How to Unplug
Recently a colleague asked if I’d been on vacation, since I looked so relaxed (which speaks volumes about my usual demeanor, I guess). Laughing, I told him that it was my daughter who had been on vacation—two weeks at summer camp.
We chatted about how, as parents, we seem to have little time to take it easy and enjoy. I joked that I hoped to maintain at least the look of relaxation when my daughter returned. He just smiled and said, “Press save,” and went on his way.
So what does this phrase have to say to you as a manager, parent or not? Plenty! We’re still in the midst of difficult days and it’s easy to forget the fun times when we hit the office. It’s especially important that you take care of yourself now, so that not only can you survive the long haul, but also help your team do so.
While this phrase may smack of treating humans like computers—although we’re all so plugged in these days it may be close to the truth—it provides a useful shorthand for our self-preservation. Research has shown that chronic stress can rewire the brain in ways that promote chronic stress. In other words, the more stressed you are, the more stressed you learn to become. Under stress, the decision-making parts of your brain function poorly, while the sections that allow for developing habits run amok. We lose the ability to think clearly, but easily develop bad habits. If what we’re doing isn’t working, rather than being able to step back and think about alternatives, we keep doing the same thing (aka ‘insanity’).
So how do you give your brain a chance to unplug and rewind? You know the usual answers: take a vacation, exercise, do something fun. I strongly recommend that you schedule relaxation time into your day, even if it’s ten minutes in the morning and the afternoon. Yes, you can do this. Just as you can back up your computer to save important data, so you can back yourself up by taking regularly scheduled breaks from digging a new or deeper rut.
In other words, press save.
Barbara Kurka, an experienced HR professional, offers executive coaching; management training, and HR consulting, the latter uniquely geared toward small businesses. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.