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How to Survive a Digital Detox on a Sick Day

Have you ever made a firm resolve to improve an area of your life at the beginning of the year only to be sabotaged by a cold or flu that strips you of plans, schedules, motivation and energy? Workouts, healthy food and, yes, digital detoxing are usually the first items to disappear off of the new years resolution list after a cold or flu hits.

I mean, it does make sense. You can’t workout if you’re sick in bed and if you have no energy to cook you might revert to the junk food route. And what will you do for entertainment? Enter the iPhone that has been used less frequently for a couple of weeks. In my case when I get sick the first thing I absolutely have to do is cancel my violin students which means sending anywhere from 10-40 texts to busy parents. Suddenly my resolve to keep my phone 6 ft away from my bed is abandoned as I alternately doze and text and possibly indulge in my first instagram perusal in weeks.

But luckily there are a lot more ways to spend a sick day than just throwing in the towel and gazing into your screen:

Read a book

Many of us lament that we don’t have time to read many books. Why not make your sick day your book day? Two books might even be better than one. Normally I love books on motivation, education, habit development (maybe you can tell) but sometimes when I’m sick I have trouble focusing on all that dry material. I love to pull out a novel or even something silly like a collection of comic strips on days when I feel more woozy than motivated.

But plan ahead for your reading day. Don’t expect to run to your bookshelf the moment you notice chills and body aches. Make a list of books that you’d like to read next time you’re sick and make sure that you have a few on hand ahead of time.

Watch a movie

Watching a movie might be counterintuitive when you are aiming for less screen time, but on a sick day it can be a much healthier choice than scrolling instagram for hours. Many social media addicts actually struggle to stay focused during a whole movie because social media is so fast-paced, exhibiting different scenarios every few seconds. Learning to enjoy classic movies, famously good movies or old black-and-white movies can be a worthwhile endeavor for the bedridden screen addict and a fun pastime for friends and family too.

Go outdoors

You are kidding me, right? I get sick in the winter because it’s winter. I’m not going to go sit in the snow. Ok so this particular tip comes with a heavy disclaimer: if you live in a cold climate please use common sense. Luckily I am blest to live in an area with very mild winters and if you do too I hope you’ll take this advice to heart. One of the biggest enemies to the immune system is a lack of vitamin D. So, if you are able, spend some time soaking up the sun; outdoors if it’s warm enough or inside by the window if the temperature is unforgiving.

If you go outside and find yourself reaching for your phone play a little game with yourself. Put your phone down and try to take note of as many things you can possibly see with your own two eyes. Look at flowers or trees, the stucco on the side of the house, the grass, the dirt, the telephone wire. It’s good to re-program your brain if it’s been on screen-mode by looking at all the spectacular sights there are to see.

Surrounding yourself with trees, plants or water can be healing for not just the immune system but the mind and the addictive behaviors bred by our devices. Walking through nature, sitting on the beach or even just lying on the grass at the park can be extremely healing and restorative.

Lower your cortisol

Cortisol is the stress hormone that keeps all of us going every day. Ideally, cortisol is at its peak in the morning to give us energy for the daily grind but screen time and blue light can boost cortisol levels inadvertently, often disrupting the lower cortisol levels that we should be experiencing when we’re trying to wind down or rest. This makes sick-day-screen-time especially counter-intuitive since it replaces genuine rest with that yucky “wired but tired” feeling.

One marvelous way to lower your cortisol level is to take a bath. Many of us gave up taking baths by the time we were in first grade… after all, a shower is so much more efficient. But soaking in a hot bath (try adding epsom salts and a relaxing essential oil such as lavender) to relax your muscles and rejuvenate your mind can turn a sick day into a luxury experience. And don’t forget about the essential oils once you are out of the bath! Inhaling essential oils through a diffuser or using them in a massage oil can be a great way to lower your cortisol level and aid in some genuine relaxation.

Another great trick for lowering your cortisol level is to drink some herbal tea. Teas with chamomile or lavender or peppermint are especially relaxing. One of my favorites is a delicious chamomile blend called Rest. Lastly, one of the simplest tricks to kick that cortisol spike is to simply turn off your bedroom lights. The more we are exposed to artificial light the more our body and mind can be confused. Let your body really get into the flow of natural light by exposing yourself to sunlight and then allowing your living areas to grow dimmer as the day wanes.

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Whatever you decide to do on a sick day just remember that divorcing yourself from your device will always be worth the effort. And to be honest this list we’ve compiled reminds me more of a vacation than a sick day. A good book, a snooze in the sun, a hot bath and an awesome movie? Are you kidding me? I can’t wait to get sick again! What else makes you feel better during a digital-detox-sick-day? Please share your ideas in the comments!


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Feb 09
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This is an encouraging approach for reducing screen time. Thank you!


Feb 03
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great advice!

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