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Why I Am Practicing Unplugging and Slowing Down (Part One)

 

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.    

unplugging

One of many new types of coffee dates. Just me, my coffee and an open window

Oh technology. 

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. 

unplugging

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. 

unplugging

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. 

unplugging

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. 

unplugging

Practicing

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 Melton

We 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

Tell me,

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?

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

25 COMMENTS

  1. Abigail T | 27th Apr 17

    I agree with a lot of what you said and am trying to work on this myself. I don’t really find myself anxious but I do find technology as a way to escape my thoughts/reality/problems in my life. I am trying to not be on screens right before bed. Having a phone with data is nice, especially if you’re lost or need to look something, but there are SO many times when I don’t NEED to look something but just want to and do because I have the convenience of a phone. I’m trying to put the phone in another room and use the app Forest so I can be focused on my homework. My goal is just to have technology as a tool and not the thing I run to any time I have any amount of free time. I want to use my time better to do things like be outside and read.

    • Cora | 1st May 17

      Oh I should look into this Forest app. Is it like a timer?
      No matter the actions, I’m impressed and pumped that you are so aware of your usage and make the effort to put the phone in another room and not use it before bed etc. Some people have zero concept of how much they use it.. it is that engrained into their systems! We share the same goal.

  2. chasetheredgrape | 27th Apr 17

    Yes I am so glad you are working on this – I think it’s something we all need to work on, whether it be leading to known or unknown anxiety or in some cases addiction to technology.
    But disconnection is a practice in today’s world. We have to constantly work on it. And the more we practice the better it feels. Now I thrive from my disconnection time. I crave time away from a screen… But it doesn’t mean I’m not constantly tempted to just pick up my phone! I actually want to go and buy a puzzle… I think having that on the go at my dining table would tempt me to spend time on it, rather than my phone.

    • Cora | 1st May 17

      Same experience exactly! I’m amazed how quickly I’ve come to totally forgetting about social media and crave non-screen time. But it is still a practice. I do wish I liked puzzles…

  3. Nicole | 27th Apr 17

    Totally agree that too much technology can = stress. When I’m connected all day long, I sometimes need to step back and just “be”. I try to be technology free after 8:30 every night if possible

    • Cora | 1st May 17

      I should try and put that goal into better place. I’ve been reading right before bed but still have just come off the laptop a bit too late.

  4. Heather @ Polyglot Jot | 27th Apr 17

    Cora I have been going through this too!! For me, I’ve been pulling out a b ook during those free moments when I crazily grab my phone for no reason. It really has been much nicer but some days are harder than others. I like your idea of the timer…before it’s a habit having it timed is a great way to get in to the practice! I also have found that keeping my phone on do not disturb and not having any notifications turned on have helped a great deal!
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot recently posted…Recent FindsMy Profile

    • Cora | 1st May 17

      Same!! I’m grabbing things like books and journals. Some days this feels easy and so right, and others I feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to do with my life. Not having the notifications on my phone has made the BIGGEST difference.

  5. Sarah @ Bucket List Tummy | 27th Apr 17

    I think this is a very powerful post and reminder that many of us are slaves to technology. I think starting with small amounts of time without it is a great starting point, and just a book at a coffee shop sounds perfect. I want to start using technology less on the weekends, and I don’t feel like I have to be checking it every hour.
    Sarah @ Bucket List Tummy recently posted…Wellness Wednesday: How to Balance Intuitive Eating and ExerciseMy Profile

    • Cora | 1st May 17

      Its so crazy to think about how dependent we have all become. Some people aren’t even aware, so we are well ahead already. But we can all take a second thought into our usage and ask ourselves why we go to the screen all the time.

  6. Emily Swanson | 27th Apr 17

    Yes. Yes. Yes. . I realized for a while that I was too immersed in Twitter, Face book, and Instagram. It was so freeing to get rid of my Twitter and focus on putting more into Instagram and a bit into Facebook; that way it really helped me to not feel tied to it any more. It was totally stressing me out and making me anxious too. Now it’s more of a blessing than a hindrance because I’m spending less time on it. <3 So thankful you made this change; ripping the bandaid off is hard but good.
    Emily Swanson recently posted…Eating Disorders Like Food Ruts (How To Get Out of Them)My Profile

    • Cora | 1st May 17

      Yes! This is exactly how I’ve felt. Even just choosing to focus on less things – or getting rid of one things – makes those things feel so much more in control.

  7. Susie @ Suzlyfe | 27th Apr 17

    Really proud of you. You may battle yourself regularly, but you are so mature and self aware! And brave (yes, I said it). Both to go out of your comfort zone but also to buck the societal norms and figure out what YOUR balance is and redefine your norm.
    xoxo

    • Cora | 1st May 17

      Thanks, Suz. That is the other part… this is totally MY balance and what I am learning fits with MY system. Others may have completely different reactions. Damn my sensitivities to stimulation!

  8. Ellie Pell | 27th Apr 17

    It’s funny, I actually try to only open Instagram at my lunch break at work. Once a day. I think if I did it too much, it would lose the fun aspect. I also enjoy the days when I work early and don’t check my email or read blogs over breakfast. I do enjoy that, but not doing it is cool too 🙂
    I am someone who also never takes my phone when running/working out. I need that alone time. Whatever it is, it can wait.
    Ellie Pell recently posted…Why I’ve decided to work with Inside TrackerMy Profile

    • Cora | 1st May 17

      It does lose the fun aspect if you become slave to it. Rather than choosing it you become like a robot. I’ve also been realizing I actually enjoy the mornings I don’t have time to check blogs, as I am used to doing, and rather come home at lunch or in the afternoon and have something more to look forward to.

  9. Casey the College Celiac | 27th Apr 17

    Unplugging is definitely something I need to work on. It’s hard as a blogger, but necessary…
    Casey the College Celiac recently posted…How a Celiac Goes With Her Gut – with HyperbioticsMy Profile

    • Cora | 1st May 17

      Its so hard as a blogger. Something I’m currently trying to figure out for myself.

  10. How I am Learning to Unplug and Slow Down (Part 2) | 27th Apr 17

    […] In continuation of yesterday’s post… […]

  11. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets | 29th Apr 17

    Technology is a blessing and a curse. Now that I’m a stay at home mom, it’s so easy to be on the phone all the time. When I was at work, I was way too busy to be messing around with social media. Ave loves the phone (sigh) so it forces me to stash it away or else she’ll want to play with it. I’ve also taken to putting it in a different room in the evening when I’m relaxing so I’m not on it constantly. It helps.
    Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets recently posted…Week in Review: Positives of the Plague (#80)My Profile

    • Cora | 1st May 17

      Now that I’m getting back to some work shifts, its been really great to leave my phone in my bag and not have it with me for an entire day. You do get used to it really quickly, and then I’ve been finding I forget to even check it for an hour or so afterwards. As a blogger, and as a mom, there are obviously times when the phone is awesome and fun and useful. Its just a matter of finding that balance, I guess.

  12. Kaylee | 30th Apr 17

    I love your intentionality around unplugging! “I want to be the kind of person who is addicted to boredom.” <<< This is beautiful ❤️ Glad to hear you are finding ways to slow down.
    Hmm, sadly, I think I've gotten to this point where I get anxious when I'm away from the screen–a fear that I'm missing out somehow? But simultaneously checking it also makes me anxious, or makes me feel worse about myself because I a) see all these people on social media leading happy, productive, meaningful lives then b) shame myself for wasting time like that. Again, a never ending spiral of anxiety and shame.
    I've also found that if I don't have my phone in sight, it's easier for me to forget about it. I've found tucking my phone away in the confines of my bag or leaving it in my room while I work in another room in my apartment helps.
    Kaylee recently posted…Quick Pizza: Two WaysMy Profile

    • Cora | 1st May 17

      I’m not sure if it was a fear of missing out for me… it was rather a fear of feeling uncomfortable with not having anywhere to distract my thoughts. But I get how that would lead to anxious thoughts, as well. But the cycle of guilt/shame when you look through social media I think is the most damaging part. Unsubscribe from anything that makes you feel bad about yourself!!!
      I’ve been leaving my phone in my bag for an entire day now that I’m back to working shifts… and I totally forget to even check it for an hour or so afterwards!
      I DO want to be the kind of person who is addicted to boredom! Who is addicted to treating myself with relaxation and self care. Wouldn’t that be beautiful!?

  13. Week In Review: Catching Up and Moving Forward | 1st May 17

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