Disconnecting Can Be Healthy—Here's Why
Try to see working from home as an opportunity.
Disconnecting can be tough under the best of circumstances, but it can be downright stressful if you feel as though it’s being forced on you. While many of us are stuck at home and refraining from social gatherings, it can be daunting to consider any amount of self-improvement in addition to the already-challenging lifestyle changes. That said, while we have the time to reflect and disconnect (and not panic!), we might as well take advantage of it. I spoke with Tess Brigham, a therapist and career coach, to get some important tips for disconnecting with intention and purpose—even if it’s not ideal.
“With so many people working from home and everyone canceling plans, people have this unique opportunity they may never get again,” Brigham said. “The opportunity to be still, to listen to their own thoughts and to really reflect upon what is important to them.”
Brigham explained that she once worked at an inpatient drug and alcohol facility that required its patients to turn in their cell phones. They also had limited television and phone time, and only saw their families and friends once a week. While this is an extreme example, it’s what the patients took away from the experience that’s important. They were always, at first, annoyed, Brigham told me.
“Then they would finally let go and realize how attached they were to people and things that were hurting them and keeping them stuck in their lives,” Brigham said. “The time away allowed them to see relationships in a new light and allowed them to listen to their own thoughts as opposed to other people's expectations.”
While we’re obviously not cutting off all of our social interactions—nor should we—this is a good example of the value that we could take away from this time.
"Between the internet and social media, we get people's thoughts and opinions coming at us 24/7 and this ‘white noise’ drowns out our own thoughts and beliefs,” Brigham said. “Being able to step away from your friends, family, office and commitments will allow you to think about what is important to you: Which people do you miss, what aspects of your job do you miss and which parts of your day do you miss?”
Look, I get it, these feelings are tough. But you have to admit, it is an opportunity to focus that is as unique as it is inconvenient. Brigham urges people to take this opportunity to look inward: “Spend some time everyday journaling about what this experience is like for you and what you're learning about yourself,” she said. “Spending time in nature and the outdoors has been shown to increase a person's sense of well-being and happiness, so if you're able to get out of the city or even go on a walk in the park every day, I highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity.”
And while feelings of loneliness are normal and inevitable, Brigham encourages people to challenge themselves when these emotions arise. Try to ask yourself if it’s because you’re just bored or restless. Most of all, she doesn’t want people to judge themselves for feeling lonely.
“If you do feel lonely, feel the feelings and see what's past that feeling of loneliness,” Brigham said. “We’re far more resilient than we think we are so, when you start to feel lonely, allow yourself to cry and be sad and then see how you feel. The best way to manage your emotions is by accepting how you feel.”
Finally, it’s O.K. to put up some boundaries. If you don’t want to have video chats with friends every day, that’s all right. If you do, that’s O.K. too; just make sure you know that it’s all right if you want to let people in your life know that you’re taking some time for yourself.
“In order to better understand ourselves and make good decisions so we can create the lives we desire, we have to go inward,” Brigham said. “We think the answers are outside of ourselves, but they really are always inward. Disconnecting is the best way to quiet all the other outward voices and listen to that inward voice. It's that voice (your instincts) that will tell you what you really want.”