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The need to switch off

A compulsory pit stop is required.

Looking back at what I’ve written over recent months I feel some balancing is in order. I’ve really been ramming home the message of being conscious of your time and how to use it, how to appreciate it and how to not fear its end. I’ve also been discussing deep topics like that of what do people actually want, why most people won’t stay with you throughout your life and the concept of pain.

Now whilst all the aforementioned topics are important, beneficial to ponder and liberating in some sense, they can be quite taxing to be thinking about all the time…which leads us to this week’s subject: The need to switch off.

I say “need” because it is a necessity to our mental and physical well-being as a functional human that we learn to switch off from this ever-connected world that we find ourselves in. A “want” is something you can do without, a want is a luxury, and while you may want to switch off from time to time, I place it in the former category as essential – and I wish people viewed it similarly to food, water, shelter, clothing etc. because it is THAT important.

I find it difficult to switch my mind off – and I don’t claim to be alone in this. My mind is a very active and open entity that I feel, if I‘d let it, would run 24/7/365 with all manner of thoughts going around like a pinball machine. There is a lot going on in the world at the moment and it’s difficult to take it all in. The pandemic has certainly stretched people beyond their normal capabilities, but thankfully we’re (mostly) adaptive creatures.

With such an active mind, amongst other things, I am prone to burnout, that place where you suffer from mental exhaustion. This is turn has negative effects on your mental state, emotional capacity and physical well-being. Ideally, I wish to avoid this which is why learning how to switch off and implementing it into your schedule is incredibly important.

It is very easy to feel overloaded these days with the constant bombardment from all directions it seems, not to mention picking up the kids from school, fitting in a physio appointment as you strained yourself at the gym trying to keep up a level of fitness, then planning what’s for dinner, catching up with your partner and seeing how their day went while remembering what night of the week their favourite show is on so you can watch it together, hoping your pay goes in on time so you’re not late on mortgage/rent payments while working for that promotion or bonus so you can take your family away on holiday this year…for example. And we haven’t even got to political corruption, environmental degradation or the implications of Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy.

I mean, how do you switch off from all that?

I switch off generally by sublimating in a less mentally intensive activity or one that takes up enough cognitive load to drown out other thinking. Reading fiction books (instead of philosophy), listening to instrumental/soundtrack (shout out to YouTube channels Geytkeypur - and z3n Pnk - or classical music and watching re-runs of Top Gear or The Grand Tour (I love those three guys!) is usually how I do the former. Playing video games is generally how I do the latter and when I was studying psychology I came across research that illustrated the benefits of video gaming to reduce negative emotions through the perceptual and cognitive load they put the user under. Works for me!

I have found an improvement in my sleep from reading fiction before bed – it seems to wind me down, making me more conducive to falling asleep immediately.

It may just be as simple as going for a walk or sitting out the back for 10 minutes or organising a day/night out with your partner or friend, but find what it is for you that helps you switch off temporarily from the trials and tribulations of time. Say to yourself, past this point I’m not going to think about work concerns or the evenings are not to crunch household finances.

Ask yourself this question: Is it necessary that this be completed now, by today, tomorrow, end of the week or month and plan accordingly.

Sometimes you need to put down the pen, the shovel, the drill, the laptop, the phone…and just go, I will deal with this later and that is ok, but for now I need to care for myself for a little while…I need to switch off.

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James Foster
James Foster
Jun 12, 2021

I suffer so much with never switching off! Its as if i feel like I've betrayed myself if i dont be productive for as many hours as i can!

Such a hard thing to learn and slow down to enjoy life alot more :)

Martyn Foster
Martyn Foster
Jun 12, 2021
Replying to

A potential drawback to being a conscientious person. It can be difficult to switch off and relax as we can feel guilty for taking a break and/or not doing anything productive. We have to switch to having a positive appraisal of our down time rather than a negative approach. We are still "doing" something and this is helping us to be better in our more traditionally productive outlets ;)

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