A Digital Weekend Getaway

These past months have been filled with crippling anxiety and a rollercoaster of emotions. I wouldn’t expect any less after deciding to apply for a Master’s Degree overseas, being accepted, and everything that making such a change in my life entails. I’m thrilled over how things have turned out. However, there comes a point where it becomes too much to handle and I need to step away.

Lately, I have been in a destructive habit of checking my phone, especially my email (waiting for news of that scholarship), hundreds of times a day. It might even be thousands, I kid you not. The routine goes as follows: before, during, and after any activity insert: open phone, check gmail, check instagram, check outlook, check facebook, check youtube, check whatsapp, check pinterest and um… check one more thing. Close phone. Wait 2 seconds. Do it again.

It sounds terrible writing this but it’s the truth. If I am lucky to have a conversation with my friends or have something away from the screens that takes up my time (unexpected thing at work, running errands, you name it), I can focus momentarily on something else. But once I sit still… it goes all over again. Add to that the fact that I feel restless and I can’t sleep. It’s been a nightmare.

Long prelude to the actual blog post but here it goes. Last weekend I decided to take action and change things. I haven’t been able to focus on reading for a long time, and honestly, I’m mindlesly spending precious hours on nothing, and a certain nothing that makes me feel worse. So, for the entire weekend, I was going to block many apps on my phone, leaving only Facebook for communication with my boyfriend, Whatsapp for communication with my friends, Duoling for my Italian practice, and Scribd for reading. The only times I could check the other things were on my computer, but let’s be honest, they are far less appealing there and easier to forget.

With that in mind, I said goodbye to old habits on Friday, hello to a more relaxing weekend. Here’s what happened.

I woke up feeling hope. My sleep had been terrible yet again but at least I was onto the path to something. Since I haven’t been able to focus on books for a while, I downloaded an audiobook and got to it as soon as my urge “to check” something kicked in. It worked surprisingly well. I continued with my day as usual, listening to my book, writing notes on other things, and so on. I managed to finish it successfully and I’m looking forward to reading other things now. I researched about habit building and will try to apply those little changes in the future as well as in this challenge.

I worked on two blog posts, which was a new thing for me. I also managed to focus more while watching tv, without feeling the urge to dual screen (it’s a thing). I’m counting these as a wins and lights of hope to my long lost concentration.

On a side note, I tried to open my blocked apps 16 times. My app blocker shows the embarrassement of how automatic this habit has become. And that was only the times I was unconscious, let alone those times I actually stopped myself before launching the app. Let’s see how it goes tomorrow.

Today was much better. I started reading without further encouragement, as I used to do before the internet (and mainly the smartphone) took over my life. During my free time I read and immersed myself in the words, which had been a struggle for a while as I was constantly distracted. I went out with my mom and managed to focus fully on the conversation and be in the moment, same happened during my time with my bf. I didn’t feel the itch to check the apps I had blocked because I knew that it was impossible to do so. I felt calmer throughout the day and was able to plan for things I want to accomplish. I set out a schedule based on Atomic Habits by James Clear that I started following this week.

On Sunday I also began and finished another book! Albeit a short one but still. I reread Minimalism: Essential Essays by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (highly recommended).

This weekend experiment was just what I needed to channel my anxiety into something far more productive than checking email a thousand times. I definitely lost some of the urge to check social media; the email one is still there due to the catalyst of my anxiety but I’m sure that if I continue blocking the apps, I will eventually overcome it.

Published by Dany Szelsky

I worked as a TA at university from 2017-2018 teaching the seminars of Gothic Literature, Postmodernist Literature, and Modernist Literature. I worked from 2018-2019 as a High School Literature teacher with six groups on 10th grade and one in 12th grade. I taught 7 classes to over 180 students. I am currently studying an MA in English and American Studies at Ca' Foscari University of Venice.

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