Unplugging to Recharge

Work days can get monotonous can’t they? Wake up, put the oatmeal on the stove, rush off to the shower, stuff the oatmeal down and run out the door, hopefully remembering the lunch you packed. And damn it, where’s the laptop? After working normal hours, we come often come home drained, and at my house, I’ve noticed that that exhaustion translates into me zoning out in front of bad TV and my partner plugging into a computer game.

Technology Feedback Loop, from Portlandia

Sometimes I remember to drag myself off the couch to walk the dogs and make dinner, but other nights I find myself snacking on whatever I can find, before stumbling to bed, and waking up the next morning thoroughly confused about where my time went.

Even weekends can be similar: several loads of laundry and cleaning the house so we’re not ashamed to have people over. (It’s not as easy as it was in China, where we had Ayi’s to handle that!) And so zoning out becomes a guilty reward once again.

I bet I’m not alone.

LCD screens have become adult (and even infant) pacification. Don’t know what to do with that extra 15 minutes you have in your day? Flip through the channels, pin something on Pinterest, read a blog post – let’s face it, we have any number of options, and they can all leave us feeling zapped of our energy, with nothing to show for it.

So how do you remember to make time for yourself so that you can really recharge? Sometimes it’s as easy as remembering what’s important to you and what your goals are, but in case you’re stuck, here are a few ideas that you might find help you unplug:

  • Downgrade your cable to the bare minimum you can live with. You’ll save money (we’re saving $80 a month now), and you’ll find that you have more time on your hands. If you have a few can’t-miss programs, well that’s what Hulu+ and Netflix are for. This will cut down on the amount of time you mindlessly plug in.
  • You know all those DIY projects that you pin on Pinterest? Start one!
  • Learn a new skill – there are countless tutorials that aspire to teach us how to do everything from making our own cheese, to sewing our own clothes. Pick something and work on it until you’re happy with your skill level. For me it was canning, crochet, and coding. You can learn through a book, a class, an online portal like Skillshare, but you just have to decide to try. (nice)
  • Play a game – got roommates? Neighbors? Whip out a game of Uno or Scrabble, or Wuziqi. It can help you learn about new cultures and also reaffirm your friendships, because who doesn’t love laughing about someone’s awful drawing in Pictionary? (so true!!)
  • Go for a walk – we spend so much of our days inside offices and classrooms. Why not go enjoy the sunlight! After all, we’re vitamin D deprived anyway. On hold with the bank? That’s no reason not to walk around the block while you listen to the elevator music. Charles Dickens once famously said, “If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.”
  • Take a class at the gym to help you break the monotonous workout routine. I know right now pole dancing is the new exercise craze, but for me, I think a Monkey Conditioning class looks like so much more fun.
  • Enjoy a spa day at home. Bubble bath and a good book can fix most of the world’s problems, but DIY manicures and facials aren’t bad either. Whip out candles and beverage of your choice for an even swankier evening.

These things have helped inspire me to use my time differently, and I’ve found that at the end of the day, I’m much more relaxed than I was before. What helps you recharge at the end of the day, and what ways do you avoid getting sucked into the LCD screen vortex?


  1. Camilla says:

    Great post and no, you’re certainly not alone. It’s so easy to go into zombie mode after work–especially during the winter when it gets dark early and it’s too cold to enjoy the outdoors. Regarding your first suggestion, I’ve lived without cable for something like four years and I don’t miss it one bit. Now, if only Hulu and Netflix (and Spotify, for that matter) worked in Prague!

  2. cindy says:

    I am also always for reading a good book with a hot cup of tea. And I agree with Camilla; my boyfriend and I live with no TV in Bali and we do just fine. And even though our internet isn’t good enough for Hulu and Netflix to work, we stay updated just fine with the pirated DVDs that are abundant here.

    • Kate says:

      That’s how we handled it when we were in China too, though we did have pirated cable from the Philippines as well (you’ve never seen such weird commercials…) I feel like we spent even more time there zoned out in front of the TV because we could watch the episodes we wanted back to back for days on end!

      Also, what do you think about reading on Kindles or iPads? (Full disclosure: I have a Kindle that I love) I kind of feel like it’s one more screen to stare at, and I really miss the pages and the heft of a real book! At least the Kindle screen isn’t glowing, but I wonder if the people that do sleep studies – wherein it frequently gets reported that screens before bed disrupt sleep – have an opinion about whether or not even the Kindle screen has that effect…

  3. Michelle says:

    I live in HK without a TV for the past 4 years. Being able to choose my media consumption keeps me conscious and selective. Also love the Monkey conditioning clip!

    • natasia says:

      Absolutely true for me too, however I went through a phase where I was watching hours of TV online. American TV drama/sitcom junkie who hasn’t lived with a television since high school. Can be hard sometimes.

  4. natasia says:

    Definitely a great post for most of us working in front of computer screens for 12+ hours a day. When we’re not in front of computers, we’re now mobile. *Bah! Once a week I try to devote 5 hours to just shopping for fresh produce, preparing dinner for friends, and enjoying over a bottle of wine. I know you can relate! You did such a great job with brunch in Shanghai.

  5. Evelyn says:

    I’m with you on cutting back on cable, you just forget that it’s even there. When we first moved to Colorado it was a full week before either of us even tried to turn on the TV. And I find that having cable again makes me really frustrated with commercials… There’s one playing now that really gets my goat! It’s a mom talking about what an easy, nutritious breakfast Nutella makes for her children!

    And re: your kindle question, I read those articles too & I think it was specifically phone/laptop/tablet usage because the amount of light & at that distance/angle (shining into your eyes) is unique to lcd screens in personal tech items (ie they didn’t find the same problem with TVs or lamps+ books before bed). I’m paraphrasing enormously because this is how I justify my kindle

  6. Cat says:

    Unplugging is key! I have lived without a TV now for 4+ years and I don’t miss it. I spend so much time working in front of my laptop, the idea of using another screen to relax with just makes my head hurt. Another idea to ease down is to go through your address book and call people you haven’t talked to in a while. A cup of tea and conversation helps get my head out of my little bubble and see how much more there is happening in world.

    Love the spa-day at home, thanks for the reminder!

  7. Nick says:

    These are all awesome suggestions. Another one: picking a random page of a cookbook, and cooking what’s on it. And then inviting your friend Nick to come eat it :)

  8. gemma says:

    haha i like Nick’s idea. And invite your friend Gemma too! You’re incredible Kate – this article is so relatable and in fact next wednesday me and the busy gals i live with have planned a nails/hot chocolate/’buy that new thing we need that we’ve been putting off’ day – and I will not let myself check my emails/phone/work stuff in that time. It’s the quiet peaceful mind at rest time that I can’t seem to achieve anymore!!

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