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Away From My Phone

My smart phone is like a toddler that way: demanding constant attention, and whenever it helps me, it also seems to create more work. It’s no wonder forgetting my phone at home felt liberating.

The impact books have on our lives is not limited to the words written between the covers. Some books inspire new thoughts and send us to unexpected places. Follow me Down the Rabbit Hole in this recurring segment.

I have a tendency to over-commit, which periodically results in hitting a figurative wall. When I stretch myself thin, I live in a perpetual cycle of ambition, productivity, exhaustion, and recovery. And like a star that burns brightest right before it dies, I tend to put out my best work right before I burnout. This part alone almost makes the whole thing worth it.


It came as a surprise then that I had trouble getting into the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. Books can be like relationships, and this time the chemistry wasn’t there. Each time I picked up the book I became less motivated to finish it. Ironically, my resolve to finish the book started contributing to my baseline stress. Despite all that, it had me thinking about why I periodically found myself burnt out.

The most obvious contributor could be that I like to say “yes,” even to some things I don’t find particularly interesting.

Sure, I could start saying “no” more often, but that’s not really a sustainable solution for me. Not everything has to be about the pursuit of happiness. I don’t need to enjoy something to think its worthwhile. Doing something for a friend or family member’s benefit has its own reward. Namely, the gratification that comes from the reciprocity of relationship. I do tend to over-commit in this way and I didn’t want to give it up.

Did I simply have to accept burnout as inevitable?

Then I forgot my phone at home one day.

Without my electronic calendar I wasn’t quite sure where I was supposed to be or when, nor could I call anyone to ask.

I felt free.

Girl Lying in Grass from Wix

You heard me right. I felt a huge weight off my shoulders. I showed up at my daughter’s soccer practice early. The coaches were setting up and I simply walked over asked for the start time. I managed to run a quick errand in town, relying on memory to find the fastest way there and back. I was happier and so were my kids. I was present.

The experience helped me articulate something I’d been feeling for a long time. Using technology drains me. Yet, I use it more and more, whether I want to or not. I started leaving my phone at home more frequently, and something wonderful happened. I was less stressed. I felt myself moving closer to balance and further from burnout. I guess I just needed the reminder that technology can both simplify things and make it them stressful.

The idea that technology causes stress and anxiety has entered the realm of common knowledge. The American Psychological Association even included technology use in its 2017 Stress in America survey. As I reflected on the manner in which I use technology, and my mind kept returning to a conversation I had with a friend about fatigue. She had used a term I hadn’t heard before, and I’d been meaning to learn more about it.

Directed Attention Fatigue(DAF), occurs when part of the brain becomes tired while trying to focus on a task amid distractions. Among other things it can result in an inability to pick up social cues, distractibility, bad decision-making, emotional sensitivity, forgetfulness, impulsive behaviour, and crankiness.

Sounds like me when I’m stressed.

DAF can be caused by quickly changing focus over a prolonged period, not enough sleep, multitasking, and working surrounded by distractions. That pretty much sums up my day as a stay-at-home mom. It’s busy and manageable most of the time. Then, the constant connectability and notifications offered by technology puts me over the edge. My smart phone is like a toddler that way: demanding constant attention, and whenever it helps me, it also seems to create more work. It’s no wonder forgetting my phone at home felt liberating. Though marketed as a convenience, the mental demands from technology have a cost.

Luckily there’s an easy way to restore directed attention—the soft fascination we experience in nature can rejuvenate our tired minds.

Feeling I’d come back full circle to the first book we read on Book Interrupted, I went back and reread An Irredeemable Monster and the Power of Dirt, the post I wrote about the benefits of nature connection. Rather than continue down the rabbit hole learning about all the ways technology contributes to stress, I decided to take my own advice, and get out there. I already know what’ll happen if I don’t.

Do you experience Directed Attention Fatigue? Do you find technology makes you more tired or more relaxed? How do you feel when you forget your phone at home?

Check out more from Down the Rabbit Hole by going to

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