Quarantine has been killing me, I won’t lie. My motivation, focus, and energy suffered huge losses in the first couple of weeks. Fortunately for me, I had a week off scheduled about a month in, and I was able to still take that time off and relax. During my relaxation, I squeezed in a day where I did a dopamine detox, outlined in this video.

I have to be honest, turning off my phone the night before lasted literally 10 min. I decided to scroll through social media before bed at the last minute, and fully disconnect in the morning. Clearly I was more addicted than I realized. I did manage to power off my phone before going to sleep, so I could wake up the old fashioned way.

The first thing I do in the morning (like most people) is check my phone. Shockingly, without a phone to check, I stayed in bed and fell back asleep almost immediately. When I officially woke up an hour later, I did my morning routine and contemplated what the hell I was going to do that day. Because it was snowing (in April, thanks Chicago), I didn’t really feel up to going for a walk–even though that is one of the encouraged activities. 

By 11 am, I was already going a bit mad, so I decided to start journaling. I started and stopped a couple of times, alternating with sitting and thinking, quickly boring myself. I made a boring lunch of rice and veggies (with little seasoning), and decided to try just sitting and thinking.  I instinctively reached for my phone about a dozen times, and I became super aware of my addiction.

I tried to pinpoint why I kept reaching for my phone. As I searched for the origin of my instinct, I realized that whenever I started to get anxious about something, I reached for my phone. It was a way to avoid the anxiety. This made me even more anxious, because I didn’t realize I was anxious at all! I thought I was just lazy.

This led me down an interesting train of thought, which I journaled in order to preserve the epiphanies. As a child, I saw all the ways I could succeed, and assumed I would do so. When/if I didn’t, I pursued another path. As an adult, I see all the ways I could fail, and tread carefully to avoid them—sometimes by avoiding all paths forward. What am I so afraid of? Judgment? I’m going to get that regardless. Especially in my work, I realized that this judgment is meaningless, as long as I get the work done. And I realized that work I couldn’t get done was a reflection not (only) of my efforts as a new employee, but my manager and colleagues as teachers. The onus to do well isn’t only on me!

A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, and so I kept writing about all of my ruminating thoughts. There was nothing to do but write, and I wrote the most I’ve ever written in one setting. I had unparalleled clarity in my thoughts, because there was nothing to do but work through them! What was my motivation? Why did I pursue certain paths? I asked and answered so many questions that I previously judged myself for without ever really addressing. I was being self-reflective and self-aware, and I felt amazing about it. 

I rode this high for days, and managed to increase my focus and motivation in the process. Managing expectations, both for myself and those I’m held accountable, was previously a struggle between time and pride. We only have 24 hours in a day, and when I treat those hours like a finite resource, they’re infinitely more manageable.

Now it’s been a month since I’ve done the detox, and while my motivation has once again faced a precipitous decline, it’s not as bad as before. Emotionally, I can handle it, and that’s enough for me. Maybe I’ll get to a point where I can do this once a month! Until then, I’ll try to incorporate the principles into my daily life.