As if 2020 hasn’t been contentious enough, November’s general election — characterized by an agonizingly slow ballot-count and incessant political fire-stoking across the board — has wreaked havoc on the country’s collective mental health. Some have even coined this period of post-election exhaustion as an election hangover, complete with a throbbing headache, irritability, and constant fatigue. Sound like you? You may want to stop doomscrolling and start a digital detox.
A digital detox is exactly what it sounds like: taking time away from your digital devices, including your phone, tablet, and TV, to recharge and focus on the real world around you. Whether you take only a few hours, days, or even weeks to digitally detox, studies have shown that removing digital distractions can help foster heightened productivity and focus, better sleep, and lower anxiety levels. Our phones have become quite the “bad news box,” and especially during the vicious news cycle of election season, it’s imperative that we escape the glare of the screen to recharge.
Here are our tips for a successful post-election digital detox:
I. Delete your social media apps before bed.
There’s plenty of research out there that will tell you the same thing: logging off from social media (and screens in general) can help ease tension before bedtime, which also aids in falling asleep. Stressful information, whether it’s in the form of tweets, news articles or viral videos can hamper the body’s ability to peacefully doze off. Shutting down at least an hour before bedtime not only keeps that stressful information at bay, but also shields your eyes from the glare of the LED screen — another culprit of poor sleep quality.
II. Don’t read the news first thing in the morning.
Many people roll over and start scrolling the minute their alarm goes off in the morning. While that may help jolt the brain into alertness, it carries a negative side effect, too: early access to bad news sets a precedent for the day ahead. Rather than immediately jumping onto social media or the news app upon waking, try reaching for a book or listening to a (non-political) podcast instead.
III. Exercise to clear your mind.
We could go on about the benefits exercise has for the body, but it’s also a proven method for soothing the mind. Exercising makes it easier to shake off stress and anxiety, and it’s a great way to stay off your phone, too. Any form of exercise goes: whether you like walking around the neighborhood or running uphill sprints, a little boost of serotonin in the bloodstream goes a long way.
IV. Commit to real conversations.
So much of our communication today occurs over texts, emails and direct messages. When was the last time you called up a friend just to have a chat? Even though social distancing rules make it difficult to connect with our friends and family in person, a meaningful phone conversation (or perhaps some good old-fashioned letter writing) can be therapeutic for those who are stressed.
V. Try a mindfulness exercise.
Mindfulness empowers us with the ability to regulate our emotions. It’s the act of consciously focusing your mind in the present moment without judgment. You can do this using a variety of techniques such as yoga, meditation, sound baths, or simply going for a peaceful walk around the neighborhood. Please note: if you’re going on a solo walk and you’re not bringing your phone, tell a partner, roommate, friend or neighbor that you’re going and share your route beforehand so you stay safe.
VI. Get involved in your community.
There are tons of ways to get involved with causes you care about, and doing so will not only give you time away from your devices, but it can also help you feel a greater sense of purpose and connection to those around you. A quick Google search can yield plenty of information about local nonprofits, charities, or other organizations that would be glad to have your help. The era of COVID-19 has many people feeling somewhat helpless, but taking action, no matter how big or small, can help alleviate some of that helplessness and allow you to recharge.