If your summer is packed with Instagram-worthy barbecues, vacations andÂ trips to the beach, first of all, congrats! But if youâre not careful, you may spend most of your time glued to Facebook âÂ or, worst of all, your work email. While you might assume keeping up with your inbox gives you peace of mind, research shows that reading messages from the office often just makes people angry. Talk about a summer bummer.
Itâs one thing to know you should take time for a digital detox, but itâs entirely different to actually pry that phone out of your hands. Whether youâre addicted to refreshing your Gmail, or canât stop scrolling through your phone out of habit, quitting your gadgets can be tough.
Instead of going cold turkey on tech, try these expert-backed tips for how to limit your time plugged in, so you can get the R&R you really need.
Digital Detox, Done Right: 7 Ways to De-Stress
1. Stop Blaming Your Job
There are some people with high-risk jobs who have to check email at all hours. (Hi, Barack Obama.) But there are many others who donât need to â and do so anyway. âThatâs unhealthy because thereâs not a reason for your nervous system to be wired to âworkaholic,ââ says Marilyn Puder-York, Ph.D., a psychologist and executive coach for CEOs and executives in New York City. If youâre responding to emails at 10 p.m. because you decide to, not because your job dictates, take a step back. Tell yourself you can check your inboxÂ â but that youâre not going to respond unless itâs something really important.
2. Set Boundaries with Your Boss
Talk to your boss before you leave for vacation rather than assuming you still have to be âonâ 24/7. Puder-York advises saying something like this: âBefore I go on vacation, I want to double check that I can unplug and check emails only once a day. Is that OK?â (We bet they say yes.) Then, put your autoreply up. âDoing so shows accountability and respect for others,â she says. And donât forget to turn off phone notifications so youâre not tempted all day.
3. Donât Give Up Email Entirely (Just Set Limits)
Weâre giving you permission to check email during downtime â but limit that to certain times of the day. (Like before your family is awake, or after they wind down at night.) Try to set a time limit, too. Whether thatâs 20 minutes or a half-hour will differ for every person, says Wendy R. Boswell, Ph.D., a professor of management at Texas A&M University. Setting the right boundaries (rather than going in without a plan and checking all day) is key to making everyone happy.
4. Get Your Partner on Board
Tech drain can be contagious. In one study, people who used email during off-hours didnât think it was a problem in their personal life. But their spouses felt differently, saying it had a negative impact on their time together, says Boswell, who authored the study. Push your partner to have a chat with his or her boss. If he or she doesnât expect employees to be glued to their devices at all times then thereâs no reason that you two canât have âalone timeâ to chill out together.
5. Be Strict
When you see that an email pops up, or a like on your recent Facebook post, you get a rewarding hit of dopamine. âIt feels good because youâre being recognized. Thatâs why it becomes an addiction to check whoâs reached out to you,â says Puder-York. Still, itâs important to give yourself a break. Downtime recharges your brain and protects against things like burnout and loss of productivity. Julie Morgenstern, a productivity expert and author of Never Check E-mail in the Morning, says her clients tell her they have success by repeating mantras, like the common canine command âLeave it.â It sounds funny, she says, but it works.
6. Take a Deep Breath
Scrolling through Instagram or checking Gmail is so ingrained it almost feels wrong not to. âYour brain is addicted to the stimuli, so when you donât check, itâs like, whereâs my fix?â says Morgenstern. The key is to breathe through the urge. âClients tell me that after taking a few calming breaths, they can feel a gear shift happening in their brain. They can move from tech-addicted to being social and engaging with others around them,â she says. Warning: Resisting the urge to Instagram may feel difficult at first, but eventually youâll strengthen your will (just like a muscle) and shift into tech-free mode faster.
7. If All Else Fails, Hide Your Phone
You know the diet advice that tells you to keep trigger foods (ice cream, cookies, chips) out of the house? Use the same technique for your phone. Morgenstern advises turning the dinger off and putting the device on the other side of the room or in another room altogether. If itâs near you, you canât help but resist the impulse. But if it requires you to get up constantly? Well, that phone wonât look so attractive anymore.
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