Last Sunday, I took a digital detox from my phone as part of #UKUnpluggingDay I shared some insights of my experience on my Instagram stories and it resonated with quite a few women, so I wanted to share a bit more on this topic here on the blog.
As busy women juggling far more than we need to right now, digital devices are undoubtedly a life line for us all. Enabling us to stay socially connected with family and friends, work from home with ease, organise home-schooling and help manage the never-ending to-do list.
Whilst they make us feel empowered, digital devices can also have a negative impact on our wellbeing, adding further stress by making it harder to switch off and relax.
Relaxation is just as important to your health and wellbeing, as nutrition and exercise
How technology can affect health & wellbeing:
For all their benefits, technology is putting women under more stress than we probably realise, causing emotional stress, altering our mood and even causing anxiety.
Information overload: We are digesting a constant stream of information, which can make us feel the physical effects of stress. At the peak of the lockdown, many of us switched away from the news because of its negativity and how it made us feel. Even positive news can cause negative vibes, when we start comparing our lives with others and feel FOMO (fear of missing out).
Disturbed sleep: Being under stress can very easily impact our sleep patterns. If you are a mum you will know just how hard life is when sleep deprived! Exposure to blue light from screens also disrupts the release of melatonin, our sleep hormone, making it harder to get to sleep or causing disturbed sleep. Sleep is so central to our wellbeing, so this will have a knock on effect on our energy levels. It can also make it harder to stay healthy e.g. pushing us toward unhealthier food choices, more caffeine and other stimulants to keep us going.
Work/life balance: The WFH culture we now live in has made it much more difficult to create that boundary between work and family life. Hands up if you were struggling before (?) Yes me too! Digital devices are designed to make our lives easier, but they make it difficult to switch off. So often, we end up scrolling through work related emails and groups in the evenings and weekends, when we need to relax.
What difference can a tech break make?
My Sunday digital detox left my mind feeling less busy and I was a lot calmer and relaxed. It freed up more time for things I really wanted to focus on. This made me happier and a wonderful feeling of being more productive. The first couple of hours were hard, as I often use my phone to check in with social media, as a clock, to see what the weather's doing and for organising life! However, it's also my main work tool where I keep my to-do list, so I felt like I was truly stepping away from the work desk for a day at least. NB: I've created a story highlight over on Instagram if you'd like to see the video.
Putting some simple strategies in place, can ensure technology remains useful and is an enjoyable experience. I've included a range of ideas below, to get you started, so you can pick and choose ones that fit best for you.
How to take a tech break:
Step 1: Build awareness of your usage and how tech makes you feel
Work out how much time you spend on your phone (most phones have weekly screen time data you can use). Don't feel bad if it is high, use it to think about and be mindful of how you spend your time.
Write down how technology makes you feel.. be honest. Does it make your feel good or bad? or anxious? Would you like to use it less?
At the same time, make a list of short list of things you've been wanting to do for ages, that you might be able to do if you had an extra 30 minutes or hour on your hands.
Listening to your body and building an awareness of how your body is affected by tech-related stress is an important stepping stone to managing it.
Step 2: Make a list of ALL the ways you could take a tech break. I've listed a few below, but by all means come up with your own.
Set a downtime time limit on your phone e.g. create downtime from 8/9pm, to reduce exposure to blue light in the last couple of hours before bed. The timer will remind you to put the phone down and have a good break. Most smartphones have this facility.
Turn off your data for an evening or switch to airplane mode: You won't receive any notifications since its offline. No interruptions!
When working, put your phone out of sight: If you are keen to improve work productivity this is a good one. Phones are necessary, but can be a distraction when you're writing that report. You could always just turn off notifications, but the former is much easier and hence, you're far more likely to put into practice on a daily basis.
Rediscover the art of writing things down: Instead of creating lists on your phone or on apps, buy yourself a set of notebooks and you'll spend less time needing your phone.
Delete social media apps at weekends: if you want to enforce a more rigid social media break, you delete FB etc.. and re-install them at a later time.
Take you work email accounts off your phone. OK, I realise this is a bit more hardcore for you you female entrepreneurs and freelancers out there, but if you are WFH, you don’t really need it on your phone. It WILL reduce the temptation to look at work emails when you're enjoying family time.
Don’t use your phone as your bedroom clock or alarm: Reduce the temptation to look at your phone last thing at night or first thing in the morning by keeping it downstairs.
Schedule your social media hours e.g. you could set yourself a rule that you'll go on 3 times a day for 30-minutes to 1 hour. In the morning, once in the afternoon and evening.
Make leisure time sacred time: Leave your phone inside when you’re in the garden or of if you go for a short walk. Enjoy the outdoors and live in the moment.
Take a weekly phone break once a week: Sunday is often a good one, since it’s the day we often associate with pure relaxation when we are with family. Reduce the stress of not using your phone by making friends and family aware you’re having some downtime.
Make group time sacred: If you’re having a (socially distanced) get together ask everyone to leave their phones in their bag. You can agree to take photos at the end!
When in the house, leave your phone on the side. Avoid carrying it around with you to minimise time on it. If it's there, you will use it.
Create a 'no phone at the dinner table' policy: This might be more tricky to navigate with the teens, but it's something to aim for.
Step 3: Go through the list and circle 2-3 ideas you know you can EASILY do.
Then look at each of these and add a time frame. So, for example, "I will take a phone break ONCE A WEEK". It's important to be really realistic about your time frame. Start small, so that it is easy to achieve and do-able in your day. Once embedded, you can build up to more days at a later stage.
Now, go back to that list of things you'd like to do and see if you can add any in to your day whilst enjoying your phone break! Good luck x
Before you go.... Did you know STRESS is one of the main pillars of health I look at during my Nutrition & Lifestyle consultations? If you'd like to look at ways to manage stress, hit the CONTACT button above to book your FREE Well Woman call with me.