Last week, my family took our very first vacation together. While I was eager to get away from the Midwest and bask in the sunshiny beaches of Clearwater, Fla., I stressed about getting everything done on my to-do list before I left. Work had to be complete for the next week. When you work in deadlines and live social media, “taking time off” requires doubling up on hours before you log off.
My husband threw his back out days before we departed on a 19-hour road trip, and if you’re familiar with back injuries, you know major car travel and acute back pain do not do a body good.
Extremely thankful we were taking this time to get away from it all, we pressed on knowing a bad attitude and a meltdown would not beam us to sunny Florida or take away all the things we needed to fix or catch up on before we left.
Determined to completely disconnect from life, I vowed to be device-free during the week. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no headlines. Just me and my husband and kids and the beach. Completely overdosed on screens, when your profession calls for more and more “connectivity,” it’s easy to get swept away in the sense of urgency that time spent off line will result in a loss of community. But I’m sick of being connected and know the urge of crawling in a hole and never coming out means burnout is only a few status updates away.
Growing up on both sides of the technology wave, my conscious is constantly battling with itself in a back-and-forth dialogue that goes like this:
No tech/old-school Elizabeth: “Nobody died from not knowing what I was doing for a week, and I still maintained relationships.”
Tech-overload/marketing Elizabeth: “Sure, but attention spans are short nowadays and people lose interest if you are not consistently a part of their day.”
While the internet is oozing with articles about the negative effects of heavy technology use, what should be talked about even more than the impending depressive symptoms and melatonin loss is how we can be healthy in our screen time. And I’m not talking about the kids – adults need to address our own obsession with the digital world before we go limiting usage for our children.
Here are three ways I am cutting down on unnecessary screen time as an adult:
No more walking and texting.
That phone goes in the purse before I leave home and doesn’t come out until I’ve reached my next destination. I’m making an effort to turn my phone off for at least an hour a day. Not on silent, mind you – OFF. My phone now has a home in the kitchen on a cute cake stand, so I can resist the urge to carry it around with me with gentle reminders that it lives in the kitchen, not in my pocket.
During vacation, I felt pumped (and guilt-free) telling the kids they would be sans Kindle as I would not be on my phone either, so we could all enjoy each other. Instead I loaded up small bins for their seats with activity and chapter books, a device that ONLY plays music (remember the Walkman?), travel games, colored pencils, paper MAPS of our route, and blank paper for jotting down inspired thoughts and sketches.
I’m not trying to pat myself on the back here, merely attesting to the fact that we happily survived a two-day car trip without apps and Minecraft! And to my surprise, I transitioned from overwhelmed and overscheduled woman to simply me. Alone on the road with just me and my family – no multitasking – just absolute single-tasking and slow living.
As we return from our week-long escape from the world, I want to resist falling back into the busy spiral of life. Instead, I’m going to resist over-committing and put more opportunities in place to unplug. It’s for the greater good of me.
And when mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.
This article originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on July 27, 2017.