Caring For Yourself

Digital Sabbatical: Why You Need One And How To Disconnect

Are you ready to shut your devices off? Hide them under your bed? Do you just need a break from all the social media and email and EVERYTHING? I found myself totally burnt out on social media and digital consumption heading into a family vacation mid-May. But the problem was I was burnt out BUT ALSO completely addicted to my phone/tablet/Insatgram.

Let’s be real. These phones, for many of us, are random generators of good feelings, security, and connection. I love that hit of dopamine — that reward that comes from the random good news that would ding or cha-ching on my phone. I had FOMO — I was afraid I was missing out on something or somebody. My phone is also a major tool I use for work and to communicate with people.

Image Credit: Charisse Kenion

At the same time, I was also exhausted from checking and engaging in all the digital things all the time. There is SO much I check and engage with online regularly/daily/multiple times a day.

My Way Too Frequent Digital Check-Ins

I made list of all the platforms and places I engage with regularly:

  • Instagram
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
    • gillianstitches
  • Instagram Stories
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
    • gillianstitches
  • Facebook
    • personal
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
  • Twitter
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
  • Pinterest
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
  • Email
    • personal
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
  • Websites
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
    • Etsy marketplace
    • Amazon Handmade marketplace
  • Accounting/Banking
  • Shipping/Tracking

All The Other Reasons I Use Devices

Whoa! Right?! That’s a lot! Like totally overwhelming a lot. And that’s just the work-type stuff. Not the millions of other reasons I’m using my phone or tablet:

  • take photos,
  • getting directions,
  • accessing coupons,
  • games,
  • tracking workouts,
  • watching TV,
  • texting, and
  • using the phone… rarely.

If you are horrified by my digital/online presence, I get it. If you are horrified and thinking, “OMG! Me too!” I get it. AND I have made a worksheet to help you identify:

  1. the tools you use on your devices,
  2. the triggers that prompt you to scroll your phone mindlessly, and
  3. the tactics to limit or stop your digital consumption and use for a while.

But first I’ll tell you about my own experiences with social media, in hopes it helps you identify your own use and triggers.

My Mindless Scrolling and Phone-Check Triggers

Once I realized that the yucky, exhausted feeling I was experiencing was significantly related to my digital consumption and use, I started to notice the why and when of my digital use. Sometimes I just need to check email, check to see if I have any sales to create items for, take a picture of my cute kids.

But there were also triggers that would prompt me to mindlessly pick up my phone and start scrolling before I even realized what I was doing. Right? You probably have done this too! Suddenly you are 30 minutes into watching Facebook videos and you have no idea how you got there or why you even picked up your phone to begin with.

Some of my mindless digital consumption triggers are:

  • an interrupted conversation (might as well check some stats until the kids let me finish that conversation with my husband),
  • the downtime after a tantrum (I need that hit of dopamine),
  • that antsy feeling I’d get while working on a big work project,
  • boredom,
  • FOMO.
  • And the big one… when someone else picks up their phone. Watch for it when you are in a group. You won’t be able to unsee it. If one person picks up their phone to say, check the time, you will likely get the urge to look at your phone and so will the people around you. It is human mirroring at it’s best with the added bonus of a possible pick-me-up! Hard to resist!

How I Ditched Digital For A Little While 

My initial plan was to go cold turkey and leave my phone at home during our vacation, but my husband pointed out that the rest of our family that was vacationing with us would likely text or call me to connect if we got separated during our time together, so that was extreme. After some thought, I agreed. My phone would come with us.

how to take a digital sabbatical
Grouped Apps on the last page of my phone scroll. Also, #sorrynotsorry I don’t answer my phone.

But if I was going to have the addictive and exhausting tool, I needed parameters. I moved all of my highly addictive and mindless-use apps  to the last page in my phone and I grouped them all together within a collection I labelled “STOP!” This way, if I happened to be triggered while on vacation, my apps weren’t on the first page I would expect to see them. I would have to actively swipe a few times to get to the app, and even then it is within a grouping labeled “STOP!” that I’d have to click on to access the app. I also disabled my notifications. No pings and dings to trigger my Pavlovian response to check my phone.

(And by the way, a few weeks later, I haven’t moved those apps back to the front page of my phone nor have I ungrouped them nor have I re-enabled notifications.)

The result was that I was not on Instagram, work Facebook (I did consciously post a few pics to my personal FB account while on vacation), Pinterest, Twitter, Accounting, Etsy, or Amazon Apps for the 4 days of our vacation.

What Did I Miss During My Sabbatical?


I’m just a woman taking a vacation selfie in the morning only to forget to take pictures for the rest of the day!

News: I didn’t miss any news I couldn’t catch up on when I got back. The royal wedding went off without a hitch without me being apprised of every detail leading up to it!

Work: Purchase rate didn’t change at pen&thimble. I left my shops open after adjusting turnaround times and I came back to a few orders. Order rate did not change in any direction because I wasn’t stalking my stats. Order rate also didn’t change because I stopped posting on social media. That last one was HUGE to realize.

Social Media: My accounts were fine when I returned. In fact, my initial posts after my return had more likes and engagement than I had had in months!

Email: My email inboxes were full. But it was mostly spam-type emails and the rest I replied to with no problem. I’m actually terrible at replying to emails although I check constantly, so a few days/weeks between emails is par for the course.

What Did I Gain From My Digital Sabbatical?

So what happened when I took a social media and digital break? I felt light. I connected with my family. I still used my phone to take pictures, but still even less than I typically do. I felt like I was on vacation. I virtually unplugged from work and plugged into that beach and pool life! And separating work from family is hard to do as I work from home and work hours often turn into a gray area as I’m balancing kids, home, myself, and my business in a day.

Are you ready to try a digital sabbatical? Sign up for this free worksheet to help you plan your own digital sabbatical! A successful sabbatical relies on a plan — What tools and apps are fair game? What aren’t? Will you announce your absence? Make a plan for your next digital sabbatical today using my short but illuminating guide!

Need to take a break from social media? Want to take a break from the constant ding of your devices? Grab my free digital sabbatical worksheet!