The one tiny life hack that's been crucial to my self-care routine
When we haven’t been at JFK airport, Washington D.C., or Battery Park chanting and bearing signs, we’ve been checking social media nearly 24/7, engaging in exhausting-but-necessary conversations with friends and loved ones, and calling our representatives to demand basic human rights like health care and public education.
This is, to put it lightly, a lot to add to one’s daily routine. Witnessing sexism, racism, xenophobia, and so on and so forth has been a small part of my life for years as a feminist-leaning internet writer, but open hatred has seemingly reached a fever pitch since it was normalized during Trump’s 2016 election. And it’s gotten a whole lot harder to deal with now that I’ve seen its growing power.
So while engaging in this political climate is 100 percent necessary, it’s also very mentally draining. Therapists nationwide are reportedly experiencing an uptick in politically stressed out clients, because spending so much time battling hatred and intolerance with seemingly no end in sight is — again — a lot.
(ASIDE: I realize that black people, trans people, and other minority groups have been dealing with this very same fatigue way, way longer than we relatively newly “woke” cisgender white folks. It isn’t remotely fair, and I’m sorry.)
Over the past week, as scarier and scarier news has continued to break, strengthening our resolve but also kinda-sorta-maybe breaking our spirits, only one thing has truly helped me cope. It’s a relatively simple so-called “life hack,” but it’s also extremely difficult for pretty much anyone born after 1982…
…You’ve got to put away your phones after work, guys. And I don’t mean this in a “social media is bad” kind of way, because social media can be powerful and truly awesome. I don’t mean put it one foot in front of you while you watch TV so you can keep absent-mindedly checking Tinder whenever your show gets boring for a second, either.
I mean physically put it in a different room, with the call-and-text volume on so when your crush finally texts you can answer (just kidding, make him wait), but you won’t be tempted to pick it up to check Twitter, Facebook, and the New York Times alerts incessantly once your disengagement period has begun.
For me, since my work day typically begins around 8 a.m., I aim to be active and online all day but 100 percent phone (but most importantly, internet)-free by 6 p.m. This gives me roughly five full hours of depressing news and hateful tweet-free bliss every night before bed, and thus far, it’s charged my proverbial batteries enough to put me back in the game the next morning, ready to read some news and make some phone calls.
Here are some things I have done in the past three days alone, with absolutely zero interference from my iPhone:
1. Completed three Jillian Michaels exercise videos in my living room — Hard Body, 30 Day Shred, and Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism. I don’t look like Natalie or Basheera from the videos yet, but give me time.
2. Made homemade soup from scratch for the first time ever. It was only okay.
3. Made pulled chicken tacos and Palomas for some friends, hosting a dinner party that, of course, ended up being a two-hour conversation about Trump.
4. Took two luxurious baths.
5. Finally finished reading All the Light We Cannot See, and watching Season 1 of MTV’s phenomenal Sweet/Vicious.
6. Reorganized my closet, got rid of old clothes, and actually drove them to Good Will immediately instead of storing them under my bed for an entire year.
7. Played with my cat.
I cannot stress enough how important being fully present for all of these menial tasks was for my self-care this god-awful week. Instead of glancing at my phone every 90 seconds — as we millennials are wont to do — I engaged in each and every little thing I was doing, and it was (sadly?) exhilarating.
(The above photo is of my brother and me, at dinner with friends, back in 2012. Our phones have changed; our habits have not.)
But most importantly, each time I unplugged, the next morning I felt better rested, and more able to engage with the scary things happening in the world around me.
Of course not everybody can abide by my post work day sayonara phone schedule, and not everybody has to. Some of you may only need a couple of hours per day to adequately recharge, and if so, more power to you.
And since in New York City at least, many post-work days have recently been full of activist meetings and marches, sometimes disengaging is a luxury we can’t afford.
But seriously — the days off matter, too. The self care matters, too, and that’s going to be an important part of all our daily routines in the years to come if we want to survive this.
Checking my phone first thing in the morning and right before bed got to be too much within a single freaking week of Trump’s presidency, and sadly, I don’t think this is going to get much easier anytime soon. So I’m glad I’ve picked up this little “life hack” to help me get through it stronger and smarter, and hope you’ll join me for a few hours of phone-free bliss for your sanity, too.
Only I’m not going to read about it. Because I won’t be on my phone.