By: Dr Alex Robber
Do you feel you have to answer your phone even though you’d rather not? Would you have trouble restricting phone calls length, or do you feel bad if you don’t speak to people? If you encounter something like this, you are not alone. We had a conversation about phone etiquette and approaches recently and were shocked by how many people had disagreements about using their phone or treating phone usage as something that intensifies their symptoms. But the discussion also described approaches that people are using to solve those issues.
Factors That Contribute to Phone Aversion
So why is this? It hasn’t been studied, but several factors could contribute to this problem:
You don’t get any of the non-verbal hints that come with face-to-face conversation when you are on the phone. Communication experts believe that most communication is non-verbal, so the brain needs to work harder to grasp what’s being meant when you eliminate all those verbal signs. Foggy brains will not be able to identify the attention level.
Environments full of distraction
Often, we’re in environments full of distraction. You hear a lot of “multitasking,” which just doesn’t mean the brain does several tasks at once. Also, in healthy people, the brain often moves from one task to another according to experts. The brains of FMS and ME / CFS also have trouble with multitasking.
The language problems
The language problems common in fibromyalgia and ME / CFS that involve word retention can make communication difficult and stressful. It can make your symptoms worse if you are afraid to forget common words or lose your train of thought.
Hand, arm, shoulder, neck or even ear can be very painful to hold the phone. Some phones get very hot, which can trouble those with thermal allodynia (pain due to temperatures that usually should not cause pain). Luckily speaker phones and headphones will solve many of these issues.
The most widely discussed technique for reducing time on the phone was to screen calls using either an answering machine or Caller ID. Some people reported picking up the phone for calls from some people but not for others or answering during part of the day but not at others, while others said that they allowed all their calls to be taken on a computer or voice mail.
One person said, “I screen calls and only answer if I’m up to it,” while another said, “I let the answering computer take all my calls, so I can call back at my own convenience.” A third said, “I screen all my calls and rarely answer the home phone. All the calls from school, business, politics and telemarketing go there, as well as the wrong numbers. Then I listen to the texts, and listen to any details I need, and delete the rest.
Try to eliminate all the distractions
Seek removing all the distractions you can when you need to use the phone. Go into a quiet space and shut the door, and maybe even turn the light out. If you need to relay detailed details, make notes in advance and keep the information with you. Take notes to help you remember the details. That prevents problems such as scheduling an appointment with a doctor or meeting with a friend and then losing the specifics the moment you hang.
Fix limit on the length of phone calls
People have reported setting various kinds of restrictions around their phone use. Perhaps the most common was a cap on the duration of phone calls (the most frequent range was 10 to 15 minutes). Limits also included the amount of calls in a day, time of day (e.g. no evening calls), and limits per person (talking to certain people but not to others).
A number of people said they had struggled with themselves to set limits, felt bad if they didn’t respond to calls or put restrictions on the duration or quality of calls. A person who limits calls to 15 minutes, and because of that lost some relationships, said, “I went through a grieving process as I implemented it. Putting myself and my own health first isn’t easy.
Encourage them to send you texts or emails
When you have telephone contact issues, it will help to make it clear to the people you communicate with regularly. Let them know that it is not because you misunderstood them when you ask him to repeat something. Also, you might want to encourage them to send you texts or emails instead of calling, especially if they know you didn’t feel good. Exploring Skype may be worthwhile, especially for long-distance calls or conversations that you expect to be lengthy.
Educating others about your limits
The setting of boundaries is one part of the solution. The rest are educating others about the limitations you have and enforcing limits. Some people mentioned educating others by referring them to CFS and FM articles like those in our Library. “I’ve sent people links explaining FM and CFS to the website of this program, and that has helped tremendously.
“Others wrote of how they described their limitations to others, explaining in depth, in some cases, both their limitations and the cost of not respecting them. “I mentioned [to one friend] how important it is for me to stick to my routine every day, as far as my exercise times, rest periods, meal plans, etc. are concerned, and how even minor interruptions can have negative effects.”
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Reference: Mastering the Phone with CFS & FM By Bruce Campbell via cfids selfhelp
- Attree EA, Dancey CP, Pope AL. Cyberpsychology and Behavior. 2009 Aug;12(4):379-85. An assessment of prospective memory retrieval in woman with chronic fatigue syndrome using a virtual-reality environment; an initial study.
- Leavitt F, Katz RS. Journal of Clinical Rheumatology. 2008 Sug;14(4):214-8. Speed of mental operations in fibromyalgia: a selective naming speed deficit.
- Nunes L, Recarte MA. Science Direct. June 2002 5(2):133-144. Cognitive demands of hands-free-phone conversation while driving.
- National Safety Council. How cell phone distracted driving affects the brain. All rights reserved.