Wellbeing: Have you been thinking more about screen-free self-care?

Let us help you plan your screen-free self-care

Are you worried about the amount of time you spend sitting, looking at screens, or in the social media / email “checking loop”? Would you like help to have a break for some screen-free self-care? Mon May 3rd – 9th 2021 is International Screen-Free Week, so what better time to challenge yourself? You might not manage a whole week, but perhaps I can help you to achieve a couple of days with my pdf of ideas and timetable below! It can be done with children or without, you just need to think ahead about suitable activities.

Many people have told me they’re concerned about their own habits, and I think that whether  there’s a pandemic or not it’s good to be aware of your own usage and when it might be affecting you negatively – or recognise  that it could be and you don’t know it so there’s nothing to lose! I think it’s better to be on the safe side and make time for screen-free activities. Some younger people may have families who encourage screen-free time, and anyone like me over a certain age will remember a time when screen time was the minority of the day, other activities were more readily available and using screens wasn’t second nature, the go-to thing, or sometimes even painful to be away from!

Is it all bad? Why do we do it?

It’s not all negative and digital obviously has its positives, benefits and usefulness. How many of us wondered if the pandemic might have had a much worse impact if it had happened 30, 40 or 50 years ago? I’m thinking Netflix, Zoom,

human connection, takeaways… I like my work which is mostly online or computers, and phones help me on a daily basis with my everyday life tasks and enable all kinds of activities, but there comes a point when I think it’s just too much. Take for example even just not having my phone in the room for a few minutes, I find myself thinking of things and reaching for it, only to realise it’s not there and how much I depend on it now… I also find myself regularly stuck in the aforementioned phone checking / checking loop – one reason might be because of the dopamine it releases and the learned behaviours it fulfils in a tiny way each time. So don’t feel too bad, for social media at least, addiction is apparently part of its design and screen-free self-care becomes a real must of modern life!

So if we really are addicted, shouldn’t we try to be aware of any impact it has on us and our children, and build in past times that counteract any negative impact? I think that as well as alternating screen time with exercise, sports and going outside, we all need complete screen / social media breaks once in a while – even if you have to force yourself. I will admit I found it very hard when we did 2 whole days over Easter, but one way to help it run more smoothly is planning ahead! It’s best to keep “busy”, so lots of ideas in case you lose interest in something. Go-to activities are key to a successful screen-free self-care day or two (or longer if you can!) Digital can even help you to prepare!

When you start planning, think about:

  • How long you think you could go screen-free. Be realistic but aim for at least a day if you can! If you did 2 at home in the holidays, could you then add a 3rd for a hike or day out and resolve only to use your phone for calls, photos and maps?
  • Perhaps set aside 2 future days / dates. We did 2 days and the feeling of wanting to do something screen-related was getting a bit more noticeable on the evening of day 2. Perhaps that is addiction! Maybe there’s a point I would’ve gotten used to it eventually. Also I just had a feeling that I really needed/wanted to do certain things that involve screens, but that could be addiction too. 
  • Clearing your work diary can help too.
  • What do you like on screens that come in other formats – eg games, art?
  • Do you have any hobbies or have you stopped one you used to enjoy?
  • What haven’t you done for a while that you used to enjoy? 
  • Have you always wanted to try something?
  • Think about your normal routine, what might replace something naturally? Eg a podcast replaces TV. What different genres might you find for different moods or times of day?
  • Be aware of your daily mood changes and potential triggers – eg usually watching tv over breakfast, a film of an evening, fomo!
  • If you need access to your mobile because of emergencies, try turning push notifications off (you may not even want to go back!) and take it off silent. Keep it generally out of reach though.

Ideas for things to do

You might have your own ideas for activities in each section, but here are some things to get you thinking:

Listening, learning
  • Podcasts, audiobooks, interviews, radio shows egs documentaries, quizzes or sitcoms, music
  • Books and lists such as “Me, You, Us” that you can do together, massage, talking, campfire songs and marshmallows.

  • Painting, collage, mindful art, stop motion animation (might need a screen but don’t be tempted to check!), Arc has produced loads of free creative activities here.
  • Housework, tidying the garden, gardening, finally sorting that drawer of stuff!

  • Jigsaws, board games like Cluedo or family games, music-making, other games like twister or outdoors like croquet
  • Enjoying or learning a skill like guitar or knitting, or something specific you prepare in advance like an Arduino
Alone Time
  • Learning something, meditation, reading, birdwatching, star/cloudgazing, singing in the shower, good old fashioned thinking!
  • Walking, swimming, outdoor activities, exercise and sports

10 things I learned during my 2 screen-free self-care days

  1. I didn’t miss social media as much as I thought, and have taken FB off the homescreen permanently so it’s harder to check it.
  2. My boyfriend and I were able to create interesting memories, reminisced and talked about new and interestingthings.
  3. I want to make time for other things more regularly during the week, there are apps that can even help with that, setting reminders etc.
  4. We have a book called “Me, You, Us” which asks us to reflect on our friendship. You could buy the book or find a website with similar sheets to print or copy out to fill in. Try image searching “Me You Us Book” on Google. I think it brought us closer together. 
  5. It frees up time when you’re not so distracted or flitting between things, which helped my concentration and would probably help burnout. I think it’s important to make time for yourself like that, and long term it’s better for work life anyway.
  6. Our eyes thanked us for the break!
  7. We tried a variety of new things that we might not have had we just stayed on Netflix.
  8. It was quieter, and less of the senses being bombarded.
  9. Motivation to do housework increased….
  10. I became more aware of my triggers, emotions and issues.

I hope you have a great couple of days!

Arts for Wellbeing in Stockport

Lucie Fitzpatrick
Marketing Officer, Arc
April 27th 2021