You find yourself swamped with deadlines despite being at home. You find yourself exhausted regardless of how much you’ve slept. There are dishes to do and you need to wash your hair. Return that call. Check emails again. Attend a lengthy lecture on Microsoft Teams and don’t forget all the backed-up FaceTime calls in your schedule.
All these screens give you a headache yet you live within them now.
Actually, pause a second. Centre yourself and evaluate how you feel. What’s on the surface and what lingers below? Your phone lights up again and you feel your chest go tight as you rush to tend to everyone else but the person that matters most, yourself. This is where you may find that you actively neglect yourself because you’ve programmed yourself to the extreme where checking in on your close ones is a priority.
Treat yourself as you treat those around you
Now don’t get me wrong, touching base and expressing care or concern where needed to those close to you is indeed essential in human functioning. However, another essential is taking care of yourself equally as much. Some of us are better at looking after others, even prefer it regardless of their own needs, but this doesn’t make it healthy. Now, I’m going to talk about balance between yourself and communication with the outside. How to still be the friend that cares and is present while dealing with your own dish of things.
A vast part of my own ‘socialising’ anxiety during lockdown stems from the idea that because the person contacting me knows I am currently confined to my home, that a speedy response should follow and that there is no excuse for stalling. The core of the problem is, in fact, the adoption of this very mind-set and falling into the sense of being trapped, not only inside your house, but also within self-constructed constraints.
Another thing is feeling unable to post content on social media because you haven’t replied to people across the various platforms and you fear that they’ll get upset. Even though you may feel guilt that builds its foundation on empathy which is actually good, it’s not a practice that will benefit you mentally. I feel that all that guilt kind of sits on your shoulders as you go through your day and might actually intrude your thoughts multiple times a day. When this happens, you need to do what I call the ‘unplug’. Unplugging comes in various forms and sizes, whether it be turning your phone on airplane mode for half the day and ignoring the media or monitoring the amount of phone time you engage in. My version consists of tending to my phone in dosages and taking social media breaks when I feel overwhelmed. When doing this you need to keep in mind that you are number one. A catch up with the girls can wait, quiz night with the boys can wait and so can being a therapist for your pals.
As much as we want to keep tabs on the people we love and be reassured about things or give that reassurance, it’s important to remember that we have a life outside our phones, off screens. This being said, in the current situation our lives actually do evolve more and more around our phones. Engaging or being confined to this isn’t necessarily healthy and leaves people feeling strung out or overwhelmed. Hence why it is important to try and put positive boundaries in place for yourself where you’re not burning out your battery but are still in touch.
Dare to be radical
If you wake up, size up your phone and get an instant headache from absorbing the notifications consider an unplug. If this happens regularly and you cannot unplug for whatever reason, it’s time to put a firm plan in place with even firmer boundaries in order to maintain your inner peace. It’s completely OK to not know where to begin or how to piece the puzzle together, no one knows it all. Once you actively approach it as a concept you slowly begin to put a structure together in a way that suits you. Slowly but surely.
If you’re like me and you find that you cannot just switch off due to having to keep consistent contact with someone for health or personal reasons this process can be rather tricky. This is where you find a way around it and use the hacks that work for you and your routine.
Be considerate of yourself and others
For example, anyone I need to keep in contact with I notify when I unplug and send them a single message. That text lets them know for how long my phone will be off. I also briefly state how I’m doing so that they’re not worrying on the other end either. Sometimes I give a reason for unplugging, sometimes I don’t. Either way this approach is considerate of both yourself and others. I also tend to keep my phone on throughout the day and then turn on airplane mode in the evening to wind down. However, you can reverse this or modify it to fit you.
My phone is on silent most of the time but still within view. I prefer tending to all texts, emails and calls when I get up so I can go about my day without worrying about what to respond. But this isn’t the best way to go about it either, as every response tends to progress further into a conversation as the day unfolds. Professionals suggest not going on your phone at all within the first hour or two of being awake, but as adults with responsibilities, deadlines, and networks, we’re aware this is difficult for most people. Allowing yourself the time to not use your phone is a treat but also a detox. If you find yourself unintentionally distanced from your phone and enjoying it, don’t let anyone pester you into breaking what you’ve got going. After all, you are at home and not in a cage being probed to respond. Remember this when you feel the pressure creeping in from the outside. Learn to actively say ‘no’ without justifying it, set the tone for how people access you.
Be kind to yourself
As far as unplugging goes, remember not to isolate yourself completely and keep those you love in the light and not in the dark. Whatever you have circling your mind, remember to get this out and don’t suppress your emotions. In such a hectic time we need to accept, process and stomach a lot of stuff, being kind to yourself helps a lot. I hope you are all being conscious when it comes to self-care and that what you put out is as pure as you’d wish for yourself. If you find that people are pushing your boundaries and stressing you out lately, move with agility when it comes to yourself but be mindful of others too. We are all going through it in one way or another.