The Art of Unplugging: Applying 3D’s for Ancestral Stress Relief

Discover the "3Ds" of paleo stress management: Detach from tech, Delight in offline activities, and Develop deeper connections. Learn more here.
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Chronic stress has become pervasive in our tech-driven, fast-paced world. But what if we explored how our ancestors maintained tranquillity? By adopting lifestyle practices aligned with our evolutionary past, we can rediscover natural stress resilience.

This article examines paleo stress management techniques, distills them into an initial “3D’s” framework, and guides thoughtfully incorporating select approaches into modern life.

The science of stress and its impact on our bodies

Stress triggers our body’s instinctive “fight or flight” response. While beneficial in dangerous situations, chronic stress impairs health and can lead to issues like headaches, insomnia, heart disease, and depression.

Interestingly, environmental factors greatly impact stress levels. What natural elements allowed our ancestors to remain calm and collected? Let’s explore the techniques they employed.

Introducing the 3D’s: An ancestral stress relief entry point

The essence of paleo stress management is aligning environments and lifestyles with our evolutionary past. While we can’t fully replicate the past, we can adopt key practices in a balanced, sustainable way.

As an initial entry point, I recommend the “3D’s” framework:

  • Detach – Unplug from digital devices and distractions for set periods.
  • Delight – Immerse in activities that spark joy, and creativity and engage your senses.
  • Develop – Invest time in fostering deeper human connections.

The 3D’s help you start disconnecting from stressors and connecting with natural sources of joy and renewal. Be patient with yourself and start small if needed, then build up from there.

Detach: Creating tech-free zones

The first step in mindful disconnection is detaching from digital devices for designated periods to rest our overwhelmed brains. Start by analyzing when you most need relief from tech and possible timeframes for unplugging. Common examples include:

Weekend digital detoxesUnplug entirely for a day or an entire weekend to reset. Turn off notifications and avoid screens.
Mini-breaks during the dayEven short 15–30-minute tech breaks boost mental clarity.
Device curfewsNo screens for 1-2 hours before bed for better sleep.
Tech-free mealtimesFocus on food and companions vs. scrolling.
Analog morningsDelay checking devices until after morning routines like exercise or journaling.
Screen-free time chunks2–3-hour windows on weekends for hobbies, chores, etc.

When detaching, physically put devices away and out of sight if possible. Also, adjust settings like turning off push notifications. Though challenging at first, you’ll start to notice the benefits quite quickly feeling more centered, focused, relaxed, and engaged with your surroundings.

The art of unplugging: applying 3d's for ancestral stress relief

Delight: Discovering joy in the off-line world

The second “D” involves delighting in screen-free activities that bring you joy, spark creativity, and engage your senses. After detaching from tech, now fill that time intentionally with offline practices that nourish you. Ideas include:

Reading booksFiction, non-fiction, poetry, whatever transports you.
Being in natureForest bathing, gardening, hiking, sitting by water.
Socializing offlineIn-person conversations, and activities with friends/family.
ExercisingYoga, running, dance classes, sports, etc.
Cooking/bakingWithout simultaneously watching videos!
Arts and craftsKnitting, pottery, calligraphy, instruments, etc.
Practicing mindfulnessMeditation, deep breathing, and journaling to declutter thoughts.
Exploring freelyWandering new neighbourhoods, trying hole-in-the-wall eateries.
Volunteering locallyAt animal shelters, food banks, museums, and libraries.
Rejuvenating retreatsWeekend getaways and trips abroad to fully immerse in new places.

The key here is following your joy and intuition. Dedicate these tech-free times to activities that spark that childlike sense of wonder and presence. Not only will you feel re-energized, but you’ll gain fresh perspectives that boost creativity.

The art of unplugging: applying 3d's for ancestral stress relief

Develop: Investing in relationships

The final “D” involves intentionally developing deeper connections with important people in your life, free of digital distractions. Human relationships energize us, yet quality time together often gets crowded out by devices. After detaching from tech, invest that time in:

One-on-one relaxed datesLeave phones at home and fully immerse in conversations.
Regular video-free family dinnersCook and eat together, avoiding TV and phones.
Face-to-face interactions with friendsShare activities, have long talks, and simply be present together.
Screen-free visits with elderly parentsProvide companionship free of interruption.
Playtime and reading with little onesGaze into their eyes, focus on their voices.
Volunteering togetherGiving back as a team.

Disconnecting from tech allows space to truly see each other, listen to each other, and laugh together. It may initially feel uncomfortable to give undivided attention, but be patient with yourself. Start where you can. The bonds built will nourish you in profound ways.

The art of unplugging: applying 3d's for ancestral stress relief

Expanding beyond the 3D’s: Paleo stress management practices

For those ready to further reduce stress by continuing to align their lifestyle with our evolutionary past, the full paleo stress management practice includes:

  • Cultivate strong community connections

Humans inherently thrive on close bonds and belonging. Make time for face-to-face interactions with community, family, and friends. Disconnect from digital and nurture mutual support.

  • Immerse in nature frequently

Studies confirm spending time immersed in lush natural settings alleviates stress and anxiety. Follow our ancestors and integrate more green time into every day – garden, hike, sit by water.

Alternating hot and cold may boost stress resilience, as our ancestors encountered wide temperature variations daily. Try cold morning showers followed by sauna sessions. Consult your doctor before extreme exposure.

  • Incorporate more physical movement

Our ancestors led active lifestyles, which helped regulate stress. Aim for regular exercise by taking walking breaks, stretching, dancing, playing sports, etc.

  • Improve nutrition

Diets of whole, unprocessed foods benefited our ancestors. Nourish your body through home-cooked meals with lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, and avoid junk food.

With fewer distractions, our ancestors had regular breathing patterns, aiding relaxation. Try breathwork, meditation, and yoga. Conscious breathing reduces stress.

  • Limit digital distractions

Unlike today’s tech overload, our ancestors could focus on the present moment. Set limits on social media, and emails and enable tech-free blocks to rest your mind.


Chronic stress need not be our new normal. By looking at ancestral lifestyles we can rediscover natural tranquility. Start with the 3D’s framework of detaching, delighting, and developing connections for initial stress relief.

From there, consider which additional practices drawn from our past resonate – be it spending time in nature, better nutrition, physical movement, breathwork, limiting tech, etc. Revive elements of the environments and rhythms our ancestors intrinsically thrived in.

Be patient and focused on gradual, sustainable change. Though we can’t replicate the past, thoughtfully adopting select techniques can profoundly transform our health and happiness. By rediscovering ancestral wisdom, we can reclaim calmer, more connected, more joyful lives.

The essence of Paleo Stress Management is aligning with our evolutionary past. The 3D model provides an achievable first step, with unlimited potential for continued stress reduction by emulating our ancestors.

Alex Reijnierse
Alex Reijnierse

Alex Reijnierse is a stress management expert with over a decade of experience in helping individuals effectively manage and reduce stress. He holds a Master of Science (MSc) and has a background in high-pressure environments, which has given him firsthand experience in dealing with chronic stress.