THE IMPORTANCE OF SWITCHING OFF AND HAVING “ME-TIME”

“I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!”

I assume most of you know that song from Alice in Wonderland. In talking about his white rabbit, Lewis Carroll said he was to be the opposite of Alice who was young, polite, and had followed the rabbit down the hole because she didn’t have much else to do. The rabbit represented age, and Alice youth. Things have changed since then and even the very young have much to do. This article talks about our manic, stressful world, particularly the stress caused by our constant use of electronic connections.

Manic Nation: Dr. Peter Whybrow Says We’re Addicted to Stress

Summing the article up, he points out: “The computer is electronic cocaine for many people. Our brains are wired for finding immediate reward. With technology, novelty is the reward. You essentially become addicted to novelty.”

He also points out that when he sees all around him wired to their computers (AKA cell phones)—even as they wine and dine on nights out for fun and recreation—he is reminded of the symptoms of clinical mania: excitement over acquiring new things, high productivity, fast speech—followed by sleep loss, irritability, and depression.

One of my beliefs is that we are all addicted to something.  By that I mean we do things that we feel compelled to do even when we know the compulsion is harming the quality of our life and our ability to properly care for ourselves.

If you have a hard time pulling the plug on your electronic devices, that is probably an addiction, but know that you are far from alone. When I conducted workshops, I suggested the participants use it as “Me-time.” I particularly pointed out that parents needed to unplug from their cell phones. Most were afraid their child would meet with a major emergency and kept their cell phones on. Actually, being constantly available has been shown to contribute to anxiety and neediness and to over-burden parents.

WHAT IS A PARENT TO DO?

Reality check: A real emergency means 911 needs calling so professionals can handle the problem. Real emergencies? A fire; an accident leaving someone unconscious, bleeding profusely, or unable to move; someone up on the roof threatening to jump off; someone being attacked or attacking another particularly with a weapon; someone taking or claiming to have taken pills; a lost toddler; missing children. You need notifying, but not until after 911 has been called and professionals are taking care of the problem.

I am not suggesting your child and you should never communicate by cell phone. But like every thing else in life, clear rules about when and where to use a cell phone improve parental sanity.

Some guidelines for insuring you have done all you can: I directed children’s crisis teams, and we had to be available to those we were trying to help 24/7.  As soon as the immediate crisis had been resolved, we trained parents to recognize when a real emergency existed. Then it was call 911 first and contact us for support, but after calling 911.

Calling us only delayed getting the professionals equipted to deal with such problems on the scene. We also trained parents to not call us on our cell phones for little things that could wait—changing appointments or just to talk.

I am not saying you have to be so rigid, but some restraint will make your life less stressful and your children more resiliant.

I grew up in the era of party lines. No cell phones, let alone a phone in each house. I recall three relatively serious accidents. One was at school and the school nurse took care of me and sent me home with a note explaining the bandaid. Both other times were accidents involving falls from a horse’s back. A broken wrist one time and a broken ankle the other time. Others helped me until my parents could get to me about an hour after the fall. Now if I had needed immediate transportation to the hospital that would have been arranged and my parents told which hospital I was being sent to.

I lived in a small town where “Everyone knew my face…” Kept me a bit safer.  Not so true for most parents today.  So everyone needs some safety net people available for major emergencies that might happen when the parent is not available. What do I mean by safety net people? Those able to substitute for you, when you cannot be contacted immediately because your cell phone fell in a puddle of water or you forgot to re-charge the battery.

Tip one:  Make sure you have safety-net people in your life.  A safety net person is the person who should be called in an emergency if you cannot be found or cannot communicate.  My husband is my  first safety-net person. My Colorado son and daughter-in-law are next in line and my New York son is the fourth one.

Tip two: List your safety-net people in your cell phone under ICE — “In Case of Emergency.”  You can buy ICE stickers here,  but a red dot will do just as well. According to their site  “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2006 that 1,600,000 emergency room patients could not provide contact information because they were incapacitated.”

Also listed in my ICE information are my primary care doctor  and my insurance providers. Because I am on blood thinners, that is listed, as are my allergies to a few standard medications.

Tip three: Carry a Safety Card:  I also carry a card with all the above information on it. The card is bordered in red, is in my purse or a pocket if I am not carrying a purse.

Tip four: Make Safety Cards for your kids.  One of the things I did at many of my parenting workshops was have parents complete a Safety Net Card for themselves and their children.

Tip five:  Worry less when you have done the above and unplug more.

I will leave you with another quote from the article.

“The idea is not that you don’t work hard,” Whybrow explains. “You do. But you have to be able to switch it off and create space. I’ve made a conscious decision to live a life that is not driven by someone else’s priority. No matter how good that dopamine feels.”

Good advice. This week-end plan some “Me-time.”

That means time when all you do is care for you.

Experiment, see if you can disconnect for an hour.  A good time to start “Me-time” is when your children are napping or have gone to bed for the night.   And yes, I know if you are caring for young children these are the times you feel most pressured to tackle your to do list.  But at least one day a week, take at least an hour of “Me-time.”  Better yet, find such time every day. You and your family will profit.

I leave you with another quote.  This one  by Maya Angelou  “Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

A FINAL WORD

Given the shootings in Aurora which stirred  up a mixture of fear, sadness, and anger in most of us, some “Me-time” is particularly important. I posted earlier about ways to help children deal with trauma.  You can read that post by clicking here.

The shootings will make find  “Me-Time more difficult.  They are cares that will not withdraw from us, so we must withdraw from them.  I know much of my Shabbat will be spent praying for the victims and exploring ideas about why a person can go so far astray.  Still I will find some time just for me and it most likely will  be escapist reading, but a long walk or a long nap might also serve.

PRACTICE KINDNESS

Be kind to  me,  like this post or share it.  You will be helping me stay strong and maybe help some others as well.   Click here for my free Ebook: The 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Training Exercises.  They strengthen everyone.

IMAGE from Wikipedia

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2 responses to “THE IMPORTANCE OF SWITCHING OFF AND HAVING “ME-TIME”

  1. I read the article you linked to and it was a bit of a wake-up call. I am always checking my phone for updates: txt messages, Facebook, email. As i am doing a task I think of something else and interrupt myself to do that other thing, like doing one thing at a time is not enough … some days. Some days it’s difficult to be in the present moment and kids want their parents to be with them, in the present moment. This is definiately something to watch out for and improve upon.

    • Thank you for commenting. Not easy, and I struggle with multi-tasking also. Turning off, however, can be done bit by bit, so work at it. Good luck.

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