The Virtue of Unplugging

Whenever I tell people I’m a social media manager, I get the usual few questions; “so what exactly do you do” being number one… “are you on Instagram all the time?” is a close second and the answer to that is pretty much, yes. Social media doesn’t sleep and even though I do, it’s hard not to be plugged in every waking hour in some capacity, even when I’m not actively working. 

About a month ago I had what I can only define as a digital nervous breakdown. It came at the tail end of a busier-than-usual month of work with lots of unforeseen reasons to be on social media even more than usual (and my usual is about 15 hours a day). I hadn’t ever been a complainer when it comes to the amount of time I spend looking at my phone, to be honest, most days I don't even notice it, but that day I hit a wall.  What’s strange was it was a particularly fun weekend for work, full of amazing content from events that I was excited about, I actually WANTED to be on my phone to be on top of it all, but it didn’t matter. 

I woke up with the worst headache, an almost constant twitch on my left eye (that I’d been ignoring for the past few days), and absolutely no will to stare at a screen of any kind. The most accurate description I have is my brain felt like my laptop giving me a “storage full” warning when it can’t process any more data (cool analogy).

It took that extreme instance to really consider the virtue of “unplugging”. I’m sure many of you go through similar experiences and spending some time away from technology feels like an obvious answer, but how many of us actually set time aside to do it? I sure didn’t before that day and I definitely didn’t even think I needed to. 

The first step was to face the facts; I’m a social media manager and even though it was a Saturday, I can't REALLY completely ignore my phone for more than… maybe 20 minutes. What I did instead was grab a book and a friend and went to a cafe. I put my phone down on the table, with the volume on so I wouldn't miss any work texts. I promised myself I would not check it otherwise so I could just READ. To be honest, I didn't even like the book I was reading (LOL), but even that microscopic level of unplugging helped my mood immensely. 

It helped, but it definitely wasn't enough. I decided to book a meditation class for the first time ever. What I went with was the Breathwork class in Unplugged Meditation in West Hollywood. The exercise itself was fascinating and relaxing, but the best thing about it was they didn’t allow phones in the room. I had to be awake and with other people for an hour without having access to my phone, concentrating on a totally new task. It’s crazy that such a seemingly ordinary solution feels so radical, but it does! 

Since then, my body developed this alarm clock that tells me when I need to stop. And here’s what I’ve been doing when it happens: 

  1. Go to different types of meditation classes (the HEADSPACE app is a great alternative). I found this calms me beyond anything else and restarts my head even if I do it at the end of the day.

  2. Leave the phone in a different room and read at least 30 pages of a book. 

  3. Plan activities for weekends that limit phone use to answering work texts/emails. Hiking is a great option in LA cause most hikes have terrible to no service.

These teeny tiny changes I've made in my life made me feel so much more alert and centered, and show up to my work with a clearer head. And I’m still in the market for more suggestions! Dm me at @ezgierren.

Comment your thoughts below, or submit your own story: