Unplugging & Anxiety

I was intrigued by the comments to a LinkedIn News survey that stated more people are less likely to unplug this holiday season. I mean, I get it. We have little to no boundaries these days between home and work, some of us are scared of losing our jobs so in turn we work harder and longer, and given recent layoffs at many companies, those still in the 'office' have been left to pick up the excess work. It's tough and the thought of unplugging, clearly, is not an option.  

I've always believed in the power and necessity of restorative breaks, even during the workday, so for me, regardless of my endless inbox, I will plan to unplug. I know it's good for me. But just because I unplug, it doesn't mean my mind isn't thinking about that 1st day back at work and everything that I'll need to get done. It doesn't mean I'm not fretting over something urgent that may pop into my inbox while I'm out that needs my attention and because I'm not there, the world will implode.   Just because I unplug it does not mean I am restoring. And therein lies my aha moment when I saw the chart below by @honestlyholistic.

Some of my tendencies around work are perhaps not in fact caused by work but deeply rooted in my anxiety. What I would add to the bottom of this listed is: "Connected" - "If I unplug, there will be a catastrophe." 

My husband and I hosted a New Years party last year (remember parties? Those were fun) and I remember talking excitedly to our guests about my New Years resolutions. If I talked about them openly, it made me feel more accountable, and more likely to succeed.  They included:

1. 90 Days of No Alcohol
2. Call someone once a week
3. Be less ignorant, get involved in ACLU and Global Citizen
4. Drink 1/2 gallon of water every day
5. Gratitude journal every weekday

I also journaled about my progress, checking dates off, listing those that I placed phone calls to, adding smiley faces every time I hit a milestone. What I started to notice is that these resolutions were also the catalyst to other healthy habits that I hadn't intended to start. 
I began to sleep better, eat better, move my body more, have more energy, be more present, connect more with others, and overall just feel on top of the world.  I wrote notes in my journal like, "Day 45, living my best life! You got this girl",   "Day 70 - You are a star, Lauren!".  

My 90 days of No Alcohol turned into 110 and I meant to keep going, but anyway, you know what happened in March/April of 2020 and my resolutions slowly dissolved into a thing of the past - like parties and hugs.  

But a great lesson emerged for me from that 110 days of glory: when I take care of my anxiety, everything else gets better. My resolutions were fundamentally about my mental health, not my waist line. If you asked me to unplug from work on Day 20 or Day 90, I would've done so without any regret or feeling of remorse and guilt. So OF COURSE no one can unplug right now.  We have not been taking care of ourselves. I drink wine every night, I've already unsubscribed to ACLU, I sleep with my phone 2 inches from my pillow. The problem is not that work is piling up, the problem is that I've slipped back into old habits that don't serve my anxiety. And they never did.

I will say that I've continued the gratitude journaling and it has become an ingrained habit that I enjoy. It's an easy task that gives me a sense of accomplishment and reminds me of my blessings, however small they may be.  

Unplugging is not just about turning down your computer and going for a walk. If you want to reap the true benefits of it, you need to take care of your mental health. Talk to your manager about why you truly feel like you can't unplug. Talk to a therapist, talk to your doctor! It may not be just because the work is piling up but because your anxiety is getting in the way of you living your life. If you're a leader, try to understand what's driving certain behaviors and offer your support and empathy. Life is hard right now but for me, I feel my grace period is coming to an end, and I look forward to getting back on track and taking care of the root cause of every other issue I have, and for me, that's my anxiety. 

(Credit: High Functioning Anxiety: www.honestlyholistic.com / Credit: @LinkedInNews)


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