Because we live such materialistic lives today, many of us expect solutions to be expensive, complicated, time-consuming and difficult. Not always so with stress! There are lots of simple, quick steps we can take to temporarily restore our physiology (big word meaning body chemistry) to balance.
One of the most effective was brought to my attention by my masseusse who practices shiatsu blended with some special hidden healing talent. We were discussing causes of depression and stress, and her belief was that people who were disconnected from friends, family, loved ones or life in general were those who felt depressed, sad or stressed.
The more I thought about this the more I realized how right she was. To keep us going at the pace many of us travel, we simply don’t make time to connect with others. We glance past them, like an insect that skips onto the surface of a pond and then immediately lifts off again. We might make contact several times, but each visit is just a fleeting second—not enough time to really connect.
We might see our best friends only once a month or once every three months, our parents or family even less often. We might see our life partners every night, but we gradually stay longer at work and shorter at home. We might even bring work home or work on weekends—tearing more precious moments away from connecting time.
Which is the concept I want to introduce! Connecting time. I know it sounds a bit corny, but unless we have someone bring it to our attention, pre-crisis, it could take some dramatic event to force us to recognize that being connected to someone or something is a vital life force, a source of great energy, vitality, comfort and peace.
So how much connecting time do you have a week? And give me a break—don’t talk about how as a couple you have minimal time together, but when you do, it’s “quality time.” You need quantity time together to maintain a healthy relationship—with life partners, children and friends.
How connected to your partner are you? To your children? To your family and friends? How much do you know about their lives at this moment? About how they really feel about things? About their fears, concerns, challenges and joys? About dreams, goals and desires they have—and what you could do to help or guide them?
How comfortable are you just being with them—not necessarily doing anything specific, just being in the same room with them? And how much energy do you give them? How much of yourself have you shared with them? Connection is a two-way street—we can plug into them but we have to allow them to plug into us to be really connected at a deep level. What do they know of you, your feelings, fears, dreams? And where you are at the moment? And if knowledge is limited, is it because they failed to show interest or because you didn’t let them grow close enough to discover the real you?
Be “in the Movie”
Come to think of it, how connected are you to yourself? It is very difficult to live our lives not only disconnected from others but out of touch with ourselves as well! In neurolinguistics (not a new form of pasta but a different way of looking at how people communicate), we talk about being dissociated and associated. Being associated means we are emotionally aware of ourselves and our feelings. We are in our bodies, experiencing the actions, sensations and feelings that go with living life. It’s like virtual reality, but it actually is reality!
Being dissociated means we are “outside” ourselves. We can metaphorically observe ourselves as we go through situations in life—sort of like watching ourselves and our lives on a TV screen instead of being in the movie.
Being in our body—in the movie—and experiencing the thoughts, emotions and actions is to be sssociated and connected.
Watching the movie detaches us from ourselves and others—so we don’t experience the emotions as strongly—or at all. Life often appears easier to live from a dissociated place. There seem to be fewer highs and lows—fewer emotional roller coasters. But it’s only appearance!
Short-term dissociation is a very useful strategy to help us deal with a time of crisis. Long-term dissociation leads to possible disconnection from our lifelines. We move away from ones we love and who love us; pull down shutters, build barriers, distance ourselves, become aloof—all because we want to protect ourselves.
What we don’t realize is we are doing the opposite—we are making ourselves targets for depression, stress and misery. How do you function most of the time? Associated or dissociated? Connected or lost in space?
We all have the ability to switch between the two states and we usually balance them. It’s when one or the other state becomes a permanent habit that our problems may begin. Living life mostly dissociated may be safer, but it sure is boring for us and for others. Being permanently associated can be emotionally draining. As a general rule, it’s wonderful to be associated with magic moments in our lives—moments of great fun and joy and love. And it’s smart to be dissociated from moments of great trauma.
Connect to Yourself
Begin to notice how you are experiencing life. Make a commitment to notice where you are four times a day, or catch yourself in the middle of a situation and see if you are associated or dissociated. (You have to sort of momentarily dissociate to notice if you are “in there” experiencing this moment!)
Spend some time thinking about how connected you are—and to whom. Especially with yourself. Do you know how you feel—about all sorts of people and things? Do you know what you like, want and need to stay happy? Talk to others about this concept—of deep connection to others, or pets, causes, communities or a purpose in life.
A deep connection to work is wonderful if it doesn’t disconnect you from others. It’s even better if your connection to work connects you to others and offers them an opportunity to create their own connections in turn.
This is not just great business; it keeps you alive! Seriously. Research has shown that people who are disconnected from others and disconnected from themselves die earlier of all causes—all causes!
If you are not connected to someone or some higher purpose or passion you might feel lost, unfulfi lled, unhappy, depressed and that life has no meaning. Yuck!
Better get connected; it’ll open up your world! You’ll be making a huge difference if you offer other people ways to connect that opens up their worlds—you’ll be giving them purpose, meaning, joy and potentially saving their lives, too!
Amanda Gore is a professional speaker and author of four books, including You Can Be Happy: The Essential Guide to a Healthy Body, Mind and Soul. She has a background in psychology, group dynamics and stress management.