Combatting Overstimulation in 2020
We are more anxious, more sad, and more tired than ever before. But we also have more self-help books, self-motivation apps, life coaches and nutrition blogs than ever before. So what's going on?
Our parents and grandparents had pretty much the same day to day routine as us. Wake up, have a coffee, eat, go to work, come home, watch a movie or the news, go to bed, repeat. Throw in a few social events here and there. That’s exactly what we all do, right? Not quite. There’s a reason why rates of depression, anxiety, fatigue, general stress, health and wellbeing is increasing in our generation.
"We're at the party all the f**king time."
Think about going to a party or an important event. You get dressed up to look your best, have a few drinks to warm up the social game, blast some music to get you in the mood to be on show among friends and strangers, and then you go to the party and you exert your energy in a setting that beckons your best self. The reason these rates are increasing is essentially: we’re at the party all the f**king time.
Our routine differs from our parents and their parents because when we wake up, most of us open our phones and check social media, emails, the news. By the time your feet hit the floor you probably already know that Sarah got a haircut, Tom Cruise’s brother's step-daughter’s best friend’s boyfriend died in a car accident, the jeans you want are on sale, and probably something about the Kardashians. This continues throughout the rest of the day. Our identity has been transferred from the real world to the internet world. You’re dressing yourself up constantly through text messages, captions, statuses, videos, photos and god knows what else. And it’s exhausting.
This facet of our generation is starting to be seen and understood as unhealthy. We’re starting to realise we sometimes need to leave the party, catch an Uber home, wipe off our makeup, eat some toast and watch some Friends by ourselves. But I’m not just talking about social media.
"The digital detox did not help, and I finally figured out why."
As a result of all the huge changes the digital era has seen, we’ve become hardwired to constantly seek stimulation. I’m as much a culprit as anyone else. I decided to do a ‘digital detox’ recently. I deleted all my social apps, bought some books about mindfulness and the ‘slow’ life, downloaded some podcasts and organised to hang out with all my friends in person as much as I could for the duration of the week. I woke up and read, then while I had my coffee and got ready for the day I listened to podcasts.
I called my mum instead of texting, I saw lots of friends for coffee outside in the sunshine. I put my phone on airplane mode at work and listened to downloaded podcasts. And at the end of that week? I felt more stressed than I had all year. I thought to myself, what have I done wrong? I haven’t been on social media, I’d been reading myself to sleep and not staring at a blue lit screen, all I’d done all week was learn about mindfulness and living in the moment.
"Learning how, is not the same as doing."
So I got up the next morning and sat down and had a good hard think about what could’ve happened. And it hit me that I hadn’t done anything to combat the problem, I’d just changed the source of the cause. There had not been a moment of my day during that week that I had not been ingesting some form of information, and generally it was about how to be mindful, calm and present. Learning how, is not the same as doing. Now that I was thinking about it, I’d been subconsciously stressed ingesting information about improving myself because it generally left me feeling inadequate. Even when I was watching the news, reading a fiction novel or at the gym or with friends, I was never taking a moment to myself.
We don’t need to find out how to look inside and understand our sadness, our anxiety, stress, fatigue. We’re equipped with everything we need to do that. This is why I’m such a fan of meditation. When I first started meditating I’d think ‘I understand this and what I’m supposed to be doing, but it’s just really boring’. Only recently have I realised that’s kind of the point. The cure to our increasing stress levels is being bored, being present and being comfortable just eating our meal, without our phone, without a book. Only when boring becomes calm are we really starting to help ourselves.
So I urge you to allow yourself some boredom this week. See what happens when you just eat your breakfast in silence, no stimulation. See what happens when you just drive, no music and no podcasts. Listen to your thoughts and what’s going on inside your head, just hang out with yourself. At first it’s hard and weird and boring and uncomfortable. And then you start to enjoy it. And then you start to look forward to it.
And then you can finally leave the f**king party and go home to bed.