by Abbey Ross
(A girl looks at her phone with a sense of fear)
If you are a technology user living in 2020, you have undoubtedly seen tremendous amounts of troubling and stressful news stories during the past few months. Television channels are clogged with their usual politics, crime, and celebrity news, but now an entirely new topic has crammed its way into the already overwhelming news cycle. Yes, you guessed it: COVID-19. As if turning on the news wasn’t stressful enough, we now have more portable—and more intrusive—forms of technology that ding and beep at us as soon as the death toll rises, a gaggle of gun-wielding protesters emerges, or a politician makes a statement on Twitter.
If you are like most people, including myself, who feel like they’re drowning in a river of events and notifications, you’re probably looking for a way to get some air, to escape the never-ending rapids. How are you supposed to do this, though, when we live in such a quickly evolving world where it seems like every hour brings another devastating wave of events?
For some people, the solution is to just turn it all off. They take their phones and hide them in another room, silence notifications, and escape into the world of Netflix or a good novel. In all my efforts to do this, however, I’ve felt suddenly and alarmingly disconnected. What if my sister calls or my friends need my advice? What if my boss emails me or a vaccine is found today and I miss it? I have listed some things that I have done when I just need to step back and take a break. They help me feel more grounded and less anxious while allowing me to maintain a healthier level of connectedness.
(Being in front of a laptop can cause you undue stress)
Listen to Your Brain and Body—feelings of anxiousness can manifest in many different ways.
Be kind to yourself and be open to the sometimes subtle signs that your mind and body are overwhelmed. These can include anything from changes in appetite and sleep patterns to sudden tiredness, loss of motivation, loss of memory, and other mental and physical symptoms. For example, back in March at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, I convinced myself I was sick because of tightness and pain in my chest. After a week or so, though, I noticed that I only felt these symptoms while reading or watching the news.
Communicate—tell your loved ones what you’re doing and why.
When you start to feel overwhelmed by being tethered to your phone or computer—whether by news alerts or lengthy debates in a group chat—don’t be afraid to let your loved ones know how you’re feeling. A simple text explaining where your head is at and that you will be stepping away for a little while should suffice. Your friends and family have surely been dealing with similar concerns lately and will likely support your choice to take a break.
Example: Hey guys, I hope you all are having a good day. I am a little overwhelmed with what we’ve been chatting about/the state of the world right now/my notifications, so I’m going to put my phone away for a bit and do something else. I’ll talk to you later.
Set Up an Alternative—find a less intrusive method of communication where someone can reach you if they really need to.
If you are concerned about being completely disconnected from your phone (a very reasonable concern in this day and age), include in your message that someone can reach you if something urgent comes up. If you’re living at home right now like me, giving your friends, coworkers, or family members your home landline phone number is a great alternative.
Make it a Habit – set aside some no-phone time on a scheduled basis.
By doing this, your contacts will be aware of what you’re up to every day from 3-5 pm, for example. They will know not to worry if you don’t answer right away, giving you some peace of mind to escape and relax.
(Exercising is a great way to retreat from technology)
Use Your Free Time Wisely – once you have identified feelings of anxiousness and established some time away from the noise, make sure you really appreciate the silence.
Now that you have created some space for yourself to retreat from the endless stream of news and notifications, make sure you allow yourself to fully occupy this space! No sneaking looks at your phone or flipping on the news (even if it’s just for five minutes)! Do something that makes you feel calm and centered; for tips on mindfulness, exercise, yoga, and new activities during quarantine, check out these other BTP articles: