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"Disconnect" Doesn't Have to Be a Bad Thing

The Importance of Downtime

I had every intention of posting here this past week while Talia took a much-deserved break. Maybe it was because I entertained people five out of six days over the long Memorial Day weekend. Or maybe it was due to not scheduling any time for myself. But by Wednesday, I was totally out of sorts and behind on all my planned work this past week.

As a therapist, I know the importance of building quiet, reflective time into our insanely hectic schedules. It's a key component of my own mental and physical well-being. So I should know better, right? I emphasize this to my patients all the time, especially if they are experiencing high levels of stress and/or anxiety.

But it seems people don't have a value for this "downtime" that is so important to our functioning. When I look around, everyone seems to be in constant contact with someone - work, family or friends and even strangers! Wikipedia defines downtime as, "Downtime refers to a period of time or a percentage of a time span that a machine or system (usually a computer server) is offline or not functioning, usually as a result of either system failure (such as a crash) or routine maintenance. The opposite is uptime."

It seems ironic that the reference above applies to our current technology; the same technology that allows us to send text messages, call and IM each other, and maintain our connectivity. Another techno-derived buzzword I hear often is "disconnect." In business, disconnect ofter refers to a breakdown in communication or a systemic problem. Both "downtime" and "disconnect" therefore have very negative connotations. But both are vital for our good health!

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc"™ , a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an keynote and kickoff speaker, "Motivational Humorist," a team building and organizational development consultant, and is America Online's "Online Psychohumorist"™. Mr. Gorkin has also written two books, Practice Safe Stress and The Four Faces of Anger.

I asked Gorkin to share some thoughts about the importance of disconnecting. He sees us as having become “ruthlessly connected. It’s getting to the point that people can’t tolerate silence, they become hypersensitive to it.” He illustrates this with an old story about Edmond Hillary’s son. “When he reached the summit of Mount Everest, he immediately called his father! Aren’t there some things that you want to savor in their natural, purest moment?!”

A concern that Mr. Gorkin and I share is how stressful this constant connectivity can become. Gorkin says,

“Studies show that with all stress, we eventually adapt to it. It begins to affect our health, especially when our bodies become adapted to higher and higher levels of adrenaline.”

Can this behavior be unlearned? Can we be “trained” to value quiet time to ourselves, to disconnect? My wish is that people begin to see the benefits of downtime before their mental and/or physical health is compromised and it becomes a necessity. Gorkin cites a hopeful example during a program he recently presented to lobbyists.
“When I was doing my presentation, one of the lobbyists stood up and boldly declared that he turns off his phone to work for 2 hours every day so he can have some quiet time to himself.”
Even though this act is not supported by this man’s work culture, he has made a healthy decision for himself.

So give it a try. Disconnect. Schedule downtime in your daily planner. Turn off your phone. It won't feel natural at first, but keep trying!


  1. The sounds of silence. The sound of one hand clapping.
    If a tree falls in a forest and there is no-one there to hear it does it make a sound?
    Who knows? What I do know is this ...I love silence. I crave silence. Not all the time mind you - but every now and then I dream of "disconnecting". No - Not permanently - don't get me wrong - just long enough to meditate without hearing 40 radio advertisements (for the umpteenth time)the neighbour's lawn mower - or even worse - his chain saw! Because yes it's true - we have Moreporks in the bottom of our garden, and Tuis in our trees. Well to be exact - the trees with the red berries that the Tuis love are really on his - the neighbour's side of our fence - hence my distress when I hear anything that sounds remotely like a chainsaw.
    So I think I'll go and meditate for a little bit now - while the house is at rest - while the other inhabitant is doing other things elsewhere. Ahh perfect - a quiet house filled with silence - this is the gift cherished by fellow "night owls". I know they/you are out there - it's just that at the moment they/you are choosing to remain silent also.
    May love and peace be with us all.

  2. We have moreporks and tuis here too, but I get annoyed when the tuis eat my guavas!!!

    Enjoy your moments of silence...

  3. Aha - I am joined by another night owl. What ARE you doing Talia? You have tonsilitis remember! You should be drinking hot lemon drinks and getting plenty of rest and sleep. (Now look who's calling the kettle black!) You know the saying - "Do as I say - not do as I do!" Or the other one I like - "I judge myself by my intentions - what a shame other people judge me by my actions!"

    OK, I know I said (at 11.11pm hey nice straight numbers eh?) my "intention" was to go and meditate but my actual "action" was to get "trapped" by the Borderline Personality Disorder web site that I just "found" elsewhere that I thought I would just "dip" into - briefly, just a little bit. (Hmmm like becoming just a "little bit pregnant") - but I am thirsting to communicate with others who understand the problems of supporting a partner with BPD. (I actually like the other title "Emotionally Unstable" better - mainly because it makes more explainable sense to me.) But I couldn't be bothered signing in spaces and filling out boxes and trying to think of yet another password - and I thought - Hey I've done that once before tonight so I'll go back to that other place (here) where I was - and post another one of "Claire's Comments". So ta ra - here I am.
    Thank you Talia - for this little oasis of communication and understanding - and if it's ok can I blog a bit too from time to time? Can't really promise to be organised and all that efficient with my sporadic contributions because my frenetic lifestyle isn't really conducive to such luxuries as uninterupted periods of contemplative calm. Someone recently called my lifestyle "manic" which made me stop and think for a bit.
    Am I? Yeah - I guess I am. But I am regularly called much worse - and thanks to web sites such as this one of yours I have learned - "not to allow myself to be manipulated, judged or blamed by ..." people who are emotionally unstable.

    Look I gotta get to bed - but now that I've found "The Centre for Emotional Well being" I think I'll be back.
    Hey isn't that a line from a movie somewhere? "Hasta la vista baby - I'll be back." Why do snippets of dialogue and snatches of lyrics remain buried in our sub-concsious?
    Don't worry Talia - that was a rhetoric question - now get to bed - as I am about to do!
    May love and peace be with you all.

  4. I'm very nearly there. Definitely a fellow night owl!

    And yes, of course you can blog. That's why I'm up at this hideous hour, coordinating with a lovely Canadian blogger who is joining the team to share her emotional and spiritual journey and 'challenges'

  5. Hi Claire:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. You're right, there's so much peace to be found late at night in a quiet house.

    I'm not familiar with Moreporks (sounds like a character from Lord of The Rings!)or Tuis. Please fill me in.


  6. Nancy, they're native NZ birds, although they're not around at the same time. Moreporks are night birds

    And I mistyped, it's the Keruru that eat my guavas not the tuis.

  7. Great post, Nancy! I linked to you over at http://www.livelywomen.com.



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