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Blog #4 The Importance of Unplugging

It’s summertime, which means our schedules are packed with weddings, BBQ’s, and beach days for those lucky enough to take vacation. Between planning for these long weekend adventures and grabbing drinks with friends, soaking up the extra minutes of daylight is burning us out. Trying to squeeze in these activities may result in lack of sleep or balance. Coupled with scenes from social media, there’s a full-on attack of FOMO (fear of missing out for those who aren’t down with the lingo). These feels exert wear and tear on our bodies, adversely impacting physical and emotional wellbeing.

Even when we’re aware of the ills of burnout, it can be hard to avoid. I felt the stress mount leading up to my recent week-long vacation. Right before my getaway I was running around to tie up loose ends, rushing through errands, and attempting to get my laundry done while still  paying bills, answering emails, packing and mapping out my route to avoid the worst of Boston traffic. On top of these daily chores, I was trying to figure out my “game plan” to stay active with my newly launched business and avoid losing traction. My mind was racing at 100 MPH as I tried to remember everything I needed to get done. As a result, I started my vacation exhausted and tightly wound. It took several a few  days to decompress, and several more to appreciate my vacation state.

That was not how I wanted to dive into my precious time off. This was the week I had planned and anticipated since January, daydreaming about the beach while there was still snow on the ground. The days of sun, time with friends and reading would be a deserved break from reality and everyday stressors. I took a quick assessment to see why I struggled to switch into “vacation mode.” Maybe I was still tethered to the mainland of reality by my phone, and with it, anchored to the stress of daily life. So it was on that first evening of my vacation that I decided to ‘unplug’ from technology.

UNPLUG!!! WHAT!????  [HOLD THE PHONE!]

Yes, unplug! I needed a break, and to create the space to reconnect with myself and the world around me. I set up some boundaries.  I decided to not post anything on any of my social media platforms until the end of my vacation. I turned off my work email and only checked my personal email briefly in the morning. Once a day, I allowed myself to scroll through Facebook and Instagram, usually at the end of the day when things were winding down. When I was with friends at the beach, or having dinner with my family, my phone went away completely. I texted my closest friends to let them know I was going to be distant for the week and allowed myself the space to not respond immediately to voicemail and text messages. I was purposeful about meditating.

And it was glorious. Was it totally easy to ‘unplug’ from technology and the social media world I have grown accustomed to checking regularly? No. There were times I felt myself reaching for my phone without even realizing I was doing it. But as the week of ‘unplugging’ unfolded I found myself more in tune with myself and less anxious about the social media world around me. And instead of losing touch with the broader world, I strengthened my relationship with it by being present.

Here are 5 lessons I learned  from my week of ‘unplugging:’

  1. How to live in the moment! I learned how to enjoy living, breathing and being present. It important to slow down and take the time to enjoy the ‘simple’ things in life. Allowing myself to feel the emotions and the senses of the moment gave me the space to step back and reflect. To stay in that place, I resisted the habit of constantly checking to see what other people were doing in their lives. Freeing myself from the craving of social media was a huge release for me. I abandoned the worry of missing out on something, realizing that it would still be there when I returned in a week. Then I let myself go. I also stopped multitasking, which felt like a sacrifice of one of my top skills. But, with more time and less stress I was able to commit to one task at a time. This practice allowed my brain to slow down and relax. I could actually feel it taking a breather, and being happier and more productive because of it!

  2. The importance of reflection. I created some personal space and allowed myself the time to reflect on how much has changed these past 6 months. Reflecting on how I have grown and what I have experienced, reflecting on how much I have accomplished. We don’t always give ourselves time to think, reflect and just be. We tend to hop from one item on the ‘to-do’ list to the next. Taking some time to really just sit and be helped to re-energize my mind and body. Sometimes it was just a few quiet moments, and other times I consciously budgeted the time. Being disciplined about self-reflection will pay off in the long-run, especially when you find yourself reflecting happily on your accomplishments!

  3. Being present with yourself and friends/family. I simply put the phone away. In fact for large portions of time I was away it was on airplane mode! I traded the ding of a text notification for real, in-person conversations. I laughed out loud (no LOLing), hugged my friends for no reason, checked in with my parents and evaluated how I was doing. It’s important to give yourself the time time and space to really be there, in the moment, with the people you love (and with yourself, see above!).

  4. Reduced stress + increased rest = balanced happiness. Unplugging, taking time for myself, not letting guilt, worry or FOMO cloud my mind and thoughts. Breathing, meditating, living and laughing all reduced my stress and helped to slow down my normally racing thoughts. Reading before bed instead of checking for last minutes emails and sleeping in without setting an alarm clock produced a week of restful nights and relaxing mornings. I spent my days feeling restored, rejuvenated and ready for daily summer adventures. I felt in tune with myself, balanced, happy and in my own world. There were a few days where I had no idea what day of the week it was, or what was happening in the ‘real world.’ And while it might not be realistic to live like this every day, for those few hours where I was totally unplugged from reality I felt truly at peace.

  5. Set an intention. Give yourself a vacation goal to work toward. One night, I asked my friends to share with me their personal intention of the week. For some it was to read a book for pleasure, for others it was  to find time to walk the beach everyday, kayak on the ocean or write each morning in their journal. My intention for the week was to find 15-20 minutes to meditate. A goal I am happy to report I accomplished!

Are you ready to take the plunge and ‘unplug?’ Commit yourself to a length a time. Maybe it’s just a day or a weekend, or ideally a full week. Write down your intention. And go live! Really live. Breathe in fresh air, feel the pages of your book as you flip through chapters, enjoy the taste of a refreshing beverage and feel the warm kiss of the sun on your skin. Please let me know how unplugging feels to you, what you learn about yourself and the world around you. And don't be afraid to share you intention!