Unplug to Stop the Madness

Valerie Anne Burns
6 min readJun 9, 2023


Why is everything so complicated? Life is meant to be easier with the internet, texting, emailing, etc. — Really? There is a reason the term ‘unplug’ is more important than ever. Or, we could move to a secluded spot in the Maldives and unplug forever. I receive a minimum of 7 notifications via text, email, phone recording, for one Dr. appointment — WTF? Between all my writing groups, publication journals, writing classes/workshops, newsletters, as well as political messages, product lists, art, film, publication interests, my inbox is forever-full. I even sense a certain kind of panic if I’m off the computer for a day and the time consuming efforts it will take of scrolling to catch up haunts me. Then there’s the solicitations, scammers, spammers that are absolutely everywhere we have to deal with whether it’s a hang-up (or in my case I ask why they can’t find more honorable work) push to spam or junk mail, block, and delete. In Fb or Insta I receive requests from so-called Military/Surgeon male impostors that prey on women — Block, report, delete. But my favorite in today’s world is getting anyone, just anyone that’s alive on the damn phone!

Because of the overwhelm I feel, I do have to step away in order to save my sanity. To do that, I force myself to unplug and seek nature by getting out for my power walk by the sea, walk my kitty Lucia, stare at the beautiful blooms on my patio or the fantastic landscaping and ocean-island view outside my gate. A couple weeks back when the doves (a love couple) were visiting in the late afternoon, I shut off the laptop and watched them. One of them sat on the edge of my bird bath for thirty minutes. They felt a Zen vibe just as many humans do while sitting on my patio.

Dove hanging out in the bird bath on my patio

Plugged back in, I’ll speak about the infamous phone call. I resorted to reaching a live person since the emails I received from the health ins company came off as suspicious. ‘It was urgent that I update my information’. I no longer click on any unknown links! While they send me emails, my email address didn’t match the information they have in their system on the website — Huh? How is that possible? I became concerned as we all seem to do these days when something seems amiss or suspicious. Suffice to say, it took multiple tries over a week’s time to reach someone. Attempt after attempt, jumping all the hurdles through the recording to be put in line and then told ‘too high of a call volume’ — Click. This pattern occurred several times. Recording hurdles — Click. Then to top it off, I was given the option twice to be ‘called back’ confirmed everything only to hear a recording ‘we can’t do this at this time’ — Huh? OMG, I thought perhaps I’d be pushed to commit hari kari.

I began to wonder if it was a ploy to drive us all to drink. Finally, after several days of this, a ‘live’ person came on after holding foran HOUR (no choice but to bite the bullet) to voice my troubles, aggravations, and concerns to. She was nice and understood my frustration. Turns out, it was just a typical notice and there was nothing wrong with my info or my standing with this health ins co. I opted out of all notifications and stated that if anything were to change that I’d notify them.

One down, a thousand to go. How do we deal and cope with the onslaught and bombardment in our inbox, phone, news… because let’s face it, we live in dark times across the world (this country alone with the constant fascist movement) the war in Ukraine, our fragile planet, animal welfare, human rights, women’s rights, etc.? I often feel as though we’ve slipped back a hundred years instead of the dire need for critical progression in this world.

That said, I learned about (yet another) breathing technique that came from a podcast with a neurologist my therapist told me about. I’d like to share it with you because it is beneficial.

In one breath, two deep inhales through the nose and one long exhale through the mouth. I also learned that there’s been more research on noise/sound machines to use at night for better sleep. It has to do with the brain and how it interprets the sound to lull you into a deeper sleep. White noise works too. I’ve started to run my air filter again at night, which provides a nice steady hum. I’ll try anything because I’ve never been a sound sleeper and get up too much during the night. I also have anxiety and cycles of low-grade depression ever since childhood. Sleep is crucial.The scent of my pink jasmine is crucial.

On another note, reinvention as a writer has presented its own kind of overwhelm. In the last month, I came to a place of utter exhaustion, self-doubt, and questioning my talent, skill and ability. This has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve yet to conquer the brutality of the publishing world by a successful publication of my book. Writing and all that goes with it is hard work. I am grateful that I’ve been published 8 times. Seven essays from the book have been published but I can’t seem to get arrested for the whole book. To be published at all is success in itself but the ratio of rejections is startling. None of us are immune to the sting rejection provides, no matter where it comes from. It’s not just writing, it’s research, reading the work of others, lit agent queries that go nowhere fast, research on where to submit and then submit, contests, residency applications, writing groups, zoom time, workshops, writing seminars, slew of writing themed emails, and more. And don’t get me started on all the costs writers have to endure: Submissions, contests, workshops, residences, etc… can all add up to thousands of dollars.

I felt a big meltdown coming so I shut down and stepped back. I focused on other worthy things like volunteering for RESQCATS in Santa Barbara and becoming a Compeer (companion) to a young fellow (violinist) for the Music Academy’s world-renown summer program. Was it one too many rejections, too much cost, the fact that I’m stalled on my writing, I began to feel like a fraud that I stepped back? I seem to be paralyzed on any kind of flow on the 2nd book due to not having my first book published after a tremendous amount of time, blood, sweat, and tears.

The funny thing is, the moment I stepped back, I received a message to ask me if I’d like to be granted someone’s attendance to the Santa Barbara Writers Conference since they could not make it. How could I say no to attending the conference that costs $800 for free. And the next day, I received an email that my essay, “Sexting at Sixty” had been accepted for publication. It will be published online and in print available several different places. I’d submitted that essay to several publications over the last year with no luck and then, poof!

I knew it was a clear sign from the Universe that I am, in fact, meant to be a writer, and to keep going. We all have to keep going. Move forward and if you have to step back, unplug, shut down, be still, so be it. Breathe, step in nature and enjoy the fragrant blooms as spring begins to close, and find your way to a deep and peaceful sleep. Enjoy the gifts summer has to offer.

Keep on swimming through life,

Valerie Anne




Valerie Anne Burns

Author of Caution: Mermaid Crossing, Voyages of a Motherless Daughter”; Blogger; Breast Cancer Survivor; Hollywood Survivor; Workshop Leader; & Beauty Seeker.