My (Reluctant) Digital Detox

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digital detox anxiety

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to take a week off to spend it in a Dutch Forest on a retreat.

It was supposed to be a week of total rest and relaxation, but I had other ideas. I’d brought with me my laptop, a lengthy to do list and a schedule of work social media related things I needed to do while I was away. I love my work – and have a hint of workaholic in me – plus, being self employed, there’s no one else to cover my work! I’d planned to get a whole lot done, in between the relaxation!

But sometimes we have a plan, and life has other ideas.

I’d been assured that I’d have access to my precious WIFI but the reality was that it was a reception dead zone and I was told there would only one chance a day to get online each day, for 30 minutes.

Whatttt?!?

I’d thought I had my Internet use under control but the rising panic that I felt when I heard this news made me realize that I wasn’t as in control as I had thought!

What if I missed something on Facebook? Would Instagram continue to function without my tri-daily updates?! Would my clients to able to handle my less-than-instant replies?!

Of course my thoughts weren’t quite as dramatic as that (but they weren’t far off!)

Being effectively ‘cut off’ for the majority the week taught me just how often I had been ‘checking-in’ online and how it frequently just creates distraction, stress and pressure.

Somethinganxiety digital detox curious happened during my inadvertent digital detox. I noticed how without the internet I was free to fully engage with real life, to pay attention to what was going on around me and to fully connect with the people I was with (no more sitting at my phone around the dinner table!)

I felt fantastic!

Without the internet, the world continued to turn, Twitter did not shrivel and dry up and I’m sure my clients didn’t notice my once-a-day replies. I felt calmer, freer and less pressured.

Despite my initial horror at being WIFI deprived, honestly it was the best thing for me. I feel I’ve now ‘reset’ my internet use and I’ll be more mindful of how often I log in in the future.

Constantly checking emails gives us information overload and you don’t know what nasty surprises might pop into your inbox and spoil your peace of mind unnecessarily during your weekend or evenings.

Facebook and Instagram can give us serious FoMO and stop us from enjoying what we’re doing in the moment. A perfectly good night in can be spoiled by an anxious sense of ‘missing out’ when we’re over exposed to what other people are up to. When you unplug, even just for a little while, you’re sure to lower your anxiety and stress levels.

Checking our email and social media accounts can have an addictive quality, according to research. We get a ‘hit’ of information and this reward mechanism is similar to that involved in smoking or cocaine addictions. The struggle is real guys!

anxiety digital detox

If a week in the wilderness isn’t an option for you (although I’d highly recommend it!) try a mini digital detox at home. It may take time to wean yourself off but a few small changes could make a huge difference to how you feel.

  • Set parameters for your internet and screen use; are you someone that checks your email first thing in the morning and last thing at night? Instead, could you put devices on air-plane mode between, say,  9am and 8pm instead? I bet you’ll feel calmer and less harried if you do
  • Are you in need of an SOS? Switch off Sunday, that is. Make Sunday the ultimate day of rest and unplug for the whole day. Leave Facebook and emails til’ Monday and use this day to leave your phone at home and totally chill.
  • Switch off to switch off. Try turning off alerts on your social media so that you don’t get ‘pinged’ every few minutes as an email or tweet arrives. It’s way more relaxing (not to mention less distracting) to be in charge of when you read emails rather than being at the beck and call of them all day. Head to Notifications > Alerts to turn them off.
  • If you find it impossible not to check your phone several times an hour; make it harder to get to it. Put it on a high shelf, or leave it in another room and you’ll be less temped to check it.
  

What tips do you have for doing a digital detox? Let us know in the comments – I need more ideas!