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This article first appeared in Digital Edge, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on January 23, 2023 - January 29, 2023

“Hey Siri, play I’m So Excited by The Pointer Sisters.”

Dec 20, 2022, was the last official working day for me last year, meaning I had two whole weeks to do anything I wanted. The goal, however, was to properly unwind so that I was physically and mentally prepared to face the new working year.

Several days into my Christmas break, I was still feeling groggy and tired. I chalked it down to the pre-Christmas preparations that were going on at home. But Christmas Day came and went and I still felt mentally drained the day after.

From then on, I was on a mission to make sure that I was physically and mentally relaxed to face the mountain-high workload that was waiting for me on Jan 3, 2023. Days passed, and yet, I still found it difficult to shut off my mind completely.

I tried binge-watching Netflix, listening to podcasts, doing some embroidery work, reading a book and even re-listening to Stephen Fry read the Harry Potter books to me, but nothing worked. During all my go-to unwinding activities, I found my mind consciously and unconsciously wandering to that pile of work.

One day, I decided to finish an ongoing embroidery project. I had quite a ways to go before completion, which meant that I needed to give it my full attention. Since both my parents were home, I put my phone on silent and kept it far away from me.

I instinctively reached for my phone from time to time to check in on Instagram or to check in on several ongoing quests I have on my mobile games. For a couple of hours, I had to train myself to resist the urge to get up and get my phone and focus on the project at hand.

Admittedly, for the first few hours, I felt a little bit lost knowing that my phone was not next to me and I kept wondering whether I had missed any important calls, messages or emails. It was then that I realised I had created a rather unhealthy relationship with my phone. Although it serves me well in my daily life, I needed to learn how to disconnect from it (and subsequently, the digital world) when I have no need for it.

I continued to do the same routine over the next few days — I kept my phone in my room, set up my embroidery station in the hall in front of the television, put on a show on Netflix (it was The Big Bang Theory on repeat for the umpteenth time) and got to embroidering.

There were only three days left before I had to go back to work, but the digital disconnect during those few days helped me unwind much more than I did over the weeks before.

As a tech writer, it’s easy to think that I need to constantly be connected to the digital world, but the reality is that at the end of the day, I’m only human and once in a while, it’s good to disconnect from electronics and reconnect with the physical, human side of me.

“Hey Siri, play I Want to Break Free by Queen on Spotify.”

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