On the street, I cringe when I see a mother on her cell phone while she completely ignores the baby right in front of her. Maybe she’s the nanny and not the mother? Regardless, no sooner do I pronounce judgment against her in the courtroom of my mind, than I am on my own device, turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to the people and life around me.
Our devices stupefy us. We sit in front of them for hours on end, at work or play. From stay-at-home moms, to students, to CEOs, we are all tempted to put real life on hold as we give our full attention to the dazzling and demanding virtual show. Spoken words and true connections are like droplets of rain on a water-resistant slicker. They sit on the surface but do not penetrate our hearts. We are impervious to what is going on around us.
And it’s not just our devices that distract us from real life. Busyness also numbs us to reality. We are pinballs, careering from one event to the next, especially this time of year---do you feel me, moms of elementary-aged children? We need a moment. But we are like frantic and harried vacationers, so eager to make our destination that we barrel through quaint small towns, missing their charm (and what we could learn if we adopted their pace).
We are hypnotized by the illusion of connection (with our devices) and self-importance and efficiency (with our penchant for busyness). How do we snap out of our self-induced trance? Below are four simple ways to refresh our spirits and reconnect with real life.
- Come up for air - …in small ways. Put an “end time” on your work, like an expiration date on a carton of milk. My sister is a champ at this. She leaves the office at a pre-determined time, regardless of how many emails are in her inbox, and I’m pretty sure she has thousands! She also chooses not to access her work remotely once she gets home, even though there is obviously MUCH to do. She comes up for air every time she does this and it allows her to connect with her husband, children, and friends, in a way she couldn’t otherwise. I want to be like my younger sister when I grow up. Give yourself a grown up “time out." It’s a gift, though, not a punishment. Take a break for 5-10 minutes every hour or so. Whether you’re at home, folding laundry, or at your desk churning out emails. I've used the timer on my iPhone to remind me to take a little walk or do something different for a few minutes. It gives me a clearer mind when I return to the task at hand. …and in big ways. A family vacation rocks but don’t wait for that. If possible, look for pockets in your schedule to take a mini get-away of some sort. My husband and I went to Winchester, Virginia for an overnight recently. It was no Hawaii, but, hey, it served its purpose. We got off the treadmill and caught our breath and connected with each other.
- Attach – As we detach from our devices and busyness, we find room to attach to something positive---a person or pastime that we enjoy. Set up a mini date with someone close to home or a friend that you love but haven’t seen for months. Pick up your phone (for a second) and give them a ring! Return to a hobby that fell by the wayside---knitting, tennis, reading. Detaching gives you the gift of time you didn’t have before! Use it to attach to something more life-giving!
- Read a book (esp. a good one) – Summer is made for this! It can be an educational book or one that is simply an escape. I’m reading two very different books right now. “Gone girl” has nothing to do with my life (thank goodness) but it’s very entertaining. And “The good and beautiful God” is fantastic and super inspirational---with tons of tips for self-care and spiritual growth. Audiobooks come in handy, too, to get your mind off your burdens while you commute or tend to simple tasks around the house.
- Eat "clean" for a day (or a week) – This is a surprising way to lessen the load of stress that you may be carrying! Adjusting your diet for a day is a simple way to detox (without the ambitious undertaking of making smoothies that require ingredients from a rainforest in Brazil). Find a friend and do this together, if you want accountability. For 24 hours, avoid processed foods (snacks in bags, meals in boxes) and buy fresh (from a farmer’s market, if possible). Don’t eat out for the allotted time period, either. You should feel a natural energy boost. You will also 1) save money and 2) feel better.
Notice that the acronym for these simple steps is C.A.R.E. When we step away from our devices and the busyness of life, we are caring for ourselves and therefore better equipped to care for others and meet the rigors of our day-to-day lives. Let me know how it goes for you when you implement these simple steps! I care.