Last week, we explored how to transform your inner critic so you aren’t adding more stress to an already full plate. Now, for my last tip in the series on stress relief for working moms. That is, how do we deal with the large amounts of information we are trying to process daily on our digital devices. We need to get stuff done both on and off these devices, so how do we focus without feeling like we are missing something?
Using these digital devices is still fairly new and we aren’t completely sure of the impact they will have long term. But you probably have recognized that the more you are on your digital device, the more distracted, less active, and more socially isolated you feel. I’m not proposing that we avoid all digital technology, but we can be more mindful of the impact large amounts of digital information is having on us. If we aren’t mindful, we will find ourselves overwhelmed and letting our fingers make decisions on how we spend our time. Without thinking, we are responding to this notification and that ping when we already feel pulled in many different directions.
If you want to take back the choice of when you choose to work, respond, and connect digitally, then I invite you to join me on a digital detox. By becoming more mindful of your choices and behaviors around digital usage, you can let go of what’s not working and focus on what could work better.
7 Ways to Begin a Digital Detox
So instead of staying distracted and spinning your wheels and even getting stuck in comparing yourself to others on social media, let’s explore how to use this technology to improve not detract from our lives.
- Mindfully Observe Your Feeling State When You Click on Any App/Tab: Are you bored, lonely, anxious, or some other feeling state when you click on an app without thinking first? For example, as I’m writing this, I feel myself being tempted to log off this tab to check social media. Instead, I’m observing what feeling states are leading me to want to distract myself. Is it an inner critic that tells you what you’re working on isn’t good enough? So you log into social media in an attempt to find something that makes you feel good or to distract yourself from your discomfort. The more mindful you are about the reasons you let yourself get distracted, the more choices you open up.
- Identify Your Goals for Using Social Media: Did you know that our brains are impacted by how many likes we get or don’t get on a post we create? It lights up a reward center in our brain so that it feels like a rejection if there’s no response. I’m not anti-social media and believe we can receive support virtually, but we need to be mindful of our reasons behind using it. Do you use social media to connect or disconnect from others? Or is it a way to distract from boredom or anxiety? If you don’t like the reasons you are using when you click on social media, only open the app when you have a clear goal that feels good to you in the long run.
- Pick the Number of Time Per Day You Want to Open an App: Identify ahead of time how many times you want to realistically click on an app or open your email in any given day. Target the ones you click on most mindlessly and then have an idea what times of day you would like to get on to either get stuff done or connect with others. And if it’s hard to stick with the number you have chosen, go back to step 1 & 2 and observe what’s coming up for you. Over time, if you stick with your ideal number of times to open per day, you will find the sense of urgency to get on the app lessesns. And eventually, you realize it can wait and you will decide when you respond.
- Limit Notifications on Your Phone/Watch: To help you with limiting your mindless clicking and opening apps on your phone (and “smart” watch), take some time to update the ways you are notified when you have a new message or like. The more notifications and noises, the more it’s suggesting that you need to respond right now. It’s hard to detox digitally when your phone is communicating with you all day. What messages do you want to receive immediate notifications? And what messages do you want to decide when to look for updates?
- Use a Device that Helps You Limit Distracting Apps: If you are struggling with steps 3 & 4, there is an app for that! I tried out many screen limiting apps this past summer for myself and my family and honestly didn’t find one that worked consistently. But Zen Screen had the most promise for what I was looking for. It gives gentle reminders to put your phone down and distinguishes between productive and entertainment apps.
- Utilize an Inbox Clean Up Service: If your email inbox overwhelms you every time you log in, you might try an inbox clean up service. This is especially nice for your personal email if you have a lot of newsletter subscriptions and advertisements. I use Unroll Me to have all my sales and mailing list emails rolled into one email per day. You can easily scan one rolled up email if you are looking for a coupon or delete it with fewer clicks. This service also helps you unsubscribe from mailing lists you are no longer interested in.
- Take a Regular Digital Cleanse Day: Taking a digital cleanse day was so much easier when our phones weren’t so “smart.” You may still find value in taking a day or weekend to not get on a certain app or device that you feel like is distracting you from what you really want to feel, be or do. Be sure to notice any difference in how you feel the day you don’t click on this device as it’s likely to give you more insight into what you are “using” this app for. Otherwise, enjoy how present you feel to what is around you.
It’s hard enough for working moms to create space for ourselves. If we also get lost in the modern, digital world, then we are bombarded with messages and images that are likely telling us that we need to do more or we are missing something important. Take the power back by finding what works for you to use digital devices but not be controlled by them.
Share what helps you use digital devices and apps without feeling controlled by them.
Marci Payne, MA, LPC is a professional counselor in Lee’s Summit MO who works with men, women, and teens who are stressed out, anxious and burned out. If you feel like anxiety or stress are getting in the way of you connecting with others or enjoying your life more, schedule a free 15-minute phone consult with Marci. Together, we will decide if I’m the best counselor for you.