What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Do to UnplugBy Homaira Kabir
How often do you joyfully reply, “I’m well!” when someone asks you about your day? If you're like most people, you sigh, you shake your head, and you reply, "SO busy!"
In our fast-paced, busy-ness worshipping society, it almost seems that we've been conditioned to respond this way. We've come to believe that to have something of value to offer—and to contribute in meaningful ways—we have to be constantly on the go. This is even more true for those of us who've grown up believing that we have to achieve to prove our worth, or those of us who are naturally driven and have ambitious, type-A personalities.
The result is that many of us are striving from a place of fear, or "striving insecurely," as Professor Paul Gilbert at the Compassionate Mind Foundation puts it. And we're experiencing the stress, anxiety, comparison, shame, and depression that come with it.
If you relate to any of this, here are two things you need to know.
Learn How to Take Frequent Breaks
Despite our sophisticated, socialized exteriors, we humans in the 21st century are still operating in a hunter-gatherer mind and body. Like them, we too need to take time out to switch off our brains after bouts of focused work. And this does not mean being plugged into our technological devices, ticking off items on our to-do lists, or working out at the gym.
True relaxation is about switching off our focused mind to allow the default mode of the brain to switch on. As the mind recovers from activity, it begins to wander, to imagine, to explore ideas and engage our creativity. That’s something we don't do often enough.
Harvard lecturer Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar recommends thinking about mental recovery on three levels. The “Micro” level is the 60- to 90-minute mark, when we move away from whatever we're doing and let our minds take a break for a few minutes. The “Mid” level is the daily breaks we take, often before bedtime—perhaps a relaxation routine, a mindfulness practice, or a reflection journal. They allow us to make sense of our day, “file” what happened in our mental library, and let go of the stresses that naturally pile up over the course of the day. And then there is the “Macro” level, which happens a few times a year. It could be a short break of a couple of