I’m in my hotel room at IBS NY, enjoying the quiet–well, what passes for “quiet” in NYC, anyways.
It has been so long since I’ve been able to just sit and think. Between my kids, my husband, and my work, I’m always busy. It’s rare for me to have peace and quiet. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my children so much that it physically hurts…mostly the baby, I’ll be honest–the other two are going through the “Loud Howard” phase and can’t seem to recognize or control their decibel level, so I’m not missing them quite as much as I miss my son, but I really do appreciate having distraction-free time.
With our current culture being so centered around the need to be constantly “doing something,” it’s hard to justify carving out time for yourself, but silent time is critical. Here are three reasons why you need to make your silent time a priority, and how you can maximize that time.
1.) Silent time reduces your stress level.
Stress kills. Literally. High levels of stress will shorten your life. The link between physical illness and psychological distress has been well-documented. Nobody can deny that stress is an extremely powerful, destructive force.
As a species, we have come a very long way, but our biological trigger to stress (the “fight or flight” response) is no longer exclusive to outside aggressors as it was when we were a primitive species and our safety was dependent on it. My hope is that eventually we will evolve past this to a point where this “fight or flight” trigger only activates when we’re in real mortal danger, but currently this trigger washes your brain in adrenaline, epinephrine, and cortisol whether you’re dealing with a difficult client, sitting in a performance review meeting with your salon owner, or fighting a lion with your bare hands. Your brain can not tell the difference. These stress hormones act by mobilizing energy from storage to muscles, increasing heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate and shutting down metabolic processes such as digestion, reproduction, growth and immunity.
Dedicating time to YOU balances you.
If you’re experiencing high levels of stress, spend your silent time putting your problems in perspective. I’m not trying to diminish or invalidate your issues, but step back from the problems that plague you and ask yourself, “Is any of this really worth the amount of energy I’m spending worrying about it? What is the worst thing that could happen as a result of this situation and are those potential consequences really that devastating?”
If you are feeling out of control or as if you’re constantly overwhelmed, dedicating time to reflect will keep you from making impulsive, reactionary decisions that often contribute to the stressful issues you’re trying to solve. Be mindful of the consequences of existing in a reactionary state for prolonged periods of time and try to establish a balance between reaction and reflection.
2.) Silent time gives your good ideas time to shine.
With each child I gave birth to, I felt like I lost pieces of my brain. I worried that I was getting older, more forgetful, and less intelligent. “Bright ideas” didn’t seem to come to me as frequently. The problem was not that each child was depleting my IQ; it was that my private time ceased to exist.
Everyone has great ideas waiting to be discovered, hiding in their brains. They’re in there! They’re waiting for you to find them! However, those ideas won’t come to the surface if you’re not taking the pressure off your mind and allowing it to wander wherever it wants.
Have you ever been struck by a fantastic idea while doing something routine, like walking your dog or taking a shower? Some people refer to this as “the incubation period” or “the meditative effect.” Mindless distraction on a repetitive task that requires no conscious thought disengages you from fixation and allows your subconscious mind to plant ideas into your conscious mind. Get into a warm bath and you’ll throw in some dopamine (happy brain chemicals) and those solutions your subconscious mind has been struggling to deliver will finally come through, loud and clear.
3.) Silent time improves your perception of your quality of life.
I could fill this point with a bunch of fluffy crap about reflecting on your achievements and appreciating your blessings or whatever, but I’m not here to spout motivational platitudes (not today, anyways).
I recommend that my consulting clients do whatever they can to eliminate distractions in their salon to keep clients focused on the service they’re enjoying. A distracted client will not appreciate a service the way an engaged client will. If your client spends their massage poking around on their cell phone–responding to emails, texting, compulsively checking their social media accounts–they aren’t physically capable of enjoying that massage to the same degree that a client who is focused on that service will.
That’s not bullshit, that’s science. In addition to having a broken “flight or flight” response, humans are also not particularly fantastic at multitasking. We have a limited capacity for what we can process simultaneously.
This can be translated to your life overall. Technology has introduced an entirely new set of complications into our daily lives. DISCONNECT. Turn the device off. Lift your face from your screens. Don’t just disconnect from technology–disconnect from your responsibilities altogether for a few hours.
Go outside. Live outside of your “to-do” list and spend time experiencing your life. Give yourself to opportunity to make memories and appreciate lazy afternoons.
On the rare days I wake up before my kids, I enjoy drinking coffee alone my lanai (that’s Floridian for “slab of concrete that would be a patio if it had a screen enclosure”). I sit on my comfy outdoor couch and stare out at the lake (that’s Floridian for “large, man-made pond”). When compared to the days when I’m awakened by a crying baby or the loud squeals and bangs that indicate my two daughters are doing something they are certainly NOT supposed to be doing, I find that I appreciate my family a lot more. My days are significantly better when they begin with that period of quiet time because I’ve spent that time thinking about how great my life is and how fortunate I am to have such happy, healthy kids.
Remember–reaction without reflection deteriorates your perception. Balance is necessary.
So, do yourself a favor and schedule your silent time. Eliminate distractions. No TV. No phones. No internet. Defend that silent time if you have to. Don’t feel guilty or selfish for doing so, either. You can’t take care of others if you’re not taking care of yourself.