This month, I’ve been participating in Aetna’s #Mindful30 which has been giving me daily challenges to incorporate mindful tasks to help alleviate stress.
Today’s challenge is to “create screen downtime”. Not to give it up completely but to incorporate a few hours into my day, preferably starting first thing in the morning, when I don’t check emails or go online.
Here’s what they suggested exactly:
“You start your day. You check e-mail. You answer texts. You turn on the TV. You surf the web. And all of these things put you in a distracted mindset. Just for today, shut off social media until after lunch. Put your phone in airplane mode. Walk away from your computer. Spend the moment doing something enjoyable. You’ll feel refreshed and more effective. You’ll have more energy to get through the day.”
Since I knew I would be writing about “screen downtime” ahead of time, I tried to be proactive and schedule it into my day earlier this week so I could have the experience, time to reflect and then time to write about it. But, I found, that is easier said then done, since I have a job that exists solely when I am online. I also went away last weekend so this week, I needed to play catch-up. As a result, I had trouble getting ahead of stuff enough to create a moment when going offline wouldn’t just stress me out further.
Finally, this morning (Friday), an opportunity presented itself. I was scheduled to supervise an activity at Harlow’s school from 9-9:30am and last night, Pam (a new member of the Mommy Shorts team) suggested we meet at The Smith for breakfast when I was done.
Instead of checking email or going over the to-do list or furiously writing the post I was scheduled to publish that day (i.e. THIS ONE), we sat and talked like friends instead of co-workers.
One of the tough things about working in social media is that you can post from your phone anywhere at anytime, so you can never really turn it off. I guess that’s the case with most jobs these days. But in addition, once I promote my blog post on facebook or upload the photo on Instagram, then I usually check to see how it’s doing. It’s a very weird thing to get immediate feedback from thousands of people the instant you complete a task, so even after I am supposedly “done,” I can’t help but glance back over at my phone.
This morning, by alleviating the pressure of posting something new, I had nothing to check either.
This exercise helped me realize that typically if I am doing something offline (whether it be going home after work to be with my kids or meeting friends for dinner or even before I go to bed at night), I usually post something right beforehand with the thought that I am getting it off my plate so I can relax and be present with my family or friends. But really, I am still distracted because there’s a seed in the back of my head that says, “I wonder how it’s doing.”
If I’m able to truly step away, often I go back later to find unanswered questions in the comments or weird fights that have escalated because I wasn’t there to delete offensive comments. Or maybe I’ve posted something unintentionally offensive myself or a typo (gasp!) and then I think— OH CRAP. That’s been out there for how many hours now???
I guess the lesson is, to have true screen downtime, at least for someone who works in social media, you really have to start from the second you wake up. It doesn’t work if you post something at 11:59am and then pretend you are having an undistracted media-free lunch at noon.
Something for me to think about anyway.
Particularly in the moments before I go home to really be present with my kids.
I bet it really hurts my sleep routine too, but that’s a problem to tackle another time.
I will say that taking the time off to be present at breakfast and have a real face-to-face conversation about something other than work honestly helped me go back to the office and sit down to write this post with a clear head.
And that might be the most meta post I’ve ever written.
This post was sponsored by Aetna, who believes health is about the body and the mind. Stress can affect emotional and physical health, and reducing stress can boost wellbeing. As part of their #Mindful30 challenge, the views and opinions expressed in my posts on the topic of mindfulness are my own, not Aetna’s. To learn more about mindfulness, visit aetnamindfulness.com.