Before I started my business, I rarely took a break from technology. My phone screen was the first thing I checked when I woke up and the last thing I saw before turning out the light.
I was constantly connected, and that much connection can be tiring.
A few months into working for myself full-time, I started to pay closer attention to just how often I checked my email and social media feeds.
I noticed a few patterns.
When I felt a tinge of writer’s block, a web browser would suddenly open onto my screen. I wouldn’t even notice my hand moving the mouse! On reflex, my brain enlisted the internet to deliver distraction from the slightest frustration.
If I visited one website, I often wanted to check all of them. Checking work email led to my personal email, then Facebook, then Twitter... If someone peeked over my shoulder, they might have wondered if the entire internet was about to delete itself.
I sometimes absentmindedly opened my email only to re-open it a few minutes later. Instead of making me extra responsive, mindlessly checking all of those windows over and over kept me busily inefficient. Why hello, procrastination.
Being online too much could drain my energy or provoke anxiety, and sometimes it did both simultaneously! And what counted as "too much" time online varied daily.
Many of my clients have had very similar experiences. Maybe you have, too.
If so, read on for a few, simple self care experiments to try. Note that these experiments can be helpful with reading or watching the news on TV, too!
Observe your time online for a few days. Notice how frequently you visit certain sites. How do you feel when you check that site? What causes you to get online? What happens to your thoughts, emotions, and body when you open a web browser? What happens when you see a particular kind of post or article?
Take a deep breath. A deep breath in and out can interrupt automatic, stress-fueled browsing and help you feel a bit more grounded in your body. Take a breath before clicking on an email, navigating to a new website, or reading the news. Actually, go ahead and take one now before reading on!
Take an internet vacation. If you’ve ever emailed me on the weekend, you may have gotten a message something like this: “Thank you so much for your email! I'm offline today to recharge but I'll get back in touch with you as soon as I can.”
Every week, I take a full day offline, and frequently away from talking on the phone and texting, too, to restore my mental energy. It took some re-programming at the beginning, but after I got the hang of it, unplugging became one of my favorite habits for rest. I find that when I get back online after some time off, I feel more rested and calm, and less likely to get overwhelmed by email or news articles.
If you try one or more of these self care experiments, I'd love to hear how they go. Leave a comment to let me know!