I'm exhausted - physically and emotionally. There are nights where I sit on the barstool, put my head down, and just shut my eyes. But I'm only 23 years old. I work from home, have amazing friends, maintain an active gym membership, and get out a lot during my spare time. I have no children, no girlfriend, and minimal relationship fatigue. By all measures, there should be no reason for the overwhelming stress in my life...
A while ago I figured out that one of my biggest stress-related problems was my inability to disconnect from my work for more than a few hours without developing a nervous twitch. Part of me wants to think that it's because school always teaches us to take our work home (they do call it "homework" for a reason).
But in reality, I know the reason I can't stop checking my iPhone or inbox is because I have become the new digital hub
How many steps have I taken on my Fitbit today? Did people on Facebook think that joke was funny? What are people tweeting about? What are my friends watching on Netflix? What's something new I can listen to on Rdio? How many clients have emailed me in need of something right now?
Of course - in my field of work - nobody needs anything right now (in fact, I’m not sure I've ever heard of a “design emergency"). But in a world filled with a million distractions vying to get my attention, that's often how it feels. It's not a wonder I'm so exhausted.
But fear not! I'm here to try and help you find some solace. I’m no expert (I'm still learning), but I'm hoping that we can all gain a little wisdom by sharing these tips for escaping your digital hub.
1. Find Some Unrelated Hobbies
My biggest problem is that all my hobbies - design, writing, photography, and music - are things that I've turned into work at one point in my life or another; even if I'm not trying to work, I'm thinking about it. For a while, I wanted to be a screenwriter, and while that doesn't look like it will happen right now, I do take solace in the fact that I still love movies. For me, nothing is more relaxing than getting to the movie theatre, turning my iPhone off, and completely disconnecting from the hub as I get engrossed into the experience. (Bonus points: movie theatres still make great dates!)
2. Become One With Nature
This may sound a little hippie of me (or a lot hippie), but let’s be honest: getting outside is important. It’s one thing if you wear your Fitbit or your Fuelband when you go for a run outside - at least they aren’t yelling at you every time you get an email. But take some time away from the norm and go hiking or snowboarding. You might find you’ve got a lot to learn from the serenity of leaving your cell phone behind, too.
3. Overwhelmed? Get Out for Lunch!
If I’m having just “one of those days," nothing is better than a lunch break with a friend. I like hitting up the pub and grabbing a burger and a beer... but then again I am at the age when my metabolism still allows a burger and a beer in the middle of the day. If you’re looking to eat healthier, there’s nothing wrong with the often-amazing veggie or vegan cafés that are sprinkled throughout most modern downtown cores these days.
4. Exercise More - Period
I don’t know about you, but I try to get to the gym at least three times a week. I don’t bring my iPhone with me here. If you have an old-school iPod, like the Nano, Classic, or Shuffle, this is a great place for them. Most gyms don’t allow you to take calls while you’re working out anyway, but if you walk in to the gym looking forward to that experience instead of dreading it, you’ll have a better time and probably walk out feeling more energized than you did when you walk in. Exercising is not only healthy, but it also cleans out the mental cobwebs.
5. Take a Nap
I struggle with naps, so this one is for me. There’s a reason we see Don Draper nap on Mad Men almost more often than we see him working; mid-day naps often energize us more than an entire good night’s sleep will! Some of us aren't privileged with the chance to take naps during the workday, but if you can, this is always a solid bet. (That being said, not all of Don Draper’s...ahem...habits are worth picking up.)
For me, and most people I've met, meditation an the act of getting your thoughts focused either on your god(s) or on nothing at all. Personally, I try to mediate every night before bed, but it's important that you
find a time to that works for you - you may even find it helps you sleep better. For many people, meditating for twenty minutes in the morning helps them work more productively and stress-free. There are also some really interesting stats
about meditation. The reality is: it works, regardless of your religious belief.
7. Develop Good Friendships
My closest friends have the balls to drag me away from my computer and put my focus on something other than work. It doesn't matter if we’re playing board games, visiting a pub, or going bowling - these are the people you need most in your life. Find them and stay close to them. Even if they’re long-distance friends, these are often the people who demand a phone call in the middle of the day if they think you’re stressing out.
8. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Whether this means trying a kind of food you've never tried before, going rock climbing for the first time, or trying your hand at online dating, you need
to constantly have new experiences. These can be as simple as listening to a record you've never heard (I record my favorites weekly on Unsung Sundays
), or as complicated as travelling to a foreign place you've never visited. And If all you can afford is a two-hour road trip, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, either.
9. Buy Experiences - Not Products.
There’s a reason that the man behind the original shopping mall, Victor Gruen
, disavowed what Americans have done to it: it doesn't encourage community
. He originally intended to build "apartment buildings, schools, medical facilities, parks, and a lake" (Wikipedia) around the first shopping mall, but the plans were cut short. It’s my understanding that Gruen wasn’t allowed more than 25% of his original budget. If he were going to fulfill his original design, Gruen’s design wouldn’t have enabled further suburbia, it would have prevented it.
The point is this: the man who designed the walls of modern consumerism looked at what he built and was horrified. So spend a little less time (and money) at the mall, and spend more trying to get to the beach.
10. Finally: Get to Know Your Neighbors.
I used to live in a big apartment complex during my college years. Formerly a retirement home, many of the neighbors were elderly and needed help moving furniture or learning how to use their new fandagled DVD players. Many of these lovely people later became my friends, leading to some of most rewarding neighborly relationships I've ever had. Even under the pressure of my iPhone’s constant notifications, my life became much easier when I knew that there were folks just a couple doors down that I could turn to for a good cup of tea or even just a friendly hello. When I heard people complain about how close houses in suburbia are today, all I think is, "you can practically shake hands with your neighbor from your kitchen window!"
So... maybe just try smiling and shaking their hand. What’s the worst that could happen?