fbpx ;

3 Things I Learned by Unplugging

If I accidentally leave my phone at home when leaving the house, I usually experience a few minutes of … well, maybe not panic, but severe discomfort. However, once the initial shock of realizing I’m unreachable passes, I tend to relax pretty quickly.

When I make the conscious decision to leave the phone behind? The wave of relaxation hits me even more quickly. It’s a remarkably powerful thing.

So far, I’ve gotten in several days at Level 2 of our FBG Unplug Challenge, and each time feels like a little gift. A gift of sanity, clarity and lower blood pressure. I enjoyed quite a few unplugged hours during my recent trip to Vail (which you’ll hear lots more about soon) — between taking yoga classes, partaking in a Pilates session, a couple of trips to the spa and hiking the mountain at every opportunity, I experienced many electronics-free hours. And, to nobody’s surprise at all, I came away with a few important lessons.

unplugging lessons

1. I’m not that important.

This sounds negative, I know, but hear me out. Often, my concerns about being away from my desk or phone stems from this belief that people need me. My coworkers might require an answer from me, like, right now, or there might be a breaking story that I feel the need to cover, or maybe my husband or my mom or my best friend can’t wait another hour to hear the sound of my voice.

It’s incredibly liberating to realize that, no, the Internet will not break if you step away for an hour (or even a day!) or two. Chances are good that the people closest to you will be fine without you for a bit (although, of course, it’s never a terrible idea to let ’em know you won’t be available if you think they’ll be concerned when you don’t answer their texts). Life will go on while you take the time you need, and it will welcome you back with open arms when you’re ready.

2. Breathing — just breathing — feels really, really good.

Being outdoors for an hour or so with no distractions felt fantastic, but the part that was really healing was the breathing. I took big, giant gulps of air — partly because, you know, Vail is at 8,000 feet above sea level and I was often a little out of breath, but also just because I wanted to breathe it all in. All the nature, the beauty, the smells, the positivity, the possibilities. I breathed in slowly and deeply and allowed the fresh air to fill me from top to toe, and then I breathed it back out again, nice and controlled. My body felt rejuvenated and my mind felt fabulously clear.

3. Time becomes subjective when you aren’t checking your watch.

I’m compulsively early. I obsess about being on time, being prepared, being ready, never keeping people waiting. If I’m running a bit behind, I will call or text to say I expect to arrive seven minutes late. Yes, really. And usually, I find it extreeeeemely stressful to be without a watch or a clock.

But when I’ve made a point to set a good chunk of time aside and have nowhere to be, it’s different. I experience time differently — it’s not a bunch of chunks of potential things I can get done, for once. I still generally set an alarm (a soft one so I’m not jolted out of whatever experience I’m having), but having nothing that needs to be done other than just be until an alarm goes off is a completely different ballgame than knowing I have until 3:45 to finish three articles, respond to my boss’ email, get a load of laundry into the dryer and prepare for a meeting, you know?

This list isn’t exhaustive, of course, but these are the three most important things I’ve taken away from the challenge. Although, let me be clear — I’m not done unplugging. Not even close. And I’m sure I’ll learn more as I continue to make this a priority.

How about you? Have you tried unplugging as part of our challenge (or otherwise)? What did it teach you? —Kristen

FTC disclosure: We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial. Affiliate links may be included. If you purchase something through one of those links we may receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!


  1. Dara says:

    I have just started doing this recently and it really changes things. Since moving my business online and increasing my presence on social media, I got really caught up in it and found myself spending way to much time plugged in. When I scaled back and even spent time totally unplugged, like choosing to go for walks without my phone on purpose, everything relaxes. I love it because it allows me to actually rest and rejuvenate myself so I’m ready for getting back to work.

  2. Alison says:

    What I notice when I am not plugged in to the busy-ness of my life is that I am free to see what’s really happening, moment to moment – a bumblebee checking out the delphinium, the robin fledglings making their first flight across the yard – and I can be present in that moment, and follow it, kind of “go with the flow” of life. And those deep breaths are so mind-clearing, it’s amazing. Sometimes, too, I’ll do a quick listening meditation outside, sitting quietly, eyes closed, noticing all the different sounds around me. That clarity of mind, that singularity of focus, is the perfect antidote to the stresses of life.

  3. Cindy says:

    Nope! I love my electronics and nobody is taking them away. Mine are mostly for entertainment during the slow parts of my day.

  4. Dan says:

    As an online professional, I need to institute this soon. The pressure of these deadlines are starting to get to me, and I need a reset!

  5. I’ve tried unplugging as well. Though I haven’t taken any out of town vacations yet to breathe it all in. But I’m glad to try that one out. I love to enjoy nature and going outdoors. I’m still trying to figure out how to pull away from social media since after all the work I have, it’s only the social networking sites that keep me connected to people and sane since I live alone. Anyway, thanks for sharing this. Great article!

  6. Thank you so much for the wonderful post.

Comments are closed.