It’s ironic that I am writing a post about unplugging while on a week-long vacation at the beach, a place best appreciated without electricity or social network. Beach vacations are the perfect opportunity to disconnect from the wired world and focus on family, nature, relaxation and tans….. and then writing about being unplugged.
For me, disconnecting from the electronic world requires finding a balance that works in different situations. While on a family vacation, I make a plan that allows each person a small amount of screen time between family meals, biking and enjoying the outdoors. Writing blog posts is one of the ways I relax, redefining the term “unplugged” to really mean disconnecting from life’s daily pace and distractions while connecting to relaxing activity. I believe the key to unplugging – is unplugging from stress.
Here are my tips to unplug from stress:
1. Develop a digital wellness strategy. Leticia of TechSavvyMama interviewed 7 tech power users (including myself) on their digital wellness strategies. CLICK over to read what they are : Secrets to Unplugging? 7 Tech Power Users Share Digital Wellness Strategies
The tip I shared on that post was to make a plan to unplug from work (for me that includes shutting down my computer) and spend time each day talking to each member of my family. I found that many regular work/school days get so busy that my family mainly talks about logistics. Setting a goal to talk to each member of my family each day helps me connect on a deeper level and discover what they are thinking, what they are happy about and what challenged them that day. This active listening can take place while sitting next to them at bedtime or over the phone/video chat if I am on a business trip. There are certainly days when I can’t meet my goal, but having that plan reminds me to shut off technology daily and turn on real life conversation (which relieves my daily stress!).
Unplugging from technology does not equal unplugging from stress. Turning off technology is the first step, but it does not stop all the thoughts in head around managing the family’s busy schedule. I have therefore learned my own form of meditation to unplug and de-stress myself. As Deepak Chopra, MD said in his LinkedIn Today post titled 5 Ways Meditation Can Make You Happier and More Successful at Work: “In meditation, your body releases stress and reverses the effects of the flight-or-fight response – that ancient instinct we all have to either run from perceived danger or take it on in battle“.
My own type of meditation involves taking a few minutes to close my eyes, breathe deeply a few times, and take a walk while playing my favorite songs. I might even do some meditation poses before bed. Sometimes, after unplugging from technology and before spending time with family, I find I need to meditate after unplugging from technology in order to be mentally present. As Dot Complicated wrote in their blog post titled Who Said You’re Too Busy To Meditate?: “But really, meditation is about becoming truly present to whatever we are experiencing“.
I have begun to teach my three sons the concepts of meditation to help them manage the stress of homework, sports competition and conflicts with friends. I was inspired by talking with Kimberley Clayton Blaine who explained that meditation helps kids feel more in control. One of my twin 10 year old sons enjoys sitting next to me on the floor with our feet resting on the bed. Then we close our eyes, take a deep breath and think about our favorite place and activity, like taking a walk on the beach. I tell my son to think about how the wind feels on his face, the sound of the ocean, the feeling of the sand as he is walking on the beach. It seems to work and he now can use this technique to meditate on his own, giving him that sense of control to regulate his stress! This is an important skill for him to learn, and will become even more important as he heads into adulthood.
Best yet, The Atlantic shared information about a study that showed meditation improves memory and attention. So if I remember to meditate, it will help my memory….. or something like that.
3. Unplug for one day: I chose to try to unplug from stress each day, but many people are so busy it may be easier to pick one day (now and then) to unplug. Holidays are a great time to disconnect from stress and connect with family and friends. Dot Complicated suggest unplugging from tech on Valentines Day including setting up rules such as “No phones in the bedroom“. I would add to that with another rule: “no stress in the bedroom”. If you have piles of work in the same room where you sleep, either find a cabinet to put it all out of sight or take it out of the bedroom for your special “unplug” day.
4. Unplug for 25 days: Fast Company writer Baratunde Thurston “reached rock bottom…was burned out. Fried. Done” so he decided to do a digital detox for 25 days (5 p.m. on Friday, December 14, 2012, through Monday, January 7, 2013.) Along with prohibiting tech, Thurston also tabled business affairs and moving his existence offline. The step that made me shiver with digital fear was when Thurston wrote “Second, for 25 days I would avoid all social media, including the original online social network: email“. Email? Really? I have not yet been able to completely unplug from email – even during my vacation. The only time I disconnected from email for even a small period was when I was on a blogger embark tour of the USS Nimitz and the Navy took away my phone for 2 days. Maybe I need to hire them for an “unplug intervention”!
Microsoft Researcher Danah Boyd wrote about email holiday in his article titled “How to Take an Email Sabbatical”. Thurston’s 25 days of unplugging helped him step back and understand things about himself including his obsession with information and sharing too much online.
That difficult, introspective process of taking a step back and evaluating your relationship with technology and daily stress is valuable. Whether it is an hour per day, on holidays, during vacations or for 25 days, understanding tech-related stress can help you plan to manage and reduce life’s daily stresses.
Reducing my stress while on vacation requires setting aside a specific time of day to check email and manage personal screen time. First thing in morning and after the kids go to sleep at night works well, allowing me to be present and enjoy my family during vacation while also taking care of important work emails and writing blog posts as relaxation therapy. Maybe in the future I can try to totally unplug like Baratunde Thurston. That is, if it does not cause me too much stress just thinking about it…
5. Identify fun activities: Dr. Mommy’s post about four fun activities for adults that fight stress included one activity we do regularly as a family : cooking challenges! That is an activity that everyone can join in and the results are something that everyone can enjoy.
How do you unplug from stress?