Why I need a digital detox

The benefits of a digital detox - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

When was the last time you looked out of the window for a whole train journey? Watched a whole film or listened intently
to a whole song doing nothing else? Can you honestly still have a whole conversation without instinctively pulling out your phone to Google something? 

And when was the last time you ate your dinner without scrolling social media or watching TV?

I need a digital detox.

Ooh, I said it out loud. 

Scary thing to say for someone who works in social media, right? It’s always been a problem for me. I can never give it up fully because I’d have to give up my job, and I’ve always hidden behind the whole ‘I need social media for my blog’ veil but…
well. This is the first post I’ve written in over a month, and before that it was a few weeks’ previous too, so that’s not really working for me, is it?

The benefits of a digital detox - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

At the moment I’m loving my life. Living my best life, you might say. My freelance adventure has given me the wings I’ve
craved for so many years to set me free. I’ve worked with some amazing clients on some really worthwhile projects. 

Social media content and strategy for cycling community projects with Evans Cycles, articles for The Body Coach (read my latest one on digital detox here), This Girl Can and other fitness clients, and last week I helped start a new after school bike club for girls aged 14-16 with Sustrans. I’ve rewritten websites to help brands find their voice, and written blogs and created social content to engage and inspire audiences.

This is the stuff that makes my heart sing, and I feel so, so lucky – but also very worthy, actually – of everything it brings me.
I’ve been working so hard for the past 16 months, probably harder than I ever have, and I feel gratitude every day – even when I’m suffering writer’s block with a deadline looming and all I need to do is go and exercise. (Note to self: don’t let that go when things get busy – those endorphins are your brain fuel!) 

But yeah. It’s such a great feeling to wake up every day and be excited to go to work. To genuinely love Mondays, and be inspired,
motivated, and most importantly interested, in what I’m doing every day. To have flexibility and freedom and complete  autonomy. To choose to work with some amazing people (and have them choose me). 

It’s just brilliant. 

The benefits of a digital detox - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
The face of someone who *finally* met that deadline 🙂

There have definitely been a few ups and downs along the way, with a few lessons still in the process of being learned, but I wouldn’t change it for the world as I’m 100% the best version of myself right now.

Or 90%, at least…

The quest for tech-life balance

One thing I would change, is restoring my work-life balance. 

Or actually, my tech-life balance. I’ll never be able to go cold turkey but there are definite steps I can take to be honest with myself about whether my phone / internet use is bringing real benefits to my life, or seeping into areas it shouldn’t do, robbing me of my focus, forcing me into impulsive ‘multitasking’, and affecting my ability to just be.

My latest piece for The Body Coach – the deadline I finished this week – is on how to do a digital detox without completely giving up our tech. I’ve spoken to a range of experts who’ve brought home a few truths and made me realise there are more important things than staring hunched over into a screen – whether that’s for work, my blog, or play.

The benefits of a digital detox - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
Rooftop view provided by the amazing Platf9rm


These are the things I will do to bring my brain and my body the space it craves:

Make the bedroom a no-phone zone

That means buying an alarm clock – remember those?! Or using my TomTom watch to vibrate and wake me up. No more snooze, no more nighttime scrolling, no more late bedtimes and early starts. I need to prioritise my sleep as much as I try to prioritise my training.


One of the experts I spoke to for my latest piece reminded me of a simpler time when we only had a handful of TV channels, Internet was only available at a desktop computer (dial up!), and the only way to speak to anyone on the phone was to call the landline – which “no one did after 9pm unless granny was dead.”


I remember getting my first mobile phone when I was 14 (2000). It was a revelation. And even then, without all the bells and whistles of having the world (wide web) in my pocket, I *still* spent hours texting and calling friends in between playing Snake. The beginning of the end was nigh…

“Phones and tablets are not inherently bad. What is bad is our relationship with them,” says Dr Neil Stanley, independent sleep expert and author of How To Sleep Well. 

“We’ve broken the convention of time. Just because we can take our devices everywhere with us, doesn’t mean we should do.

People spend a lot of time and money on trying to feel good – gym memberships, healthy food, multivitamins and supplements – but they’re not prioritising the one thing that would benefit them more than anything which is get a good night’s sleep – it’s the very foundation of physical, mental and emotional health.” 

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know this is an ongoing battle I have with myself. I love a morning workout, but when it comes to tech time I’m a bit of a night owl. When I do actually get time for my blog I tend to write after 9pm once Chris is in bed, and that means I’m not shutting down until gone 11pm for sure, sometimes nearer midnight. Then trying (and at the moment failing) to get up for 6 or 7am classes and early morning runs. 


In short – it ain’t working. And I’m gonna give it a proper go to change this time.


Log off 30mins before bed

For a new habit to stick it needs to be introduced in baby steps. Once I’ve got the hang of reading a book or magazine instead of scrolling before bed, I’ll up the time from 30 mins to maybe an hour. 

Maybe I’ll start writing my diary again or do some colouring in to give me something set to do – that’ll be easy to do for more than 30mins.


Does anyone else find colouring in really relaxing, by the way?


Set boundaries and stick to them 

The benefits of a digital detox - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

No missing workouts – I must take proper breaks, even when I’m struggling to work and deadline is looming. Endorphins feed the brain. Remember that. 

No phones in the bedroom, bathroom and at dinner. No aimless scrolling – everything will be done with intention. I’ll set a Screen Time limit on my iPhone to limit social media use from 9.30 – 7am, and I’ll *try* really hard not to take photos of everything and be a bit more intentional about the shots I do take. 

Like when we used to have film and knew we only had 24 photos in a roll. We chose them wisely and we relished that first look on opening the envelope. Remember that?

Practice meditation

The benefits of a digital detox - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
Read my posts about floatation therapy here and here.

I’ve been saying it for years that I need to do more yoga, be more mindful, get into meditation properly. Now’s the time.
No, really, it is. Promise.

I’ve read lots on how mindfulness can help quieten the mind to improve focus and concentration, and let’s be honest, wouldn’t we all love a bit of that right now? At least one weekly yoga class *without fail*, and I’m downloading Headspace.

Watch this space. And also read this blog I wrote on 7 self care tips I think I need to remind myself of. (Although I’m still doing pretty well at no. 1 – #thisgirlcan).


Rekindle old hobbies

The benefits of a digital detox - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
A photographer snapped me taking a photo of a sunset (without me knowing)

As well as the obvious fitness escapades that I still try to fit in I used to play guitar, take photos, write my diary, do crochet, play board games, read books, watch films. I miss the simplicity of getting lost in a good book, don’t you?

There’s a pottery painting workshop in Brighton that I cycle past daily on my way to my brilliant coworking space. Will I ever find time to go in there? A lampshade making workshop that I enquired about months ago to make some nice shades for our flat. The interesting-looking life drawing class I saw in a café the other day – let’s find out when the next one is. 

The benefits of a digital detox - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
This is the photo I took. You can see him taking a photo of me in the left corner 🙂

Plan internet-free writing time for my blog

Yes, I’ve been very busy this past month with freelance work, and yes, my RSI does need managing so I can’t be typing all
the time, but if I cut down my tech use elsewhere I’ll have energy and time to write my blog again – like I have done just now. 

I’m thankful that my phone battery died minutes before sitting down on the beach to write the majority of this post. It meant I had no 4G to tether to and distract me – my ever-present internet limb hastily severed just as the sun was about to set. So whilst everyone else was taking photos, I had nothing but my eyes to cast this picture to my memory. Now the sky is a backdrop of deep
burning red against the silhouettes of my fellow sunset-hunters. I can’t share with you what I can see, but don’t worry, everyone else has).

I did take a wanky ‘looking at the sunset’ photo earlier on Photo Booth because I’m a twat like that.

You’re welcome.

The benefits of a digital detox - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

There are plenty of ways to rebalance the tech-life scales without giving up our devices completely. 

It won’t be easy at first, but like giving up cigarettes it’s the habit that’s hard to break, not the activity itself. With the same will power and perseverance I think we can all bring a little more meaning back into our lives and celebrate the joy of missing out again.

Social media will still be there when we get back 🙂

Honestly though, how’s your tech-life balance?


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