THE BLOG

Hyperconnected, But Mindfully So

07/11/2014 01:32 pm ET | Updated Sep 10, 2014
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I never leave home without my iPhone and a charger. I usually have my iPad and laptop with me, too.

My name is Francesca and I am hyperconnected. If you text, email or Facebook me, I will probably see it in real time, over multiple devices.

Ever since I got my first Blackberry over a decade ago, I have been plugged in most of the time. I knew that I needed to make more efforts to unplug, but for a long time I couldn't bring myself to do it in any meaningful way.

And then I woke up one morning last summer and I couldn't open my mouth. At all. My jaw was locked shut and I had to make a concerted effort not to panic. I took a deep breath and tried again, slowly, to open my mouth. It reluctantly creaked open and it hurt like hell. I took a bunch of Advil until the pain subsided and hoped that whatever had caused it would magically go away. Over the next couple of months, instead of going away, the same thing happened a few more times.

This new chronic pain caused me to pay attention to how often I was clenching my jaw. As it turns out, I was clenching it a lot. Not only when I was consciously experiencing stress, but even when I wasn't aware I was stressed.

I had long been a wayward student of meditation and mindfulness, but my practice was inconsistent, though I knew how much better and more productive I felt when mindfulness was an everyday part of my life. The bygone years when I had practiced yoga every morning had taught me that.

Early in 2013 I started my matchmaking and coaching business. As much as I loved what I was doing, I had a lot of stress surrounding starting and running a business and effectively helping my clients. I was going to sleep each night thinking about my clients, obsessively checking my email and worrying. When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was reach for my ever-present iPhone to start the email and worry cycle anew.

At some point after months of jaw pain, I realized I wasn't doing anyone any good by turning into a clenched ball of stress. Not my clients and certainly not myself.

Discovering the culprit was easy -- I was, after all, attached to my iPhone, which was never far from my side, not even when I was sleeping or in the bathroom. I was hyperconnected-multiple-device-woman. I could like your status update with lightning speed. I was online all the time.

Some of this attachment was a necessity. Running your own small business in this day and age requires a lot of connection. Facebook isn't just a hobby for me -- connecting with people online is a huge part of my job.

But my aching jaw and something else -- something restless that would compel me to check my Facebook and Twitter notifications in the middle of the night if I happened to wake up to go to the bathroom -- told me I had to make some changes to my hyper-plugged in way of existing.

And so I did -- I started making some small changes that have had a huge impact on my everyday well-being.

1. The first thing I did was to ban my iPhone from my bedroom. I choose a point each night to begin winding down and getting ready for bed. At that time, I turn the sound off on my phone and leave it in a safe distance away in the living room.

2. Second, because I use my phone as an alarm clock, I began using songs that I love with a good beat as an alarm rather than any standard ringtones. Why is it a practice in our culture to awake to a jarring, aggressive sound? Talk about a rude awakening! Any kind of rude alert instantly wakes me in a bad mood, so I deliberately choose songs that have the opposite effect. (Side note -- when you turn the ringer off on an iPhone, it mutes all rings, text, email and app alerts except for the alarm. Kudos to Apple for that feature!)

3. When I hear the music start to play in the morning from the living room, I start moving, even as I lay in bed. I stretch from head to toe and I wiggle and dance while still under the covers. I find even when I'm tired, the movement helps me to wake up more quickly. On particularly well-rested mornings, I jump out of bed and dance around my living room!

4. Next, when the song is done playing I turn the alarm off and I sit in my specially designated meditation spot. Some mornings I am more focused than others, and some mornings I have more time than others, but even if I only have a few minutes I sit, breathe deeply and set my intention for the day.

5. After my morning dance and meditation, I make myself some tea or fresh juice and get ready for the day. Once I am showered, dressed and my teeth freshly scrubbed, then I check my phone, email, Facebook, Twitter, text messages and the rest.

It has taken a tremendous amount of pressure off of me knowing that no matter what is happening in internet land, I don't have to worry about it until it's time to deal with it. I've been able to "trick" my brain into allowing myself this time free of worry of missing something happening online.

When I had no boundaries in place, anytime and all of the time was the time to check in online. And it was just too much.

Since making these small changes, my jaw is better, I sleep better and I am more relaxed and focused throughout the day. All because I made the choice to start my day in a deliberate, mindful way.

I am grateful for the clenched jaw that inspired these changes in my life. My state of mind, my ability to deal with the day's challenges and even my business has improved as a result of my renewed focus and more relaxed state.

Now you tell me -- are you hyperconnected? How do you unplug? Do you unplug? Have you made any small changes in your daily routine that have had a big impact in your life? Please leave your comments and feedback below!

Follow me on Twitter @DearFranny