How you use blackout hours to get back in touch with yourself
The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably forced us into our home. Our social lives were taken away, the fun parts of education and work stripped off, increased workload, and the uncertainty of survival and career prospects perpetually meandering over our heads as we did what we do best — tried our best to survive.
Post-COVID, we’ve begun using our devices more than before. According to a few reports, average screen time for most people has shot up to 7 hours per day. People’s social media usage has almost doubled and for good reason. We’re social creatures and we thrive on social interaction, personal forms of affection — a hand shake, a hug, a high-five, a brush of eye contact with your best friend — have become a healthy part of our lives and all of this became inaccessible to the common man sitting at his home, trying to push through one more meeting in his shorts.
While the increase in social media usage and device usage is understandable, it has certainly not done us any favours. The large fact of the matter is that 90% of our social media content consumption does not bring us closer to our loved ones. What’s more, ghosting survived the pandemic and it clearly tells us something.
Our life, in its current state, stresses us out to an extent that it has left us incapable of carrying out conversations with the same enthusiasm, rigour, and impromptu nature we were used to.
We’ve been overloading our schedules with activities that we have to do — regardless of what shape, form, mental state we’re in — and the activities that we think are relaxing. For most of us, our devices are the first and the last thing we see, most days.
What do you do, then?
I have been experimenting with blackout hours and they’ve helped me regain my physical — and more importantly — my mental health.
I started small. With 1–2 hours off the grid everyday, I could focus on my workouts better, even enjoy my media consumption more because for once, the insides of my head did not have to deal with the constant notifications, there was no need to immediately address some things when they could be, with no harm, be addressed 2 hours later.
It’s helped a lot and this is how you can practically implement this in your life.
Start. Even if it is really small.
Pick any one activity you enjoy the most. It could be reading, binge-watching, cooking, running, anything that makes you feel alive. Now, start doing it everyday, ideally at least for one hour to really see the compound effects of the practice build up after a couple of weeks. The catch here is, your device should be on airplane mode during this time.
Time for recreation = Time for self-preservation
The time you spend on enjoying yourself is not a waste of time. It is through doing what you love most, that you keep your soul alive and ensure that you don’t rot away by starving for the intellectual/emotional space your mind craves. Hours you spend to rejuvinate yourself are just as important as work hours, if not more. The entire reason they’re not valued or prioritized is because you’re not accountable for them to anyone. You don’t get money off of sitting on your ass for fun whereas you answer to your co-workers, your boss, and a million other people while you work.
On your pursuit to do what you need to do, don’t forget why you’re doing it. Don’t forget that all the money and education in the world is a waste if it doesn’t bring you closer to yourself. Competition fades away in the background but the hollowness of a life that’s been lived partially is the single most heinous crime you can do against yourself.
There’s about a hundred small things you can do to stop screwing yourself over — limit your social media usage, organize your coming week on every sunday night to do away with the stressful ordeal of endless work much like the feeling of walking in a tunnel with no hope of seeing the light. Looking forward to certain activities is what keeps us going, and keeping sane is what ultimately determines how we act.
I hope you take care of yourself, see the increased productivity of a well-rested mind, and genuinely start to make efforts to be more present in the world you work so hard to sustain in your own capability.