KIRA STEIN, MD, APC

ADULT PSYCHIATRY - BOARD CERTIFIED ABPN


Reconnecting To Our Authentic Selves

Reconnecting To Our Authentic Selves

 By Kira Stein MD
27 February, 2011

 

FIVE STEPS TO AUTHENTICITY & RECONNECTING

STEP ONE:  AWARENESS

By reading this blog, you are completing the first step towards authenticity.  You are becoming more aware of the problems our frenzied world has inflicted on your core relationships and personal goals.

STEP TWO: DEFINING PROTECTED TIME & GOALS

I suggest that you sit down in a quiet place and answer the following questions on paper:

  • Do I truly listen to my partner when s/he talks to me, or am I interrupted or distracted by technology or other intrusions?  What about my children?  My parents?  My siblings?
  • Do I spend more time with technology forging superficial connections with people I almost never see instead of nurturing my face-to-face relationships?
  • Am I estranged from my loved ones because of constant email checking, texting and news searching (and yes even blogging!)?
  • Does the time I spend on social networking sites and on the telephone truly prevent me from being lonely?  Is it truly fulfilling?http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-family-hiking-countryside-wearing-backpacks-smiling-pointing-image38634679

Then, for a start, based on your answers to the above questions, write down just one goal that you would like to work on.  For example, one goal could be “To spend more meaning-

ful and focused time with my children after work.”

STEP THREE: COMMIT TO YOURSELF

 

The Protected Time Contract.  Write down and actually sign a contract and put it on your refrigerator describing the time period, the purpose, and the way you are protecting your time.  Protected Time Contracts might look like:

PROTECTED TIME CONTRACT  (EXAMPLE #1)


Purpose
:  To spend more meaningful and focused time with my children after work.

Time Period:  From 5:30PM – 6:30PM each weeknight

Commitment to:

1.   Turn off: Cell phones, Email, Pagers.

2.   Do not answer or check:  Home Phone, Fax Messages, Pagers, and Voice and Text Messages.

3.   No outside work-related tasks.

4.  Some Activity Options to Consider:

a.   Make dinner while the kids do their homework in the kitchen (be available and observe them).

b.   Set the dinner table and eat together as a family.

c.   Watch 30 minutes of child-focused TV or play 30 minutes of video games with the kids.  This does not include news or reality programs.

Signed: _________________________      Dated:____________________________

 

PROTECTED TIME CONTRACT  (EXAMPLE #2)

Purpose:  To develop a calmer, more accepting and present self.

Time Period:  From 6:00AM-6:30AM (cardiovascular exercise); 12:00-12:30 pm (meditation/breathing).

Commitment to:

1.   Turn off: Cell phones, Email, Pagers.

2.   No not answer or check:  Home Phone, Fax Messages, Pagers, and Voice and Text Messages.

3.   No outside work-related tasks.

4.  30 minutes of Daily Mindful Meditation or Deep Breathing (References Below).

5.   30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise.

Signed: _________________________      Dated:____________________________

 

STEP FOUR: SETTING RESPECTFUL LIMITS

Initially, family, friends, coworkers, employers might be caught off guard, not having access to you 24/7, so it is important to “re-set” their expectations.  This is where email and outgoing voice messages can be used to save you time. Simply send out a message saying that you do not answer the phone on weeknights or weekends from  ____ to ____ and that you generally check your messages by the next day.  Initially, some of your friends might be upset by their limited contact with you, but eventually they will grow to respect your attempts to balance your life.  It is important to reassure those who are excluded from a particular protected time that your new schedule actually enables you to be more emotionally present and available when you are with them, which in the long run is better for the relationship.

STEP FIVE: CONSCIOUSNESS & MINDFULNESS

Plugging-Out.  First, during protected time it is important to “plug-out” from electronic devices such as mobile phones, text messages, the internet, your email, even your home phone when protecting your time.  Plugging-out means turning these devices off, not simply turning the volume down or changing the volume to “silent” or “vibrate” mode.   This way your mesolimbic reward pathway won’t be teased by alerts to distract you.  This will facilitate your frontal cortex to override your mesolimbic tendencies to be distracted.

Living consciously.  Living consciously can mean being completely aware and conscious of the people with whom you have chosen to interact on a deeper level.  Observe them, listen and hear them, ask questions about what they have done with their day, how they feel about what they have accomplished and how they currently feel and respond to what they just said.  Be in the moment and conscious of the interaction.

Mindfulness.  Learn to be completely present.  Accept your own thoughts and feelings, and acknowledge that it is not always appropriate or healthy for you or your relationships to immediately act on all of your thoughts and feelings.  A number of mindfulnessresources are listed at the bottom of this blog article.

Unhealthy distractions.  Of course, TV and other media have important places in our lives.  With moderation, they can enrich our knowledge of the world and our extended families and friends, but healthy limits need to be explored and discussed with your closest relationships.  For some people, 30 -60 minutes of TV is essential to unwind from a long day of work, whereas for others, it is preferable to take a swim or a jog, or eat a healthy snack with one’s kids in order to relax.  TV does not need to be on all day, all the time, though, and telephones do not need to be answered whenever they ring.  We turn off phones in movie theaters, why not when we are engaged in exercise, meditation, or designated family time?  Why do we afford crowds of anonymous people in a movie theatre more courtesy than ourselves or the people we love?

Give Yourself a Break:  Take the time to identify what is most important to you.  Take a few hours a day, or even one entire day per week “sabbatical” to safeguard that which you consider most meaningful.  Rest your mind from artificial pressures of your career, and occupy your mind and body with activities that allow you to appreciate what you have in the world around you, literally.  Protecting your time will develop your ability to prioritize, develop patience, and clarify the most meaningful relationships and experiences in your life.  It will give you perspective, confidence and ultimately peace of mind.




  • Article content, © Kira Stein, MD, APC. | West Coast Life Center

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