The Death of Relaxation - Or How to Relax in a Smart Phone Era
The Death of Relaxation - Or How to Relax in a Smart Phone Era
I dread Mondays. Not for the reason you think. I love my job. It's a blessing, and I worked hard to create this career. I wouldn't change it for the world. Then why do I dislike Mondays?

My email inbox has 572 emails. My Instagram DM box has 27 new messages. My Facebook private message box is stuffed with new requests.

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Don't get me wrong. Helping people is what I do. Scratch that. It's what I love to do. Every question I receive is an opportunity to help someone turn their life around. I take this seriously, and always will.

So what's the problem? Relaxation.

I make time to relax on the weekends. Recharge. Detach. Unplug. Cleanse my mind. I force myself to detach from emails, DMs, and private messages. This period of relaxation allows me to come back fresh, with a clear mind that is ready to help people tackle their challenges.

So, in essence, my Monday workout is self-inflicted punishment. A price I pay for relaxation.

The inner struggle is real. On the weekends I can either continue to hammer away at the never-ending barrage of social media messages and random emails, and have a lighter workload on Monday, or I can relax and pay the price.

For most of us this is a tough decision. When we do relax - or try to relax - our brain never fully detaches from the mounting flood of work and messages that is accumulating just off in the periphery. If we don't fully relax, and interrupt our pleasure time by checking emails or social media, we feel like we are drowning and desperately want a way to unplug.

But it feels like there is no way to unplug. It feels like there is no compromise. We give in and never fully allow ourselves to relax.

Vacations are no longer escapes. Social gatherings never receive our full, unfiltered attention. Heck, many of us check our phones immediately after sex. No snuggle time for you!

A photo posted by Steve Shaw (@bendthebarman) on



Article author and Tiger Fitness Editorial Director Steve Shaw.

The Death of Relaxation

Now, more than ever, it's impossible to detach. Smart phones rule our lives. They are like a two year old child that requires constant attention, care, chicken nuggets, and new distractions and TV shows.

So just how bad is the social and email pull? Let's look at some statistics. [1]
  • 205 billion emails are sent each day. Curiously enough, about 12.2% of these seem to land in your inbox.
  • The average office employee receives 121 emails per day.
  • Of the emails we receive, only 3.2% are opened. The reality: We simply can't keep up.
  • 42% of Americans check emails while using the bathroom.
  • 18% of Americans check emails while driving.
  • 50% of Americans check emails while in bed.
It gets even crazier. One study revealed that 10 percent of us admitted to having checked our smart phones as least once during sex. [2] This doesn't mean that we check our phones 10 percent of the time we have sex, but still...

The same study also found that 95% of us check our phones during social gatherings.

But how about social media? How much time does it steal from us, and our ability to relax?
  • Snapchat users watch over 6 billion videos per day.
  • 500 million Facebook users account for over 8 billion video views per day.
  • The average American adult watches 76 minutes of videos each day on a digital device.
  • There are 6,000 tweets sent on Twitter every second, or 500 million per day.
  • YouTube serves up one billion mobile video views per day.
  • There are 3.5 billion Instagram likes per day.
Smart PhoneText messaging may be the worst distraction of them all. While emails have a low open rate, 98% of text messages are read. [3] In addition, not only do we read text messages, we also respond. While only 6% of emails get replies, 45% of text messages are responded to.

Text messages are also impossible for us to ignore. 90% of all messages are read within three minutes after they are received.

Email. Facebook. Instagram. Texting. Facebook Messenger. Google Chat. WhatsApp. Kik. YouTube. Pinterest. LinkedIn. Twitter. Tumblr... It never ends. It has become impossible to escape. There is always someone and something begging for our attention; requiring a response.

Americans are now spending 23 hours a week in total between the Internet, texting, email, social media, and other forms of online communication. [4] This is over three hours per day. The draw is irresistible.

We must look. What if we miss something important?

The result? It's hard to relax. Impossible to detach. Our free time - or relaxation time - is being consistently interrupted. Try to read a book? Interrupted. Try to get through a movie? Interrupted. Try to enjoy a first date? Interrupted.

So What's the Big Deal?

So what exactly is the big deal? We spend more time on social media, texting, and email instead of watching TV. No big whoop, right?

Wrong. We are losing the ability to switch off. As our ability to detach mounts, our obsession with rest and relaxation is increasing. We actually live in a golden age for potential rest. Research shows that now, more than ever, we have a greater abundance of free time.

Potential rest and relaxation, being the important point to focus on here. This potential is being interrupted. And interrupted. And interrupted.

Day dreaming, deep thought, reflection, and introspection are now being impaled by the spear that is social media and email. The vital social skills of human interaction, engagement, and active listening are being segmented by text messages and Instagram update alerts.

This segmentation is not without consequence. Professor Charles Fernyhough, a Durham University psychologist specializing in cognitive development, went on to say:

"A resting brain continues to show highly complex and organized patterns of activation. When we are not doing anything in particular, our minds are constantly busy with thoughts, plans, memories, feelings, sensations and more."

The perils of interruption here are obvious. We see a decrease in productivity, a lessened ability to string together quality solutions and plans of action, and a reduction in our ability to properly process feelings and sensory input. The list goes on and on...

All of these can contribute to our overall feeling of stress. Not only are we now disjointedly processing feelings, thoughts, problems, sensory input, and plans, but we also have a greater serving of each due to a relentless stream of information streaming through our smart phones and computers.

We have a hundred things to process, but are processing each of these with a lessened degree of effectiveness. And this is stressing us out.

The impact is far and wide. We can strain our relationships, impede our ability to properly perform our job, make people feel like we don't care, and completely smash the resting brain's ability to process complex issues and activate at a higher level.

Boom, boom, goes the brain. Overload and overheated. Stressed and detached.

We are made to unwind. Relaxation is required to function at a higher level. Yet we have lost out ability to disconnect and do so.

Relaxation allows us to properly process thoughts, problems, feelings, emotions, troubles, worries, interactions, and release them. It also allows us to approach them with a clear head, and filter away the things that aren't important.

Who hasn't said, "I just want to clear my head and relax for a while." We all have. There is something to this that we must not ignore.

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How to Relax - 6 Quick Tips

I want to leave you now with some tips on how to relax. This is not a comprehensive list, but it is my hope that you will walk away from this article with a determination to take better care of your mental health.

Stress kills. It can contribute to, or worsen, a myriad of health conditions. Relaxation time is critical in the battle against stress. Relaxation also allows us to work on our emotional and mental health, helping to control depression, negativity, unwanted cynicism, and other similar issues.

Tip #1 - Get a Timer App For Your Phone

This is one of my favorite tips. It not only allows you to improve your relaxation time, but it can also increase productivity and efficiency at work, helping to relieve stress and pressure. Writers have been using this strategy for years.

Download a timer app.

Now, set it for 15 or 20 minutes. During this time do not pick up your phone or engage in any distractions. Work. Read a book. Meditate. Study. Play a video game. Knit. Stare out the window and drink coffee. Do whatever it is you want to do, but do it without interruptions.

After your relaxation or work window is up, then you can check your phone or computer. Glance at it for 5 minutes, tackle only things you would consider to be urgent, and then get back to relaxing. Reset your timer and disappear into your own world.

Tip #2 - Leave Your Phone in the Car

When you head out for an important social event, movie, date, or breakfast with family, leave your phone in the car. Invest your time in the person you are sitting across from - or next to. They will appreciate it, and you can take a well-needed break from all the distractions and noise of social media.

And think of it like this. When you finally do get to reach for your smart phone, it will be like Christmas. Your inbox and social notifications will be overflowing, filled with all kinds of great surprises and unexpected shenanigans. Most of them delete-worthy, but still.

Tip #3 - Kill the Phone One Hour Before Bed

Set your phone down out of reach. Now grab a book, or that special someone, and enjoy the last hour of your day in peace and quiet.

The last thing you want before bed is unwanted drama or random crazy social messages clogging your brain while you try to close your eyes and get some sleep. As we know, this happens all too often.

And even if it doesn't, we are often distracted by Facebook or YouTube videos and lose track of time. This can cut our sleep short, add stress into our lives, make tomorrow's work day more challenging, and/or fill our heads with new concepts, ideas, and random noise that can prevent us from easily transitioning into the netherworld.

Tip #4 - Take 30 Minutes in the Morning

Your alarm goes off. You hit snooze. You hit snooze again. And again. Then... Then you smell that glorious smell. Coffee. Your coffee maker didn't hit the snooze alarm. It's been whirring and puffing for 20 minutes now, and is waiting for your love and attention.

So you... Crawl... Out... Of... Bed. And grab your favorite mug.

Now, before you reach for your smart phone, take time to relax. Enjoy the quiet of the morning. Allow silence to surround you, and take time for your brain to charge up to full speed. Don't allow the noise of emails and chatter from social media comments to flood into your brain just yet.

Give yourself some time to relax. The messages and madness will still be there, waiting, when you are ready.

Tip #5 - Make Gym Time "Me" Time

I'll admit something. My smart phone keeps me in the gym longer.

Social media is a huge part of my life. Growing my personal brand is important. I have 16,000 subscribers on YouTube, 13,000 followers on Instagram, and 8,000 friends and followers on Facebook. My Muscle and Brawn (My supplement company, available here at Tiger Fitness) page has nearly 70,000 fans.

This creates a hurricane of DMs, PMs, questions, and inquiries. It never ends. This is a blessing, make no mistake about it. I love helping people.

With that said, the relentless stream of messages I receive can have me checking my phone every few minutes. I often multi-task in between sets, answering questions and responding to comments. But I'm learning that this can keep me in the gym and extra 30 minutes if I'm not careful.

Gym time should be your time. A workout is a form of meditation. It's your personal sanctuary. Learn to detach from your phone, using it only for workout tracking and the occasional video or selfie to be posted on social media later. Allow your brain to unplug from the noise.

And if it's impossible for you to completely stay off your phone, try to only check it in between exercises instead of in between sets.
References
1) "73 Incredible Email Statistics (August 2016)." DMR, expandedramblings.com/index.php/email-statistics/. 2) "One in Ten People Admit They Look at Their Phone During Sex | Daily Mail Online." Mail Online, www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3594526/Now-s-TEXT-appeal-One-ten-people-admit-look-phone-sex.html. 3) "45 Texting Statistics That Prove Businesses Need to Take SMS Seriously | OneReach Blog." OneReach Blog, onereach.com/blog/45-texting-statistics-that-prove-businesses-need-to-start-taking-sms-seriously/. 4) "Americans Spend 23 Hours Per Week Online, Texting." Business News Daily, www.businessnewsdaily.com/4718-weekly-online-social-media-time.html.