What. Is. Even. Happening?
I mean, first it was those terrible fires in Australia. Then we nearly had WWIII. Then there was that global pandemic, and finally, sweeping (hopefully) social change. And what about the murder hornets? And it’s only June!! To say that 2020 will go down in the history books as a year of notoriety is an understatement.
It’s enough to make you want to crawl into bed and stay there, curled up in a ball under the covers.
All these world events, but especially the Coronavirus, have dramatically changed how we live our lives. Most of us, if we still managed to keep our jobs (I have, thank Dog), are working or schooling from home. If your job was affected by the pandemic, you’re probably freaking out over money, although here in Canada, steps have been taken to ensure no one goes broke. Our way of life is totally different now than it was a few months ago. We can’t go to restaurants, socialize, meet friends. Those are all things of the past for the foreseeable future, unless those people are “in your bubble.”
With the majority of people working from home right now, as well as trying to homeschool at the same time, unable to get to the gym, and anxiety levels at an all-time high, I thought it might be a good time to write a post about digital self-care in these (oh how I am sick of this phrase) unprecedented times.
I interviewed Angela Crocker, author of Digital Life Skills for Youth (2019), Digital Legacy Plan, (co-written with Vicki McLeod, 2019), Declutter Your Data (2018), and The Content Planner (2017), and Vicki McLeod, author of Effective Communication at Work (2020), You and the Internet of Things (2020), and Untrending (2016), about some things we should all be doing right now in terms of our digital self care.
Boundaries: we all know that the basis of good self-care begins with boundaries. The problem is, when your home is also your office, those boundaries tend to blur. So, of course if you can have a dedicated space for your “office,” that’s the best option, but even if your office is your dining room table, you can still create digital boundaries.
Because we are working globally right now, time of day has become relatively meaningless. Turn off your audible notifications, except for the most important ones, and monitor your screen time, advises Vicki. Realistically speaking, it’s difficult to focus and get tasks done if you’re constantly being interrupted by your phone. Or it’s difficult to relax if your work is constantly infringing on your personal time. Take advantage of features on your phone like Do Not Disturb mode. This keeps your phone silent, but allows for important calls to come through (like your kids for example).
Another option says Angela, is to have dedicated devices for specific tasks. So computer is for work, but the tablet can be for fun and entertainment.
Monitor Response Time: It’s tempting to respond to messages and emails immediately all the time, as everyone seems to be online all the time, Angela adds. But it’s okay to not respond to things right away. Again, distraction is your enemy here. Create an autoresponder on your email that says you check email twice a day and will respond at that time to manage sender’s expectations.
Gloom and Doom: at the beginning of the pandemic, in March and April, I was watching the news 2 or three times a day. I’d watch it in the morning when I got up, at noon and then again at 5 pm. That need for information came from a place of anxiety. I wanted to know what was going on all the time so that I could be informed, and prepare if need be. But there is also such a thing as information overload. Watching the news, monitoring twitter, monitoring news sources, seeing what people are posting on Facebook… they all can just get to be too much. Vicki suggests choosing 2 or 3 trustworthy sources of news and monitoring them exclusively, and then only once or twice a day. It’s important to be informed, but you don’t need to send yourself into a whirlwind, either.
Pressure to Post: During #BlackOutTuesday, i was feeling a lot of pressure to post my support of the Black Lives Matter campaign. Online sources were saying that silence meant complicity and I didn’t want people to think I was racist. But by the same token, I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, I didn’t want to post something and then cause damage because the thing I said wasn’t phrased right or communicated the wrong sentiment. It was a very uncomfortable place to be in.
One thing to be aware of is that much of social media is what is defined as performative, says Vicki. If you think about what we post online, it’s often a version of us we want people to believe is us, rather than the real us. Real online vulnerability is rare. So there is a lot of pressure to perform in a way society (or our echo chamber) wants us to. In the case of #BLM, this was a good thing, I think, but overall, especially if you are a business, I think it’s a good idea to take a step back and think before you post. There were many, many examples of companies that posted support for Black Lives Matter, but then were called out for hypocrisy. They felt the pressure, and they toed the line, but it ultimately caused way more damage.
Pivot Your Content: if you are a business, how do you adapt your brand to a global crisis? The number one rule is this: you must never seem to be profiting from other people’s suffering. Remember those guys that bought up all the hand sanitizer and were selling it at a huge profit? Nobody liked those guys.
Think about how you can help your audience, rather. Can you pivot the kind of content you are posting online to help your audience, while still remaining true to your brand?
The Zoom Fatigue is so real: I mean, thank goodness for video conferencing software. It has kept us connected to family, friends and work during a time when it’s not safe for us to meet face to face. But holy crap, 6 video conferences in one day will take all the wind out of your sails! Try to keep your zoom calls to the absolute minimum, see if you can solve problems via phone calls or emails if possible.
Get out of the house: one thing that’s helped maintain my sanity over the last few months is getting out for a daily walk if possible (I live in rainy Vancouver, so it wasn’t always), and in nature, again, if possible. Physical activity and air and sunshine and trees are so important for your brain and your mood.
Finally, the most important self-care tip of all is to be gentle with yourself. have compassion for yourself, and be aware of what’s going on for others as well. For me, my first semester teaching entirely online is over, but it was really stressful dealing with technology and trying to figure out how to teach classes I normally teach F2F through a video/online format. I kept having to remind myself I was doing the best I could. And you have to keep reminding yourself that, too.
Realistically, the world changed in a massive way a few months ago, and it’s okay to feel that, to take the time to grieve it. Our old lives are gone. And I get that, to some degree, of course we need to move on, take care of business, address the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. But as time goes on, I’m seeing more and more opportunities for change. The self-reflection or introspection that’s been happening during these times and our ability to be resilient and face the future has definitely been the sliver lining to this really difficult time.