I returned to work this morning after nine days off spent in Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. For the first time in my professional life I truly unplugged. I did not check email even once. Not even from the plane on the way home. And I logged on to Instagram only to post two vacation videos.
I’ve been inching toward this point for years, slowly checking email less frequently, logging on to social media only for short bursts instead of endlessly scrolling, liking and commenting. But this past week, a combination of hours upon hours of no service in the highest elevations of the Smoky Mountains and extreme fatigue from news, especially political coverage, converged into a break I didn’t realize I needed and one I encourage others to take.
It’s hard when you work with media to just stop consuming news, which is why I never really did it before. There’s so much to miss in the course of any given day that it’s often easier to keep up with things—even if that means a few minutes focused on your phone instead of on your vacation. In the end, I reasoned, keeping in touch and up to date is worth it. Plus, I could miss an opportunity to proactively pitch a client. I could miss an email from a reporter.
There were some big news stories while I was away. I’m still catching up on many of them, but so far I’ve learned that there was a shooting at an Annapolis newspaper, SCOTUS upheld the Muslim ban, Canada imposed tariffs on many U.S. goods, Trump had a summit scheduled with Putin, protesters came out in force against separating families at the border and there were devastating floods in Iowa. Overall, a combination of sad and frustrating news that I didn’t really need to know about last week. They would have made me more anxious and less relaxed, negating the point of time off.
The biggest news lasts more than a day and I’m confident that I’ll continue to hear more about all of these stories (plus others) in the weeks ahead. And, when appropriate, I’ll still be able to proactively pitch related experts and campus stories. But I’ll come to those pitches fresh, after having had a much-needed break, which I’d argue is more valuable to my employer, coworkers and clients than trying to manage things from my vacation.
And about those emails from reporters. They were handled by an out of office message and some fantastic coworkers.
So, this Fourth of July, or whenever you have time off, have confidence that everything will be okay if you truly unplug, enjoy the downtime and come back refreshed. The 24-hour news cycle will always be there. And it doesn’t take very long to get caught up. Happy summer!