Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Setting boundaries

In case you haven't noticed - there's an election going on.

For people like me, who have tremendous interest in and anxiety over it, it's very, very easy to get unhealthily preoccupied.  It's one thing to be informed, and quite another to spend every free moment listening to or reading about it - even when there's no new-news from the last time one checked (even though in recent weeks it seems like there's a new development every five seconds).

There's a lot of talk among parents and teachers over a great "screen time" debate.  Parents worried (or decidedly not worried) about exposing their toddlers to the TV and iPad, parents trying (or not so much) to have family meals without phones at the table, the idea of having time limits vs. total freedom on video games - there are arguments to be made for every kid, family, and situation, and people spend a gigantic amount of time judging each other over it and judging themselves, often, over failing in their goals. (And for the record, I have no judgement or opinion on what anyone does - it is 100% not my place, and I don't even have kids so I'm not coming down on any particular side)

We spend so much time analyzing the effect that screen time has on kids, but it seems we don't even put one tenth of the same effort into analyzing the effect that it has on us as adults.  Sure, there's a flurry of recommendations about having TV in the bedroom or using electronic devices before bed, but how many of us let that permeate into the reality of how we live our lives?

I go through phases with this. Sometimes I'm great about avoiding my phone before bed...but most times I'm not.  Sometimes I resolutely delete Facebook from my phone, thus removing the ability to constantly check so I can post whatever article has most recently articulated my views.  Then inevitably something pops up (like a day full of air travel) where I feel I need / deserve to bring it back again.

The bottom line is, we all ought to honestly look at our intake of and exposure to media, and assess how it really affects us.  At what point might it just be reflexive, addictive?  At what point is it truly helpful?

And more importantly - what do you replace it with?  For me, that's usually diving deep into a novel.  I tend to be a happier person when I'm reading a book.  I'm able to get absorbed into one long narrative, rather from skipping and skimming article after article after article.  Also - hey, music still exists!

I think part of my issue with this is that I'm so much less mobile than I used to be while my foot is still healing, and obsessing about the election is an activity that requires zero movement.  If I were still able to go for a run three times a week and jump into a yoga class every so often, I'd also have a much better outlet to let the anxiety physically get the hell out of my body.

In the meantime, I just have to rely on good old self-discipline.  Usually not a problem for me, but there's something about an injury that makes you insanely permissive to yourself, usually at the eventual expense of health or sanity.

And therefore - boundaries.  Hiding the phone from myself.  Deleting apps. Creating boundaries of time when I'm on and when I'm off - and the kicker is, I'll probably pay even closer attention to and be more present with the news that I'm reading when I'm finally reading it.

I'll confess right now that, with the election three weeks away, I don't have the highest confidence in my ability to stick to these boundaries.  But at least they're there.

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