06/29/2012 03:15 EDT | Updated 08/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Canada Day With Family: Turn Off The Phone To Enjoy The Holiday


TORONTO - The world will still keep turning if you ignore a buzzing unread text or email.

That's the message coming from the experts as we head into the Canada Day long weekend.

For Barbara Miller, however, that is easier said than done.

The Toronto lawyer will be in Montreal celebrating this weekend, but she says she can't ignore her work while there.

"It's kind of like an appendage," she says of her BlackBerry, clutching the blinking device even as she speaks.

"I can't live without it. But I promised myself I won't look at it every 10 seconds," she says,

It's a challenge many people who work in an office environment face as they struggle to balance the demands of family, friends and career.

But compulsive use of a smartphone during time reserved for rest and relaxation is actually a recipe for burnout, according to a researcher in personality and health.

While Gordon Flett can't give any hard and fast rules for controlling smartphone use this Canada Day, he say it's important that people try to take time for themselves.

"People really have to look at their values in terms of, do they really want to be someone like this?" he says.

It's important to be strict about when to disengage, Flett says.

If more than two people you care about hint or insist that you need to stop checking your email at dinner, it's probably a sign that something needs to change, Flett says.

If you're always thinking about the content of your inbox and if the phone feels like a magnet, you have a problem and it's time to stop, he says.

Linda Allan, a Toronto-based etiquette expert, says there are times when responding to work emails is just plain inappropriate. Like when you're having celebratory beers around the campfire this weekend.

"If we've had a little too much to drink because it is the weekend and family's there and we're enjoying ourselves, that's not the time to respond," Allen says. "There'll be typos and information missed."

Electronic image is just as important as professional or personal image, Allen says, and that sending curt or incomplete emails only gives a negative impression and makes people look sloppy.

Not only that, compulsive use can have dangerous effects on personal relationships, both at work and at home, she says.

A good way to stay balanced is to stick to prescribed times of the day to respond to emails, she says.

"When people start responding to emails at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., or 5 a.m. or 6 a.m., it tells me two things," Allen says. "Either they're out of control or they don't have any boundaries for themselves."

Flett warns that anything that keeps the stress going will eventually take a toll somewhere.

"It could be physiologically or it could put you in a state of emotional stress and exhaustion," Flett says. "It makes people very cranky in the workplace and when they're interacting with others at home in terms of a spillover tendency."

He referenced one study of women executives who were so overtaxed at work that physiologically, it was like they hadn't slept.

"You know, the bottom line is people need to learn, especially with a holiday weekend, to switch off and do things that'll help them relax and positively connect with other people," Flett says.

Flett is taking his own advice this weekend. He is heading to the cottage where he plans to spend a CrackBerry-free vacation — if only because there is no Internet access.