you’re comfortable bringing up. Highlighting commonalities, such as how you know the host, or complimenting something the other person is wearing can keep the conversation flowing.
Also think about how you’ll respond to questions you might be feeling sensitive about, such as your relationship status if you recently went through a breakup, or your work if you’re not loving your job right now. By answering simply and then changing the subject to something you’re looking forward to, like an upcoming vacation, you can redirect the conversation into safer territory.
Being deliberate will allow you to get through the event with less anxiety.
And a final word of advice: Use caution with the crutches that help ease your stress in the moment, such as sweets and alcohol. It’s easy to go overboard when you’re nervous, which only leads to regret later.
My sister and I have always been competitive with each other, and it really takes a toll on me. How can I bow out of the cycle?
Siblings—they’re the opponents who never go away. Competition between sisters often starts early and can last a lifetime. If she frequently received praise when you were kids, you worked even harder to grab the spotlight. If you were accustomed to being number one, you made sure your status was secure.
Breaking this cycle is a worthwhile goal, but be forewarned, it can be challenging. Start by taking a hard look at your reasons for competing with her. Sometimes it’s just habitual. Other times it’s a deeper feeling that you’re “less than.”
If that’s the case, identify the areas of your life where you feel inferior to your sister and assess which are actually important to you. Say you’re saving to upgrade to a new home, for example.
Is it because your family needs more space—or do you simply want to one-up Sis? If your motivation has more to do with her than anything else, gently acknowledge that, and move on to goals that are better suited to you.
The bottom line: Sometimes we instinctively want to follow in our sibling’s footsteps, but it’s important to make sure your focus is aligned with who you are, not who she is. For instance, maybe she’s a naturally good gift giver and always picks out the perfect holiday presents, while you are a financial whiz and help your mom and dad do their taxes every spring. By acknowledging and accepting your different strengths, you’ll begin to see your sister as her own person rather than a better or worse version of yourself.
Jillian Michaels gets us thinking about DNA.
Can’t stop checking your screen? Figuring out why can help you quit.
Dr. Lynn LYNN SALADINO is a clinical psychologist in New York City specializing in weight management, relationships, and life transitions.