How to switch off in the 21st Century

How to disconnect

Being a freelancer certainly has its perks; you can work from home, choose your own hours, and take time off whenever you feel like it.  But every rose has its thorn, and when your office is also your living room it can be very difficult to disconnect from work and give yourself some much needed quiet time.  None of this is helped by the fact that we live in a time when virtually all of us have access to pocket computers more powerful than the one that got NASA to the moon!


So, with the sunny season now upon us, how can you block out the world of emails, screens, and technological machines and officially switch off?

Food is the way to any man’s stomach stress-free life

In 2018, over half a million people in the UK were diagnosed with stress-related illnesses, and just last month the World Heath Organisation updated the definition of the term burnout to an ‘occupational phenomenon resulting from chronic workplace stress’. That’s a far cry from its original colloquial meaning of the comedown from a drug-induced high (and if there’s a better way to show how much the world has changed since the 1970s I haven’t found it)!


One of the main symptoms of burnout is prolonged exhaustion, when even a good night’s rest won’t do you any good, which is largely the result of long, uninterrupted hours in the office and a job that requires you to be “always on”.


Now, as easy as it is for me to help you solve this problem by saying, ‘Get a new job,’ we all know that’s not practical, but you can help yourself immensely by incorporating a healthy lifestyle into your working day.  This doesn’t mean going on the latest fad diet or skipping breakfast; on the contrary, starting the day with a good breakfast is essential if you want enough energy to get you through to lunch. Even if you don’t have time for a sit-down around the breakfast table with the family (although this would be best), why not pre-prepare a smoothie the night before to take with you on your morning commute?  This recipe from the British Heart Foundation is delicious, has lots of banana (the ultimate energy fruit), yoghurt (“healthy bacteria”) and milk (so you grow big and strong), and will fill you up enough to ensure you don’t feel the need to snack on crisps and sweets halfway through the morning.


You might still have a long shift ahead of you, but eating better for every meal of the day will give you the energy you need to work hard without burning yourself out.


Social media is like a box of chocolates

It’s the age old film trope; your main character is feeling down, she’s probably broken up with her boyfriend, or, more likely, he’s broken up with her, and so she’s sat in her living room watching soppy movies and eating chocolate, because that’s what makes her feel better.  Of course, what Hollywood doesn’t show you is the sugar crash she’ll have in a few hours, the one which will leave her feeling worse than before.


These days, instead of turning to chocolate, more often than not we turn to social media.  We rant and we rave and we post moody-looking selfies with captions about how he doesn’t know what he’s missing.  Shortly after, if we’re lucky, we’ll get a few likes, a few heart emojis and perhaps the odd ‘You go, girl’. With every one, we might feel that short rush of joy because someone cares, but, if we’re being honest, it doesn’t really help.  And what happens when we don’t get any replies?  Well, it only makes us feel worse.  In fact, a few years back, the University of Michigan did a study which determined that people’s moods often declined after using Facebook, and just last year a different survey found a third of teenagers are quitting social media, with 41% claiming it contributed to poor mental health.


So, the next time you’re choosing filters on Instagram or checking in on Facebook when you’re feeling glum, maybe take a moment to think again.


Arachnophobia, claustrophobia…nomophobia?

For me it’s moths, for others it’s heights, or birds, or clowns, but there’s a new phobia on the block that’s fast becoming one of the most widespread fears of them all: the fear of being without a phone.  In fact, this new phobia, known as nomophobia, is becoming such a problem that its symptoms include phantom vibration syndrome (PVS), where the brain misinterprets itching on the upper leg for a phone vibrating in the pocket. Yes really.


At the end of the day, there’s only one sure-fire way to cure this phobia, and that’s to turn it off.  This might seem terrifying to some, but even the busiest of us don’t need to be connected every minute of every hour of every day.  So, be strict! If your phone is your crutch, start off by spending an hour a day without it; perhaps leave it in the other room whilst having dinner or go for a walk without taking it with you.  You’ll probably start off feeling naked and vulnerable, but that hour will get easier and, before you know it, two hours will have passed, and then three, and then four, until eventually you’ve gone one whole day free from its temptation.  That might seem unimaginable right now, especially if you’re one of the 90% who suffer from PVS, but there was a time before phones, and, shock horror, we did survive! All you have to do is turn it off.


10 simple ways to disconnect

1. Give your phone to a friend or family member and tell them to not give it back until after a set time.


2. Download a website blocker for your internet browser that allows you to block websites of your choice for a period of time, and use it to block Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.


3. When working from home, define the hours in a day when you’re “at work”, and do not work outside of those times.


4. Set up an email address specifically for work emails, and only check it during work hours.


5. If you don’t need to check work emails away from your desk, don’t add that email address to your phone inbox.


6. Don’t keep your phone by your bed whilst you sleep; even just placing it across the room will stop you checking it if you wake up in the night.


7. Ban phones at meal times; it’s basic manners and you can, you know, talk to people instead!


8. Instead of playing games on your phone, read or take up a new hobby that keeps your hands busy.


9. Take a holiday; even if you don’t leave the country or perhaps even leave your house, make sure you book yourself some time off away from work.  If you haven’t had a holiday in over a year, go and book some time off now!


10. For the strongest of souls amongst you, when you do go away on a holiday, leave your phone behind.  Go on, be brave, you’ve got this!



Written by Transcriber Lydia

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