The Importance of Disconnecting From Your Routine
“I like camping…not all of it, just most of it. It’s a lot harder to make our food and we have to sleep on the ground. But I didn’t miss having my phone with me the entire time!” – My 12-yo
My oldest (who identifies as nonbinary) commented that to me after our most recent camping trip. They clearly saw the benefits of it: being in nature the entire time, with family and with friends, has a ton of benefits that are hard not to feel. They were (reluctantly) afforded a phone for their first year of middle school, so naturally it’s with them at most times.
But there was no desire to pick it up while kayaking, eating smores, or just exploring.
I agree with all of their observations (add to that for adults: not showering as one of the major drawbacks of camping). And yet we only did it for 48 hours because it is generally inconvenient.
What a condundrum.
All of the creature comforts we take for granted (running water, soft beds, refrigerators, ovens, and chiefly, our devices) do what they are intended to do: make our lives easier. Yet we seem to pay a tax for that comfort.
It is not hard to imagine why we have a mental health crisis in this country. As our lives become “easier” than they were for our ancestors, they somehow have become challenging in entirely different ways.
We look to fill time in other ways not necessarily in our own best interest.
Generally, we work more and resort to mindless entertainment in the form of social media. (I believe the right kind of entertainment is essential, but not the kind most people seek on their phones.)
My therapist insists I should be taking an annual sabbatical lasting AT LEAST 3 WEEKS (I’ve done pretty well this year, though the weeks were never continuous).
This will mean different things for different people, but the net result should be: disconnection from your regular routine.
While camping offers no surer way to do that, it is not for everyone and it is quite challenging. But the goodness it offers can be replicated if we so choose and can be integrated into any regular day.
Here are three simple ways to practice the art of disconnecting:
- Travel. I received good advice years ago which went something like this: if you have a small pot of money to spend on travel vs home improvements, always choose to travel. Travel has a way of reorienting us by disconnecting us from the routine, from the familiar. It does not have to be a grand vacation to a foreign country, just something to allow you to break away for a bit.
- When you travel, unplug yourself — for real. If you have to remove Slack or email from your phone, so be it. I like to leave a simple “text me if urgent” OOO response on email, as people will generally not message you via text unless it’s truly necessary. And those who really need me know they can reach me if needed.
- Get into nature as often as possible — even if it’s just a simple walk for 20 minutes — it will make a big difference for you.
My sense is people are taking this more to heart these days i.e. after the height of the pandemic and I am here to gently remind us all: it really works!
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