Do you ever feel queasy when opening Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook? I know I do. I’m not sure whether it’s down to having a blogging schedule, with real deadlines to meet, or if it’s always been an issue. All I know is that sometimes my finger hovers over my phone and I feel like I’m not good enough, like I’ve fallen behind, and I end up closing the app before it has even started.
It happens most often when I’m tired. Worn out from work, or from travelling. When my brain doesn’t want to write, or even acknowledge the world. This week is a good example of that. I had two blog posts planned, and a fairly free week, but fatigued days at work and darker, earlier nights found me curled up in bed by 9pm, drifting between watching Ugly Betty reruns and sleep.
And it’s led to this feeling of guilt, like I’m letting people down. I have emails to write, people to thank, exciting things to feature. But it’s all piling on top of me, and my eyes are sore, and all I want is a hot bath and to get under my wool duvet.
Perhaps it’s time for a digital detox?
During my holiday in Crete this year I read Tanya Goodin’s book Off.* Reading it came at a great time – work had been tough, and by getting away for two weeks I was able to put her recommendations into practice straight away. I realised by the end of this week that I needed a refresher…
So, you’ve made the first step – you’re realising you need a detox. It’s hard to snap out of rigorous, tiring cycles, but once you know you need to, you can make that step. I do it in a few ways – from cycling to new places, to walking through grass in my bare feet, from getting on my yoga mat, to laying in a hot bath. I feel grounded by doing activities that make me aware of being in my body.
“They” can wait
Have you ever wondered if the people you speak to online, or the people you follow, even exist? I know they do, but it’s actually quite a strange feeling once you realise that you probably haven’t seen their face, shook their hand, or heard their laugh. Yet if I ask you about your friends and family, you could probably describe the way they smell, or tell me their favourite food. It gives me real perspective to think this way, to prioritise the people I see in front of me, and give them more of my time. I feel a lot more connected after hanging out with friends or family, and feel valued too.
Then, of course, comes the inevitable notification. The “ding ding” tinkle of a text, or the “bleep” to remind you to do something. Before I bought my first iPhone, I used to be so allured by a device that can do it all – and now, however many years later, I’ve come to realise that it’s not so great. I don’t write as much as I used to. I don’t have thinking space when I’m on the train, or in a waiting room, or at a bus stop. I wake up and it’s the first thing I look at!
Sometimes, more… analogue tools are needed. Goodin writes that buying an alarm clock can let you sleep easy without any screens in the bedroom, and that your meals should be enjoyed with full attention. And despite all the water, I can’t tell you the last time I took a bath without watching something as well.
With any detox, the most important part is balance. Wellness is a combination of health and happiness, or more simply, a happy body and mind. I think rather than viewing a digital detox as a three-day one-off, try to make certain things a habit. I’ve found the best times I’ve balanced my “real life” with my digital one comes when I’ve set clear times I’m going to be online, and committed to it – no dual screening. Restaurant meals with friends are always so much more memorable than ones watching TV for a reason… And when was the last time you got into bed and enjoyed the feeling of sleep wash over you, rather than fall asleep with phone in-hand?