Help, my brain won’t switch off…

I fully acknowledge that I’m connected (not in a ‘to the mafia’ kind of way, but in a digital sense) for the better part of each day. I usually wake up around 5.30am, reach for my phone, check in on news headlines from around the motu, check media alerts, and any emails that may have come in overnight from offshore clients.

I walk the dog while listening to a podcast, then it’s into the shower while listening to RNZ Morning Report, reply to the usual text or two that have come in and any other early emails, then I’m into the office by 7.30 – then it’s all on. After work is similar – often checking media alerts, social updates, and emails until around 10pm.

So, I’m pretty much connected 16+ hours a day. Which I justify to myself (and others) as being part of my job and has been my life for the last 15 years or so. Note, I regularly get told off about this, by my whānau, business partner, colleagues, clients and friends…

Recently, my whole whānau went away for two weeks. So, on a whim, I decided to go cold turkey and turn my phone off – after all, with my nearest and dearest at hand, there was no reason to be ‘on’. A digital detox if you will.

Day one – I woke up and reached for my phone. Except it wasn’t there. Plugged in elsewhere. Weird. No problem, I thought and picked up my book. But then that nagging thought popped into my head – what about this client? What about that client? What about this piece of legislation? And so on. Insert head slap emoji…

It took about four days before that nagging anxiousness that I was ‘missing something’ or ‘dropping the ball’ started dissipating. Not quite the TV version of what a crack addict goes through in withdrawal – but not that dissimilar either!

But then, the freedom! I read five books (oh, how I have missed you, my book friends), three magazines, played cards, swam, played with my grandbaby, chatted, and napped. My dervish brain rested, and I actually felt more alert than I have in ages.

Was it easy? No way. I found myself reaching for that little black box of distraction several times a day. But I stuck to it!

Did I miss anything? Not really. I got a few ‘hey, why are you ignoring my messages’ messages when I switched my phone on – but nobody sulked more than a day or so. My clients were well looked after by my epic colleagues, my whānau were right in front of me so I didn’t need to panic that something might happen, and in case of emergency, other family members could always reach me by alternative methods (i.e., the adult children who refused to join my detox).

And the results? Better sleep. Internal calmness. More time to read. Quality whānau time. Improved concentration.

So, I’m trying to modify how connected I am. I leave my phone at home when walking the dog. I haven’t been listening to the news in the morning. I check FB / Instagram / LI once a day – I’ve deleted TikTok, Twitter and some online shopping apps off my phone. And I haven’t switched my email notifications back on yet.

Will it last? I hope so.

I freely admit it’s not for everyone, but with Christmas coming up, perhaps it’s a good time to go a few days or a week (or more) and undertake your own digital detox.

Some tips from my experience:

  1. Switch your phone to ‘do not disturb’ mode (note, you can set your phone up so that calls or messages from important people will still come through). Focus mode for iPhone. Focus mode for android.
  2. Get some great reading material.
  3. Challenge family members to join you.
  4. Think about those apps you can do without and delete them.
  5. Relax, relax, relax. Pina coladas help.