How many of us spend at least a few hours a day staring at a screen? Screen time is becoming more common as the American workforce shifts from manual labor and trade-based occupations to automated and technologically-involved roles.
Movie nights, staying in touch, and smart home applications blur the line between down time and remaining connected. What used to be a way to relax is now an extension of a busy day. This constant digital stimulation keeps our minds “on,” though not necessarily focused or present.
Work & Play
Brian and I still struggle to find the balance between work and play. Truthfully, after spending about 10 hours plugging away on the computer, there are times that we find ourselves flipping on the TV to relax. How many of us do this? Whether it’s our phones, TVs, or game consoles, it’s easy to switch from one screen to another as we try to entertain ourselves in a low-effort, convenient way after a stressful work day.
What’s The Damage?
I tend to get really restless once I realize how much time I’ve spent in front of a screen. Between work and play, the hours pile up. Despite efforts to convince myself that I’m learning new skills and researching to my heart’s content, my strained eyes and (what feels like) a mushy, unfocused brain tell me I need a screen-free break.
Too much screen time makes me feel lethargic and unproductive. It can affect my motivation and sense of fulfillment. Despite being glued to my computer all day, there are times that I lay in bed at night and feel completely unaccomplished.
Electronic media and digital communication are literally at our fingertips. Our minds and bodies begin to react to the surplus of access and attention to screens throughout the day. We have normalized the overconsumption and dependency on media and screen time.
Excessive screen time can cause:
- Screen fatigue, including eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision
- Sedentary lifestyles that can lead to obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure
- Reduced cognitive awareness
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Anxiety and emotional distress
- Lack of fulfillment and motivation
Instead of allowing screens to dominate your after-hours, reclaim control of your time (and health). Why end a work day only to continue to be “on” and constantly stimulated? Downtime is essential. Your mind needs rest. Without it, you could be headed for burnout.
Screen-Free Rest & Relaxation
If you’re looking for ideas on how to grab some post-work, screen-free R&R, you’ve come to the right place. I tend to keep a running list of ways to disconnect. Some I’ve done, while others I’ve yet to do. Whether you’re unwinding alone or with your family, I hope you can take a break with these screen-free activities.
Create a Meal
Pull out an actual cookbook and try some recipes! Turn on the tunes, pour yourself a nice glass of whatever-your-jam-is, and get to cookin’. Split up the prep work between your family member(s) for a full-fledged team effort. If cooking isn’t your thing, try your hand at baking.
Solve a Puzzle
Spend some time putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle. Brainteasers, trivia, word games, and other board games are also fun to get into.
Take a Nap
Seriously, sometimes all you need is a good 30-minute nap for a solid reset.
Clean and Organize
While cleaning and organizing might not be relaxing for everyone, they can absolutely offer a productive outlet that realigns a distracted mind. Taking the time to clean and organize can leave you with a clean space, a clear mind, and a sense of relaxation.
Listen & Color
Listen to a podcast series or an audiobook (hey, library, you’re awesome!) while coloring. Coloring keeps your mind active enough to listen but not so active that it wanders.
Work It Out
Set aside the workout videos and hit the pavement instead. Take a walk, hike a mountain, or play a little neighborhood ball.
Meet with a Friend
When you’ve had a long day, sometimes all you really need is dinner with a friend. Whether you’re grabbing a meal or a cup of tea, chatting with a friend is a great way to de-stress.
Pick a new hobby or fall into an old favorite – knit, crochet, paint, draw, embroider, or model-build.
Eat and Be
Put your phone away, shut off the TV, and simply enjoy your meal.
Make a List
Many of us keep never-ending to-do lists on our phones. Tuck that phone away and take a little bit of “me” time after work. Write down a list of anything you want:
- Dream trips
- Books you want to read
- Next-day tasks
- Specific goals you want to accomplish
- Restaurants or recipes you want to try
- Things you need to remember to do by the end of the week
Physically writing down a list can help you feel organized and relaxed.
Indulge in Silence
Try spending an hour in complete silence. If you find that you enjoy it, you might consider trying it for a whole night. A quiet evening can be the best kind of relaxation. Sometimes, the world gets so noisy that you don’t really know how you’re actually feeling or what you’re thinking until you find silence.
Read a Book
Read something you are actually interested in reading! This is the best trick to finding something you can enjoy getting lost in. If you have the freedom to dive into a book after your work day, try it out. It’s an underrated luxury.
Take a Long Drive
Hit the road – outside of rush hour, that is! Switch off your GPS and get a little lost. Blast the radio and take a drive through the countryside.
Meditation is different for different people. How do you feel connected to yourself and your own thoughts – sans screens? I personally love periods of complete silence.
Additional ways to practice mindful meditation include:
- Simply lying or sitting
- Spending time in a “green space” or around plants
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Breath awareness
- Intentional yoga sequences
Mindful meditation offers an intentional pathway to thought, focus, and energy. It reduces stress and provides clarity and direction.
Take a Break
Life moves quickly. It’s a non-stop sequence of noise, adventure, and lessons learned. When our work days spill into our off-hours, how can we craft a healthy and well-rounded presence for ourselves or our families?
Screens have become a 24/7 focus in our society. From computers to smartphones and TVs, we are constantly surrounded by noise. It is so easy to go from screen, to screen, to screen as we venture through our days. Our mornings begin with e-mail check-ins and work duties and evolve into quick texts, YouTube videos, and then a TV show or movie night. Suddenly, our day is gone in a blink of an eye.
I used to answer e-mails all throughout the night. It was a horrible habit; I previously worked with international clients, and I thought it was best to resolve all issues as quickly as I could. This meant that I rarely disconnected. I tuned into my phone and my laptop on days off, in the middle of the night, and on vacation. Taking a break is vital; at least it was for me. I needed to refocus and adjust my priorities.
I learned how important it was for me to disconnect. Every person is different. If you think you would benefit from less screen time, I hope you found this post valuable.
What are some of your favorite screen-free ways to relax?