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How to do a digital detox over the semester break (and not quit halfway through)

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Semester break is the perfect time to unwind, reconnect with yourself, your friends and family, and recharge before heading into semester two.

But when we live in a highly digital world, surrounded by screens all semester and spend time endlessly scrolling TikTok, achieving true relaxation can be challenging.

So, we’ve written a guide on why you should consider disconnecting this semester break, and how you can do it without quitting halfway through.

It’s my time, my choice. Why do I need to do a digital detox?

First, and perhaps most importantly: the mental health benefits. Constant connectivity can lead to stress, anxiety and feelings of overwhelm. In particular, social media can create an unhealthy culture of comparison, FOMO and fuel depression and anxiety. A recent study found that a two-week social media detox improved smartphone and social media addiction, life satisfaction, stress, sleep, wellness and relationships. By taking a break from scrolling over the break, you are more likely to improve your overall mental wellbeing.

Second, a digital detox can lead to improved focus and productivity – a great way to get you ready for the semester ahead. Studies have shown that multitasking, often involving digital devices, can impair cognitive function and reduce productivity. By stepping away from your screens, you can regain focus and engage in more meaningful activities without the distraction of notifications.

And third, you’ll sleep better (and who wouldn’t want that!). The blue light emitted by our screens’ mess with melatonin production, which can disrupt our sleep patterns. By limiting screen time, especially before bed, you can improve your sleep quality, leading to better health and more energy.

But how can I implement a digital detox… and actually stick to it?

Now, that this is the real question. How do you do a digital detox and not give in halfway? The key lies in not going completely cold turkey right away, but rather slowly limiting the amount of time you spend in the digital world each day.

Set clear boundaries

Determine the devices and platforms you want to limit or avoid entirely. You might decide to check emails only once a day, limit phone use to 30mins at night or not use your social media over the weekend at all. The main point is to set realistic boundaries, and honour them.

Communicate your plan to others

Let your family and friends know about your detox. This not only sets the expectation to follow through, but it also provides you with an extra layer of accountability if they see you slip up!

Plan offline activities with friends

Plan activities that don’t involve screens, such as hiking, reading, cooking or starting a hobby. By filling your time with fun times outside of your screen, you’ll be less tempted to revert back to digital distractions. The more people who join you in the fun – the better.

Create tech free zones and set time limits

Designate certain areas of your home, such as the dining room or bedroom, as tech-free zones. This helps establish some physical boundaries that support your digital detox. You can also implement screen time limits on your phone, which lock you out of certain apps or switches your phone to quiet mode after a certain time.

Remember to use technology mindfully

When you do need to use your devices, be mindful of how you’re using them. Try to focus on one task at a time and avoid browsing or multitasking if you can, and set a time limit for how long you need to use the device for.

Reflect on the experience

At the end of your detox, take some time to reflect on how it felt and what you learned. Consider keeping a diary throughout the experience, where you document your thoughts, feelings and urges that come up. It might help you notice a pattern or provide insight into how you feel away from the screen, and form the basis of healthier tech habits to incorporate into your daily routine outside of the detox.

As a uni student, juggling multiple responsibilities and stressors, taking this time to unplug can lead to significant mental and physical health benefits. It can reset your relationship with technology and make you more aware of how it impacts your life and wellbeing. You might even find that you return to your studies with a clearer mind, better focus and renewed energy!  

See you next semester!

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