Unplugged or Unglued

Like many women in their 40's, 50's and beyond, I am striving to remake my life. It's been a stressful time, but I endeavor to endure even when endurance isn't easy. Every day I wake and seek the positive, yet I'm saddened by the hate, discontent, rhetoric and violence of our current global climate pinging away on all of my devices.

Under peaceful circumstances, my own problems might seem insurmountable. Not so in these conditions. My dismantled life seems like the only thing I can put back together given enough time. It's the community, country and world that I live in today that appears to be impossible to fix. What will it take? And what can one person striving to repair their own life do to avoid being dragged down by all this misery?

For starters, unplug or come unglued.
I'm not suggesting that as a gender or a population, we turn a blind eye and ignore what's going on around us. I'm suggesting that, for a time, from time-to-time, we relearn how to live our own lives away from the onslaught of television, technology, streaming news, social media and unsolicited email. It's a whirlpool of negativity designed to either wind us up or suck us down.

For vulnerable women of an assured age who are working through tough life transitions, this climate is especially dangerous. Fear, anger, despair, pessimism are quick to take over, yet these very emotions gravely hinder our ability to overcome our own personal battles.

Moreover our current global reality isn't the only thing spinning our societies out of control. There is also the propaganda being thrown about. By definition, propaganda is deceptive or distorted information spread systematically, and social media is one hell of a system for it.

When we deny ourselves the ability to live our lives independent of technology, we deny ourselves the literal peace of mind that our brains and bodies need to function optimally despite the online rhetoric.

So, unplug or come unglued.
Our brains need time to process, to make determinations on which data to file, to act on, to respond emotionally to, and which data to cast out. By unplugging, we give ourselves and our brains a much needed break from the overwhelming influx of information. We give ourselves time to absorb and reflect.

Many researchers and experts studying the impact of technology on our brains recommend a periodic 24-hour tech detox. These same researchers have asked subjects to recall the last time they unplugged for a day. Not surprisingly, many don't remember. Hence the need.

In addition to the occasional detox, we need to find other ways to unplug even when technology is integral to our day. It is possible to diminish the negative impact it has on daily life.

First, don't turn it on!
Remember how happy we were as a kids to wake up and start the day? Let's do that instead of instantly engaging in technology. Get dressed, eat breakfast, brush our teeth and go outside. Face the day not our mobile phones, laptops or TVs. There's plenty of time for that after we've taken some time for ourselves.

Decide what's really needed from technology.
Just because we can have dozens of games and shopping apps downloaded, or read news from hundreds of news outlets doesn't mean we have to. We may have 57 shows (or more!) recorded on our DVRs, or follow the hundreds (or thousands!) of contacts in our social feeds, but there's no rule saying it's required. We can make informed choices to the contrary. For instance…

1) Only play games that entertain and train your brain. Put a limit on game playing such as 30 minutes daily.

2) Engage with one to three trusted news outlets for one hour or less each day… the amount of time once spent reading the newspaper.

3) Streamline your tech so that laptops, tablets and mobiles all provide the same functionality and work/interact on the move. Use cloud storage to the same end.

4) Clear your DVR. Ask yourself what you want from the shows you watch and scale back to only those that enrich your life. Use streaming services for further flexibility.

5) Limit your social media feeds to only those contacts that support your goals and enhance your life. Following everyone you're connected to simply isn't necessary. As well, limit the time you spend scrolling through your feed. You'll never look back on your life and wish you'd spent more time reading Twitter posts, so don't.

7) When the day is done, turn the laptop off. Shut the tablet down. And set the mobile aside for taking only personal calls in the evening. Do something unrelated to tech… cook, read, work out, visit friends, volunteer, get outside, etc.

6) Remove tech from the bedroom. No TV, no phone, no computers of any kind. You'll create a marvelously peaceful environment for uninterrupted sleep. (My sleep has changed so much for the better since doing this that I wish I'd done it years ago!)

Why does doing this matter?
For those of us women approaching or over 50 who are working to rebuild our lives, the tough life transitions that we must overcome require an energetic body and a clear, sharp mind. Technology's onslaught often deprives us the strength we need to move forward in our own lives much less in the service of others.

Choosing to walk away from things that are harmful to us is a healthy choice. As John Gapper points out in the Financial Times article How the World Became Hooked on Social Media, "The headlong rush into a digital future has brought anguish as well as enlightenment. It makes people seamlessly connected, better informed and able to achieve things that were unimaginable not long ago. But it has not made them happy."

But it has not made them happy.

By stepping away and minimizing our engagement with technology throughout the day, we allow our heart, mind and body to rejuvenate. We not only reclaim our mental independence and inner joy, we minimize the physical issues of technology overuse like text neck, smartphone blindness, stress exhaustion, phantom vibrations and screen syndrome. We retake control of how our time is spent. We are more productive because we are fresh, relaxed… we break the obsessive hold tech has on our lives. We become happier.

You can help. Leaping the Chasm is asking women of an assured age to help us understand the unique struggles and needs of this age group by answering ten anonymous questions. It's fast, it's easy and it's the first step toward developing solutions.

If you have a tough life transition story and want to share your experience with others or are willing to be interviewed for a column, please contact us. If you are a solution or service provider and would like LTC to review your offering, contact us to discuss.

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About Leaping the Chasm
Leaping the Chasm™ (LTC) provides candid conversations and social media engagement for women in their 40's, 50's and beyond who are undergoing the personal, physical, financial, education and employment transitions that often accompany mid-life. LTC shares experiences, transfers knowledge, improves outlook, connects people, and helps identify opportunities for this powerful demographic.

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