I had much I wanted to say about today’s topic, so I am making this a two-parter. Today I am writing about the anxiety levels I have experienced over the last couple of months and the connection I found it to have with technology. Come back tomorrow when I will continue by listing the ways I have been practicing unplugging and how I am consciously making an effort to decrease my anxiety.
If you’ve been reading over the last two months, you know I’ve been experiencing a lot of anxiety. The transition from training into real life was enough to set me off into a realm of hyperactivity, even months prior to it actually happening. A lot has been fear based, but as I began to take a closer look at the actions I was taking, I began to see some other clear connections. Or at least I began to see some things that were building upon my already armed state.
One of many new types of coffee dates. Just me, my coffee and an open window
A few months ago, I was offered a gift of free data on my phone. I had never had data before. Free WIFI in coffeeshops was always enough to suit my fancy (and wallet). But of course, I excitedly said yes to this offer. Then soon after, I got a new flashy phone with a bigger (and non-cracked) screen. Obviously I had to figure out all the splashy ways to make use of this new clarity and sparkly-ness.
Having data was nice for many reasons. I could check or send an email whenever I needed to. I could get audition send-outs the moment they went out. I could look up the nearest falafel, find myself on a little blue dot as I stood on a corner street, and know exactly when the next bus would be coming. To the second.
But it has also been detrimental. For all the same reasons.
Getting emails anywhere I happened to be lead to an automatic reaction to open and read on the spot. I suddenly felt like I had to respond immediately to every single one. Having instagram at the ready gave me one hell of a way to distract myself from the present moment and fill any gaps of time – even if for a single minute!! And with my current anxiety… I gladly latched onto any easy forms of distraction I could get. My phone became my anxiety’s best friend.
Extra room on the counter for thinking space
There came a time when even my beloved outdoor walks – which I can now enjoy again because the nice weather is finally returning – turned into a time of FEAR because I was scared of the open time I would have with my thoughts! This had NEVER happened before! So? Out popped little old phone. I was no longer looking out – I was too scared to! I instead got addicted to looking down. Anything to keep me from hearing the thoughts I did not want to hear. Anything to keep my mind distracted away from difficult truths. I became one of those people I used to roll my eyes at as they nearly ran into me on the sidewalk.
Taking out the real paper
When I realized how bad my anxiety was getting, I put on some detective gear. I started to see a direct correlation between the time I spent on my phone or computer and my anxiety levels. I don’t know if it is my personal sensitivities and low tolerance to stimulation, or if it is something more global that has the power to affect our mental state, but the more time I spent on a screen, the more anxious I was.
So I made the conscious choice to stop. To literally practice both unplugging and – simultaneously – slowing down.
It was really hard at the beginning. Oh man it was hard.
I remember the first day. I made a clear plan in my day where I was going to take myself to a Starbucks, put my phone on silent in my backpack, and bring out only my novel. Oh man I wanted to pull it out. I wanted to text. Of course I did. It felt itchy and jumpy and weird and uncomfortable. But I had my watch set to 45 minutes and I made myself sit there. Like a little kid on a time out.
Day #1. You will sit here until I say so young lady…
Then I did it again. Later that same week, I took myself to a different Starbucks to try one of their new lattes and pulled out the same novel… and you know what? It felt so wonderful. I still remember it being the best hour I have had in these entire two months.
Day #2. The bandaid is off.
I was calm. I was happy for the first time in weeks. I looked out the window. I read my book. I just let my mind do whatever the hell it wanted.
Ever since this moment, I have craved non-screen time. I have craved slowed down time. I have craved that feeling of grounding, clarity, presence and looking out rather than down. The thought of spending time on my phone, or too long on my computer, actually gives me this weird heeby-geeby feeling.
I can now see so clearly that my phone or computer are things I use when I am too scared to be with my own thoughts. And that idea just does not settle well with me. I want to be the kind of person who enjoys spending time looking out, reading, relaxing, and just being with herself or others. I want to be the kind of person who is addicted to boredom. I’m not sure if “wishing to be something you aren’t” is a positive or negative thing, but I have an image in my head of the type of life I want to lead… and always being on a screen and not looking up as I sit at a cafe window is not part of it. Of course I still have days where I totally let my anxiety pull me in and go straight to any distraction I can find. Sometimes it is not worth it to fight. But I am aware of these days and know they are not on par with the person I aspire to be.Be the type of person who is addicted to boredom. #unplug #mindful #embracethequiet #health Click To Tweet
Take this as living proof that things like this – habits and past forms of coping or comfort – can be just like ripping off the bandaid. At the start, it will feel super uncomfortable. But you just have to make the all-or-nothing bold choice – step over that super uncomfortable line – and just DO IT. And then once that first step is done, each and every time you do it it will feel easier and easier. Until, I actually believe, you may even begin to crave it. Our brains are able to be re-wired. Sometimes easier than we think.
Glennon Doyle MeltonWe can re-wire our brains. It just requires ripping off the bandaid! #mentalhealth #unplug… Click To Tweet
How ironic is it that today is the day my free data trial ends on my phone!? I could not be more relieved to lose such a “convenience.”
Linking up with Amanda
Do you ever feel like you go to technology as a distraction when you don’t want to face the present moment?
Do you notice a connection between anxiety levels and time spent on screens?
What would you do if you spent more time unplugging?