Today marks the beginning of my college’s spring break week. Personally, I have been looking forward to this since the semester started at the end of January.
I’ve been so stressed out lately and it seems like everywhere I turn there’s something new to ruin my chill. I’m just tired. I foresee a lot of trips to the Meditation Gardens and the beach in the upcoming week. I need to refocus and recenter myself, desperately.
Part of that is going to be disconnecting from the internet except where absolutely necessary (ie: I will still be working on homework over spring break). As such, I won’t be posting on the blog or Twitter next week. I might poke my head in at the Dungeon of Loom from time to time.
I’m just very tired of being surrounded by screens. There are two TVs in our apartment, I have a desktop computer in my bedroom and I use my laptop frequently. I’m almost always holding my phone and even still break out my tablet on occasion. That’s a lot of screens I face daily.
So, in the spirit of my impending electronic break, I want to talk about ways we can disconnect ourselves from the constant onslaught of colorful flashing lights.
Cover them up!
It may seem like an overly simple tactic, because it is. But, don’t let its simplicity fool you! It’s very effective.
I got in the habit of covering my TV with a spare piece of fabric when I was in my mid- to late-teens. I read in a Feng Shui book that mirrors reflecting the bed were bad for relationships. This included any screens because they also have reflective properties. So, in an effort to improve my unfortunate love life, I started covering my TV when it wasn’t in use.
I’m not sure if it had any significant impact on my love life, but I did notice a change in the energy of my room. I felt a lot calmer and more focused when the TV was covered. My room just felt like it was at rest, which helped me feel at rest when I was in there.
Of course, the best option would probably be to forgo having a TV at all, but I’m not going to get rid of my 48″ Samsung flatscreen to watch Netflix on my 28″ computer monitor. It’s not realistic to expect the average person to give up owning a TV. My hat is off to those people who get by with Netflix and a computer, but most Americans still like cable. Keeping the TV covered when not in use is the next best option.
Restrict phone time
One of the biggest culprits of overdosing on screens is the cell phone. I don’t have any hard statistics, but in my personal experience, I would say at least 80% of my screen time is spent looking at my phone (or between my phone and laptop, or my phone and TV, because I’m a multitasker). The best way to cut down on the time spent looking at screens is to put down the phone.
Admittedly, this is much easier said than done. It requires a bit of self-regulation and control. You need to set limits for yourself and stick to them.
If you need a little extra assistance, your iPhone can help. In the settings app, you can set up a screen time monitor and put a daily time limit on how much time you spend on apps on your phone. You can set either a blanket limit for all apps, or set limits for individual categories of apps (like social media). Unfortunately, I’m not sure what sort of similar settings might be available for Android, but I recommend checking the settings just in case.
If you really, really struggle, you may want to look into having your spouse or a very, very trusted friend set up a parental control app on your phone to limit your time for you. With a parental control app, you won’t be able to remove the limits without the controller’s assistance. I would only recommend this is you’re really addicted to your phone and have someone you really, really trust not to either mess with you or get overcontrolling.
Find something else to do
It’s difficult to spend a lot of time looking at a screen if you’re busy doing something else.
I recommend physical activities, like hiking or playing a sport. I know for a lot of people, screens often take the place of physical activities, leaving us woefully out of shape. Replacing even some of that time with active movement can improve our health. Even an hour of walking around the mall window shopping is better than an hour spent on the couch watching TV.
For those less inclined to get out and move (for whatever reason; I’m not here to judge), taking up some other non-electronic hobby is also a good solution. Learn to draw or paint, take up some kind of paper craft (I like scrapbooking), or try your hand at sewing. Find something that interests you and do it.
Do as much work offline as possible
I’m a writer and a student in the digital age. Trust me, I know that sometimes you just have to get online or you risk losing your job or failing your class. There is nothing quite like spending three hours doing math homework while staring at a laptop. When I was doing National Novel Writing Month, I clocked a minimum of four hours staring at my computer a day. Sometimes, it just can’t be avoided.
But, it’s still good to avoid it when you can. I’m trying to get back in the habit of writing my rough drafts on paper with a pen. This cuts down on my screen time, plus has the added bonuses that a paper notebook is lighter, easier, and more convenient to carry with me, and I have a hardcopy backup of my work so far.
If there are any opportunities where working offline is feasible for you, I suggest taking them.
Of course, I understand that screens have their good points, too. TV and movies keep us entertained. Social media keeps us connected to people we care about who we can’t always see face-to-face. The above suggestions are for ways to take a break from all the time spent looking at our TVs, phones, and computers, not ways to permanently remove them.
It’s just a matter of maintaining a balance between the world on the screen and the world there when we look up. Use both in moderation.
I hope you enjoy this next week and don’t miss me too much.
I love you all.
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