Over the summer of 2016, there were several shootings throughout the US and international terrorist incidents. And they happened one right after the other. As the media coverage increased, it became harder and harder for me to focus on my work as posts, alerts, and messages kept popping up in platforms and tools, and on digital devices.
Then one day, a shooting had gone live and instantly went viral. I completely broke down at my laptop. I then realized I had to get out, so I put on my sneakers and went on a really long walk in Portland’s Washington Park. I cried through most of it. Strangers gave understanding looks and a few offered hugs along the way. Come to find out, we were there for the same reason: to find perspective while grieving. I mourned for all victims of that summer, and their families and loved ones. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw those videos playing over and over again. It had simply become too much.
After a much-needed two-day break from everything – and I mean everything - I made a plan to put a few things in practice, pulling from productivity articles and some newsletters sharing how to take a digital break when working in the digital industry. I couldn’t take a break forever. After all, creating social media campaigns, engaging others online, and keeping digital strategies current puts food on my table and keeps the lights on.
1. Turn Off Alerts
Turn off alerts on all devices, including the desk/laptop and smart-watch. The exceptions: medical or health-related alerts and calendar reminders. By turning these off, distractions are greatly limited and we’re not sucked back into the news cycle. It also reduces the emotional toll of hearing – or seeing – every little update.
Can’t handle zero notifications or alerts? Silence the alerts and switch them to appear as a badge app icon only (the little red dot that pops up on its related icon). This is my daily practice instead of having every like, comment and share – or purchase – appear as a banner alert on my phone. The constant “ding” from my phone is not only distracting personally, but I feel it takes away from being present in any analog moment, like catching up with friends during a happy hour or even while reading a book.
Need to know what’s happening as part of your healing process? Schedule a set time to read what’s happening. It’s similar to scheduling time for platform engagement so you’re not taking away time from other tasks and projects.
2. Turn Off Auto-Play
Turn off auto-play on all platforms and tools. I hadn’t adjusted one of the tools I heavily rely on for posting, and as I worked in it during that summer, posted videos were automatically playing from news agencies and individuals. Each time they started, I felt like I was being pulled right back to square one.
3. Turn Off Wi-Fi Access
Turn off wi-fi access on desk/laptop in scheduled increments. I realize this may come as a shock: I work on social media and digital strategies and sometimes do so without a Wi-Fi connection, especially when working on a big project. I may work in this industry but it doesn’t mean I have to be connected to it 24/7. I am, after all, human. Giving ourselves a break while getting work done is crucial. We can still prep and schedule emails; catch-up on reading newsletters and saved articles; create, write and schedule content; create and update editorial calendars; and get so many other things done without being connected, thanks to numerous tools that now allow us to work without a connection.
And yes; the three items above are major productivity hacks when working digitally.
Step away from digital. This is one of the most important things we can do to grieve and gain perspective during trying times. Give yourself the space and permission to grieve. Step away from your desk and get some fresh air.
4. Step Away
Step away from digital means. This is probably the most important item we can do to grieve and gain perspective during these times. Give yourself the space and permission to grieve. Step away from your desk and get some fresh air. Attend a yoga session, meditate, or take time to practice mindfulness if that restores a sense of peace. Maybe it’s praying or going to church and light a candle. If you find inner-peace from baking a cake or cooking, then do it. If you zen-out when you clean or tackle a small organizing project, then take the time to do so. Claim the time to help make things right within yourself.
If part of your process includes civic action, call your local and state elected officials. Or volunteer at local school, community center, library, senior center, or bookstore to ask if you can volunteer for their story time or lead an activity, like a craft or cooking demonstration.
5. Look For Goodness
This one runs into above tip of stepping away, but it’s also something that can – and should – become a daily habit. Taking the time to realize the good around us is incredibly helpful in overcoming these moments, and helps prevent becoming overly jaded about the world around us. Recently two items shared with me I’ve found incredibly helpful are the podcast Happier and Shine’s daily texts (disclaimer: if you sign up with that link, I receive a referral credit).
During moments of absolute chaos and uncertainty, I try hard to put Maya Angelou’s words into practice: “You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”
And when all else fails: a kitchen dance party always does wonders for the soul.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Asia Rau is the founder and creative director at Sparrow Soirées, a social media marketing and digital strategy consulting firm. Originally starting her business as an event designer offering a social media component, she flipped her business plan on its head after receiving numerous social media marketing requests from clients. With lady-like moxie, a dash of humor, and often with a coffee in hand, she works alongside her clients, ranging from the local shop around the corner to national brands, to help them strike a balance between their digital relationships and analog kinships with their online campaigns and strategies.