We live in a 24 by 7 world. We communicate and receive information in our offices, homes, cars, on our bikes, while commuting, and even in the shower. We have more and more devices that help organize, inform, entertain, and automate everything we do. It seems like our lives should be getting easier. So, why is everyone so strung out?
Stress and depression rates are rising rather than falling. People are working more instead of less. All you have to do is jump on a busy freeway or subway at rush hour to realize that people are stressed out, cranky and disengaged from the people and world around them. We need a timeout.
Yes, kind of like the one your parents used to give you for throwing a toy fire truck at your older brother when he wouldn’t let you play with him. But this timeout is better: it’s energizing, and you don’t have to stare at white kitchen walls and grimy linoleum. This timeout is about creating a quiet space of simplicity and sanctuary for yourself and others.
It’s about being free from the constant chatter of iPhones, texting, email, Facebook, TV, iPod, integrated surround sound and more. It’s about calm and hush, a way to regroup and recharge your brain, body, and spirit. It’s sanctuary space and it’s relatively cheap and easy to create. You’ll have a clearer head with less mind chatter, reduced stress, more positive endorphins in your system, and a feeling of lightness that radiates to others. You know that feeling you get after you’ve been away somewhere nice on vacation after about the first 5 days? Imagine feeling every day. All you need is 5 minutes to get started.
Your brain was not meant to run on high all the time. The best ideas, art, music, work and clarity often come when it seems like we’re not thinking about them. Why do so many people say they get their best ideas in the shower? Well, because in a sense, it’s down time. So, I am advocating for downtime at work or at home in a quiet, tranquil space where it can be practiced daily.
At work, imagine setting aside a small room or several that are private, have soft lighting, and comfy chairs that can be used throughout the day for timeout breaks of quiet reflection, meditation, short naps, or even prayer. Some work places already have these spaces. Unfortunately, they don’t always seem to get the acceptance and encouragement they deserve in our hectic modern workplace. Here’s your chance to change that. If your company has quiet rooms – use them and let it be known! Don’t sneak around hoping no one will ever see you coming in or out of there, wiping down your fingerprints with every use. Be proud!
If a room isn’t possible, how about establishing a small area of your cubicle with some soothing pictures, textiles, or art and encouraging a culture that honors a “Do Not Disturb – Recharge in Progress” sign. You could even start your weekly team meetings with a couple of minutes of silent reflection to center the team. This could go a long way towards easing stress, tension, and that go-go-go feeling for everyone. I challenge you: try it out with your teams!
At home it may be easier to set aside a room, corner of a room, maybe even an area in the yard for soothing timeouts. Make it warm and inviting, nurturing and calm, use soft lights or candles. Or create a tradition in your family of gadget-free evenings or days (yes, whole days). Establish set times for reading, reflection, good old-fashioned board games, art, or taking a nice, hot bath. Maybe play charades, have a conversation, or sing and play instruments. Doesn’t it sound fun and somehow peaceful? In fact, the biggest challenge may just be boundary-setting; telling others that you are giving up TV some nights or won’t be emailing back after 6 PM most nights. Give it a try and see what happens!
My challenge to you? Try taking 5-15 minutes of timeout, once a day, for the next 7 days and see if you don’t feel calmer, more relaxed, and inspired. If you like it, go for more, maybe 15-30 minutes a day. Or how about creating a family timeout one evening per week for the next 4 weeks? Perhaps start with a nice dinner and as a family, agree to keep the hours between dinner and bed gadget-free. I’d love to hear about your experiences in trying this. And if you need some support, feel free to comment and I’ll respond back.