I can’t remember how many times I’ve stressed myself out when something malfunctioned on my laptop. Since I’m working from home and no longer have the luxury of an easy phone call to the corporate computer gurus to fix the problem, I’ve spent literally hours exasperated, trying to figure out how to get my computer or internet operational again. Then finally, I remember that I might try turning off the computer or unplugging the router for a few minutes, and nearly always that gets me up and running again. What an easy thing to do and why is it I routinely forget what works?
Getting unplugged, even for a few minutes, can initially be stressful because we’ve become so accustomed to always having the smart phone at hand or literally in our hand at all times. I had a male patient admit in a mindfulness meditation class that he would be unable to have his phone unavailable for even 15 minutes. In years past I too was unable to unplug even on vacation – always needing a landline at the cabin in the mountains for instant reachability. Now I’m relieved when there’s no cell reception or television. There is such peace and quiet when I’m unplugged as the days seem longer and to progress at a slower pace without all the technological demands and intrusions. How times and habits have changed.
But it’s not always possible to go to our favorite, relaxing spot. I remember when my husband, Jay, had a car accident and was taken to the Emergency Room at our hospital in Oklahoma City. He had a long-standing history of being needle phobic due to a childhood trauma. It was so severe that he’s nearly passed out getting a shot or having an IV inserted. Of course, at the ER an IV was needed immediately. Interestingly enough, the cubicle where he was taken had a large mural of the Colorado Rockies. Realizing the IV was forthcoming, he began focusing on the mural and talking to the nurse about his many trips to the mountains: fishing, camping and hiking with his son. He “was there” as he described to her the feel of the morning mountain air, the sight of the crystal-clear water of Chapman Lake, the sound of the rippling water of the nearby Frying Pan River and the smell of the heady smoke of the campfire while cooking trout. He eventually looked over at the nurse and asked when she would start the IV. She replied, “It’s already done.”
Do you see the hammock in the picture? It blends in so perfectly with the landscape. Can you see yourself there soaking up the warmth of the day and smelling the pine fragrance and fresh air? You may not be able to unplug and relax for hours in a hammock in the mountains, but you can always “go there” or wherever your happy place is…sitting on a beach listening to the ocean waves or “visiting” a favorite childhood location.
For our own health and well-being, we all need to unplug and have time away – whether it’s literally or figuratively. For help in unplugging, check out these do-it-yourself tips for an at-home digital detox. And if you aren’t already using visualization as a coping strategy to reduce stress, I hope you add it to your toolbox.
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SUE'S GIFT BLOG
Sherry Martin is the Patient Services Director for Sue's Gift, a licensed clinical social worker with over thirty years of experience in the field of oncology social work, and author of the book, Beginning Again: Tools for the Journey through Grief: A Step-by-Step Guide for Facilitators of a Grief Support Group. Sherry lives with her husband in Woodland Park, Colorado.
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