We are all familiar with the American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who took a retreat into nature and lived for a time at Walden Pond, for which he wrote a famous book of the same name. He once wrote, “The great man (I am sure he meant women, too, even if he didn’t exactly say it.) is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” That was probably a lot easier back in his day when we had an agrarian society. How in the world can we be that woman or man who can be calm in the middle of a busy 2015?
Think about your day. Car pooling, work, cell phones, errands, children, fixing dinner, meetings, laundry, etc. Then think about all the labor saving devices as well as those that keep you in communication with everybody. Cell phones, instant messaging, e-mail, texting, faxes, GPS, computers, etc., etc. While all of these things are great and hard to live without, it can be too much of a good thing. Something is always on, or buzzing, or beeping, and even whistling to get your attention. If you really think about it, this pace and instant communication can contribute to fatigue, mental distress, poor quality family time, and insomnia, to name a few things. I’m sure more than a few of us have seen folks at a restaurant who are so busy with their phones that they don’t talk to each other face to face. That is truly sad.
We seriously need some downtime. And not just for having quality time with our spouses and families, but having quality time to unwind for ourselves. Hans Selye, the stress scientist, would be shaking his head at us and telling us to unwind before we get sick or go nuts. So how do we do that? Let me share some tips to help you get unplugged and relax.
- Avoid multi-tasking. Are you kidding me? I won’t get all my work done if I don’t talk on the phone, send an e-mail, or write a nurses’ note all at the same time. I think you get what I am talking about. Seriously, though, it can be done. Checking e-mail or texting while on another call or in a meeting doesn’t really save time. It actually splits your attention. Put the phone away. You will actually be more focused on the task at hand. More focused – finish quicker and with fewer errors.
- Designate periodic blackouts. Though service is available 24/7 and we want the fastest internet connection and the quickest response to our phone call, take a moment and turn off the devices. It doesn’t have to be for an extended period of time. You will survive, I guarantee it. All of your devices have an on and off switch. Start practicing the use of the off switch. Pick a day or at least a few hours when you let the calls go to voice mail, sign off on Facebook, or close your in box. You may be surprised that you actually get more done without their constant distractions.
- Set limits and make sure everyone knows them. Determine how often you will check messages and then indicate those times in your e-mail signature or on your voice mail. Inform friends, family, coworkers that you do not want to receive forwarded e-mails, especially at work. Avoid setting your internet home page to news sites. Without the headlines, you will be less tempted to surf. Declare family dinner hour as a gadget free zone, children and teens included. Although they probably will believe that they will die because they are unplugged, assure them that they will survive and that it will be worth it.
- Take a walk without your cell phone. Enjoy the present moment in the fresh air.
- Take a long, hot bath or shower and wash the tension away. Add candles and soothing music. (Okay, fellow Californians, our state is in a serious drought so using this extra water is a no-no. Why not put your feet up on the couch, have the candles lit, and listen to some relaxing music? It really will work.)
- Meditate even if it is for only a short while each day.
Remember, my de-cluttering and organization instructor told us that we needed an hour a day to ourselves. Can’t get an hour? 30 minutes to be alone to do what you want is better than nothing. Make an entry in your appointment book for yourself and keep that appointment! You will really be glad you did.