What I Learned from Going Unplugged

From December 25-28, I took four days off work and also, I disconnected myself from facebook, twitter and email. I felt that it wouldn't be a real vacation from work if I was still connected to facebook, twitter or email at all.

This might not be the case for everyone, but for me, the virtual world always pulls me back into the stress of work life. Whether it's day or night, vacation or work time, I feel obligated to act on whatever I see there. If I don't act on it, I feel stressed. (If I do act on it I also feel stressed.) The only solution was to keep the information from entering my brain in the first place.

Disclaimer: this wasn't a real disconnection. I have friends who are going on silent retreats! That's not what this was. I still had my cell phone and was still receiving text messages. I allowed myself the use of the internet. I even went to stores and purchased things! However, the simple act of disconnecting from this "other" virtual world (in which we are interacting currently) — and from my responsibilities in this world — gave me both peace and distance.

It gave me enough clarity to learn some things. Here's some of what I learned:

  • The compulsion to check email, facebook and twitter is about a need for constant stimulation and affirmation.
  • I don't need to be entertained or affirmed every five minutes by an external source. I'm totally capable of doing that for myself.
  • Not being entertained every five minutes is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Seeing friends is wonderful.
  • Books are good too.
  • When I am not stressed, I'm more punctual.
  • I also have a better sense of humor and find myself laughing a lot more.
  • When I made it clear that I was taking time off, people left me alone and figured things out for themselves.
  • Guess what? There were no disasters because I wasn't paying attention.

Of course, you can't spend your whole live on vacation. And it was easier to unplug in a week when everyone else also seemed to be doing so. But, I truly hope I'll be able to bring some of these lessons into real life.

When's the last time you tried unplugging, and what did you learn from it?

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