You’re out enjoying a nice dinner with friends when you feel a vibration in your pocket. Suddenly, you’re drawn out of the conversation and sucked into wondering what your phone might be trying to tell you. Was it a text? Did someone like your new profile photo? Is it your boss sending out next week’s assignment?
At its best, the digital age provides new and innovative ways to instantly connect with others. At its worst, the new virtual world order delivers an unending stream of nagging interruptions that lead to overstimulation and an inability to focus on the present moment.
“Our world is designed to be one big distraction: YouTube, email, Instagram, deadlines and numbing addictions,” declares Lara Ferguson Diaz, an acupuncturist, herbalist and qi gong instructor at Lutea Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine. “It is vital for our health to turn inward and be still and silent.”
For Ferguson Diaz, the constant chatter and hum of a hyperconnected lifestyle and the pressure to always be “on” can cause attention spans to shrink and leave people feeling drained.
“I think we have been collectively bullied by consumer culture to work, make a lot of money, produce and create some external value in order to feel like worthy human beings,” she explains. “Self-care is the antidote.”
Basic daily practices such as going for a walk, taking a yoga or qi gong class, enjoying a hot bath or just getting some extra sleep can help quiet the mind, she points out. And simply unplugging for a few hours a day can yield similar benefits. Adding a few minutes of meditation, she continues, can relieve stress and improve overall health.
And for those who can’t bear the thought of sitting still or being quiet, Ferguson Diaz points out that there are ways to relieve stress and stay connected that don’t rely on a smartphone or tablet.
“I just started taking an improv comedy class. It’s completely out of the box for me: It just looked like fun, and it is!” says Ferguson Diaz about her own new self-care routine. “As it turns out, I get to play and be silly for two hours, laughing out loud most of the time. I love it.”
But whichever practice you feel drawn to, she emphasizes, the ultimate goal is the same: settling the mind as a way to calm the body.
“The key is coaxing the body out of fight-or-flight — the sympathetic nervous system reaction, which most of us live in — and easing it into the parasympathetic, or rest and digest,” Ferguson Diaz explains. “Self-care is sacred. It is extremely important, and no one else can do it for us.”