Self-care - creating boundaries around technology and work
Self-care is any activity that we do intentionally in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Good self-care is key to improved mood, reduced anxiety and burnout. Self-care looks different for everyone and it means more than just massages and quiet time. As we explore different ways of self-care, we also note that each of us have different amounts of time, access and priorities. A huge part of self-care for me this past year (since staying at home to work) has been learning to disconnect and setting boundaries around technology and social media. Boundaries in general are a huge part of taking care of yourself from being drained out emotionally, mentally and physically. I usually have my phone off but check in from time to time for any missed calls and this helps with having a good night's sleep as well. I'm not sure about you, but I can be a bear - albeit a cute one - in the morning if I don't get a good sleep and coffee (of course..) - I'm digressing, apologies:)
With all the accessibility and portability of technology, while convenient and entertaining, has its downsides. I am sure there are many who are beginning to feel drained / burnout from the use of technology (Zoom, Skype etc) and the unrealistic expectations on the job more so since the pandemic causing most to work from home. You may have colleagues texting or emailing you at odd hours, or bosses checking in on you, and perhaps expectations on a immediate response to some project. This can be detrimental for your mental and physical health in the long run, and also hurt the relationships around you - spouse, children, parents or partners. Do explore and consider giving yourself a little tech detox as part of your self-care regimen for your own good and the good of others around you. Here are some tips on detoxing from your beloved tech:
1) Set limits within apps.
Some phones have a built in feature to limit app usage. You can set a limit so certain apps lock after a certain amount of time. This app is also useful to help you be aware of the amount of time you spend on certain types of apps i.e. social media and even on your phone in general. (It might only be for I-Phone users; sorry about this my Android friends).
2) Start your day without technology.
Once you start it’s hard to stop, isn't it? Try setting a "boundary" around your day so that you have a certain part of your day without technology. Maybe it’s the first hour in the morning or maybe it’s at night. When it’s planned in your head, you don’t feel guilty for being offline. If you work online or on a project, perhaps set parameters like not checking your personal email or social media until a certain time. This lets your creative juices flow when you need them too without getting distracted. You may want to leave your phone in a different room or turn it to face down so you are not distracted.
3) Take fasts / planned breaks.
Start small if you want – take one day off. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, you need not tell anyone and just do it for yourself. Start small and see how it feels, no emails, no social media, nothing, nada. Let it go. It takes time, all new habits take time. You may want to start over the weekend on days you are actually NOT required / supposed to work.
4) Have intentional tech-free activities.
Allow yourself activities that don’t involve technology, like going for a walk (minus your phone), doing yoga, going to the gym, driving or meeting friends. Practice separating technology around social activity and humans - connect with everything around you, activity, nature, and people.
5) Set a routine
There will be times when you’ll have to take phone calls during dinner or work through the evening. Balance that with taking time off when there is downtime at work. Unless work is constant (?), start setting up a routine for yourself. It is the only way to manage unwanted / unnecessary work especially after 9 pm; work on your set scheduled time, which works best for you. Unless you have to work with colleagues on the other side of the globe, then create your own routine around the time you need to work with them and ensure when it is downtime for you, switch it off.
6) Exceptions to the rule.
If you need to take urgent calls late into the evening, or when you are on leave, communicate that to your family, so everyone knows what to expect. Also, check in with your loved ones, if they are doing ok or if they need immediate attention for something urgent, maybe they just need your presence at that present moment. We live in a strange time now with emotions coming up frayed easily; give them the attention they need, and communicate with each other. I am sure work does understand if you need to take a "loo break"? Keeping that in mind might help lessen the anxiety of having to take that urgent call with your colleague when you are unavailable. If however work seems unforgiving, consider talking to your colleague / employer and set realistic expectations around work and time.
No doubt there are emergencies and you may need your phone nearby but we need to redefine what an emergency is - life, death and going on labour? Just a thought. Technology has brought so many improvements, conveniences and benefits to our lives but it is also slowly taking away our essential human need of a real human connection with community and nature. This rewiring of our brains may affect our physical, emotional and mental health in the long run. Try to find ways to shift some things around in your life to give yourself a little break from technology. "Try" is actually a bad word as my lecturer used to say, "Do it! Don't try, try means we aren't planning to do anything about it". You've got this. For sanity sake, take a break;)