Ever feel fatigued from being “on” all the time — constantly connected, constantly accessible, constantly on-call as a mom, spouse or partner, friend, sister, daughter, and/or coworker? These days even Siri and Alexa can nag you. Your Air Tag can track you. Technology has made life more convenient and infinitely harder at the same time. That’s why we could all use a day (or several) to go “off the grid.”
“Off the grid” is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “not using or depending on public utilities, especially the supply of electricity.” While living in the woods without any power would certainly give you a break, this is not a realistic option for most of us. According to the Urban Dictionary, “off the grid” means “unrecorded, untraceable by normal means.” Interestingly, if you omit the “the,” “off-grid” takes on a slightly different meaning: “cutting off all contact via internet and phone with friends and family for an allotted amount of time.”
What I’m suggesting is finding some time to experience a state somewhere in between these two Urban dictionary definitions. In other words, devote time to make yourself less recorded, less traceable, less accessible “by normal means”– in other words, metaphorically disappear, but in plain sight.
As parents and professionals with endless obligations, this might sound ludicrous or impossible to consider, or even selfish. It’s not. In fact, it’s probably just what the doctor ordered– for your mental health.
How to Go “Off the Grid”
Make the time
Figure out the best time for your break. For example, to disconnect effectively, you probably can’t be at work. Can you make your break work on the weekend, or do you need to schedule time off? Are there obligations you (happily) need to cancel– appointments, birthday parties, etc? Also, how long will you make yourself unavailable– one hour, one full day, or more? Even going off the grid for just 10 minutes shows benefits.
Ask for support if needed
Once you’ve chosen your time, you’ve most likely realized you need others to step up (or maybe step out) to make this happen. Maybe your spouse or partner needs to run some errands and bring the kids. Maybe you need someone to cover for you at work. Maybe your parents, in-laws, or friends can assist. Whoever it is, be sure to thank them, and better yet, offer to return the favor by helping them achieve some off-grid time in the near future.
Make a plan
What will you do, once you are off the grid? For me, my “off” time usually involves a nap
and reading. Sometimes pajamas all day, or catching up on the latest Dateline NBC. Other times, a run or a walk (where I don’t actually talk to anybody). On the rare occasion, I’m home completely alone, sometimes I just listen to the uncommon stillness and breathe. No matter what, I try to steer clear of my car, cell phone, Apple Watch, and social media. Chores get done only if they’re urgent. The real urgency is this much-needed reset.
Once you emerge back into “normalcy,” take some time to reflect on how your break went. What was most restorative? What could be better next time? (Because yes, this is the first of many regular off-grids you will do!) Keep a running list of things that bring you peace. Also, look for patterns. When do you find yourself needing breaks the most? When is a re-set most helpful? For me, I crave a few hours of off-grid time on Saturday afternoons (or Sundays, especially during those endless football playoff games). I tell my husband and kids I’m resting, close my bedroom door, and read, nap, or journal. If the work week arrives on Monday and I didn’t get this off-grid time, I feel it, and it sits with me like a heavy lump throughout the week.
Isn’t this the same as “Me Time?”
Yes and No: Off-the-grid time is always “me time,” but me time isn’t necessarily off the grid. For example, sometimes my me time is enjoying a book club social gathering with friends, wine, and snacks. Off-the-grid time usually involves little social contact. Sometimes my me time is ten minutes of Tik Tok to decompress; off-the-grid time means staying away from technology. But if your me time is a quiet bath, nap, or isolated yoga session, then that would also be considered off the grid. Does it ultimately matter? Yes and no: We all need time off grid, and we all need me time. If you can achieve both at once, cool. If not, make sure you also find time to schedule a fast from constant connectedness to the outside world.
What’s the point? (Why should I bother?)
Going off-grid (for even short periods of time) has proven to lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep patterns, and also give you… perspective. Gratitude and appreciation for the people and places that bring you joy in this life can be deeply felt when you’re left to your own thoughts, without constant interruptions. As I exit my weekly off-grid siesta, I feel wrapped in calm, eager to interact with my family with a much less cluttered, overwhelmed brain. Things that were once blurry come into focus; anxious tremors quiet their storm. Going off the grid is a way to return to “baseline” — a way to shut out the noise of everyday life and find yourself again. Some may say it’s a necessary starting over, others might say it’s like coming home.
Do yourself a favor and try to find some “off-grid” time in the next week. For those of you that have already tried, what’s your favorite way to disconnect?
*”Baseline” is the term my therapist uses to refer to a rested state of being– an equilibrium of self. When you’re constantly stressed, it feels nearly impossible to come back to “baseline,” or to find your center. Going off-grid can really help with this. Think of it like restarting a computer, or starting with a clean slate.