About a year ago, I was just finishing a contract with an environmental non-profit organisation and was living a busy life. Most days I was working full-time from 9 to 5, driving 1.5 hours for work, and arriving at home to cook, perhaps calling family, exercising, and vegetating in front of a screen. I was taking work very seriously, and felt like my success with each project was a top priority. I put a lot of energy into doing my best for each one. At some point between organising a two day event, training for my first duathlon, and continuing to make plans with friends, I became burnt out.
I put a lot of pressure on myself to do everything: to be sociable, to do well at work, and to take care of my body. But where was the time for rest and just being with myself? Why was I so driven to be successful? Watching Netflix or surfing on Facebook was certainly a nice mental break, but it also became a kind of shield to how I was actually feeling in the moment. The truth is that I was afraid of failure, of losing my job, and of not being a worthy person just as I am.
I had a constant low level of anxiety and I began to realise it was partly from always being available for communicating with people via devices. Friends and family could send me multiple texts a day, messages on Facebook, emails on top of what I was already receiving for work, and call me. It created a kind of attachment to my devices, and I was always wondering if a person had replied or if I would receive a new message. I think it became a kind of addiction, because I could not go more than 20 minutes without checking one of these devices.
I decided to make some drastic changes to my lifestyle in order to reduce my anxiety and stress. I went off of Facebook. I shaved my head. I asked my parents to not text me unless necessary and reassured them that we could still call. I took up a volunteer position at a beautiful rustic retreat centre that incorporates buddhist principles. I began using my body instead of my mind and building trails, planting trees, and caring for their horse. I lived in a couple of off-grid cabins in the woods. I was forced to put my attention on caring for basic needs such as fire wood for heat, water, and food. I could still read, meditate, do yoga, and use Wifi at the main lodge to connect with the outside world. I began to relax, to get into a rhythm of caring for the property and myself, and I started an inward journey of discovering why I was stressed and anxious.
Fast forward to the present and I can say it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Instead of prioritising work and my self-image, I prioritized self care and self acceptance. I did miss some aspects of social media, mainly connecting with far away friends and local event notifications, but it gave me more energy and peace of mind.
Now, I am entering a new phase yet again. I am entering back into the fray: back onto Facebook, back onto this Blog, back into a more public space with my ideas for positive social change. I want to share what I am learning about the importance of connecting deeply with ourselves and finding that unconditional acceptance and love. I needed to get away from distracting technologies to do that, but now I am realising the power of these technologies for spreading positive messages of hope, love, and inspiration.
The question is, will I be able to keep this healthy relationship with myself going while also giving energy and attention to these online domains? Time will tell.
Here are some reminders of 5 ways to have healthy space with technologies:
- Set a time limit for social media everyday.
- Don´t reply to people right away, give it 24 to 48 hours. It reduces others´ expectations for prompt replies.
- Set boundaries with friends or family that message or call you too much.
- After 30 minutes of screen time, get up and walk around. Breathe in fresh air.
- Make sure you have some days, maybe once a week, without being in front of any screens. Get outside in nature!