Unplugging. We unplug our chargers, we unplug our tablets, and we unplug our camera phones. But when -- and how -- do we unplug our most valuable device of all: ourselves?
In our fast-paced, 21-century society, we keep our smart phones at the ready 24/7 in order to remain ahead of the curve. In the Information Age, we are bombarded with texts and email around the clock. A million obligations pop up at 7 a.m. as we head out into the jam-packed world, and by 6:30 p.m. we stagger back home barely able to think beyond our mattresses and sheets. Can we possibly weed through it all, and if so, how?
How do we power down our engines when we come in for a landing? Do we crash at the end of the day and pull out the plug, or do we run our batteries down for weeks on end before finally deciding we need to switch up the cycle and recharge?
In my life, I am on a plane twice a week, balancing college assignments at NYU, my book tour, recipe development for my website and next book, and juggling press and segments on live TV. It's exciting and fun in many ways, but stressful, of course, in others. Better yet, it's a puzzle, and the trick is fitting all the pieces together. And therein lies the challenge at hand. But would I have it any other way? Of course not! I love what I do and am grateful to live out my passions, but in order to do so, organization, scheduling, and planning ahead are crucial.
The same fundamentals apply to any of us. Some of us have schedules filled with back-to-back meetings from sun-up till sundown, while others have power breakfasts and late night soirées. Still others find themselves grappling with homework or "work-work," and then there are those who are facing unique situations and personal circumstances which can take up a great deal of time and generate unwanted stress and anxiety.
In order to combat all of this, here are some helpful strategies for staving off the stampede of everyday life, and staying firmly in command of any situation that may pop up along the way.
1) Take a deep breath. The first step to dismantling that overwhelming sensation that can creep up within the best of us is by resisting the temptation to panic. Remind yourself that you have an ally on your side -- you! -- and take a deep breath before calmly addressing the issues at hand.
2) Be honest with yourself. Ignoring issues or building them up to dizzying heights in our minds can cause procrastination that is ultimately costly as well as harmful. Shirking obligations or making yourself believe that they are too big to be conquered will only make you avoid the inevitable. Remind yourself that you have the tools to take care of the situation at hand.
3) Change your perspective. Sometimes we look at handling everyday life as though it's Mt. Everest, waiting for us to climb to its summit. While it's easy to fall for this myth, it's (fortunately) NOT TRUE! Instead of looking at managing your responsibilities like trying to make your voice heard in a cacophonous ballroom filled with shouting people, look instead at the tasks at hand like individual cliques in the ballroom. It's your job to tranquilly waltz from one to another and say hello to every group in the room; it may take time, but imagine how great you'll feel as the crowds dwindle and your to-do list shrinks one by one, until eventually you've said hi to the whole group and there's nothing left to stress over.
4) Stop the runaway train. Our minds tend to mirror the infamous snowball effect -- we start with a single thought that generates stress, and spiral out of control from there, bolting helplessly down a roller coaster track in which each violent twist and turn represents another thought that eventually takes us to a place of panic or paralysis. Many of these thoughts rely on meritless suppositions that we feed ourselves. So before you involuntarily strap yourself in for the bumpy ride, step on the breaks and shut down that runaway train at its first stop.
5) Make a weekly schedule. You don't need a fancy datebook or smartphone app to map our what your week looks like. Whether you're in fifth grade or at the workplace in your fifties, taking a big piece of printer paper, grabbing a pen or pencil, dividing the sheet into seven blocks (one for every day of the upcoming week ahead), and filling in each one with the commitments you have on tap -- well, it's a simple trick that works every time. Trust me, I've been doing it for years! Mapping out your schedule in a way that's easy to see and follow forces you to be realistic about how much time you budget for each task or must-do on your list, and will help you carve out much-needed time to rest and recharge your battery.
So what's your power source? The answer to the pivotal question is subjective. There's no right or wrong reply -- it's all up to you. For some, it might be the much-beloved vacation (who hasn't said, "I need a vacation!" at some point within the last six months?). For others, it could be a game of tennis or a leisurely stroll by the beach, soaking up the sun, sand, and surf. Others might want to take off to the spa for a day or just put on a movie. But my feeling is, just like the claim that it's better to eat six mini meals throughout the day than three big ones, it's ideal to space out your breaks and recuperation time, so that you're not constantly crashing and saving up for one massive plug-in.
If you don't have time for that game of tennis or trip to the spa, here's some sound advice that was recently given to me by a very wise friend: Take a few minutes every morning and evening (we can all spare at least three to four at the very minimum) to meditate on gratitude. You can cross your legs and sit on the floor or on a yoga mat, you can stand outside your front door and gaze up at the moon and stars, or you can just close your eyes while you sip your morning coffee. We all have something to be grateful for, so find yours and watch as your entire outlook and mood change with the wave of appreciation and reinvigoration that will wash over you. And, for an added bonus, incorporate a little background Zen music into your meditation routine -- the soothing sounds will only add to your experience.
Regardless of the approach you ultimately choose to take, the fact remains that you need to unplug to recharge. It's an unusual paradox but one we all face in today's busy world. All of us are guilty of becoming so consumed with charging up our gadgets, so that we can race back into the fray of everyday life, that we overlook our most important device -- ourselves.