Power Off Your Phone and Power Up Your Relationships
It’s true that everyone’s lives these days are fueled and enhanced by technology. How often have you stepped on a bus, been out at a restaurant, or have been sitting in your own home, only to look around and notice that everyone around you is staring down into the screen of a phone?
One of the most interesting aspects of technology is that we can simultaneously use it to both connect and to disconnect.
You may notice that by texting your partner in the middle of a hard-work day, you’re able to get that instant validation. It feels good! Perhaps, in that same scenario you play a quick game of Candy Crush to distract yourself from the mounting stress and pressure. This also feels good! You might then ask what’s the problem? This is clearly a tool to meet many needs at once.
Here’s the thing: oftentimes, unchecked technology use can prevent us from connecting with each other… and ourselves.
Imagine (or maybe you don’t have to imagine — because you’re actually doing this right now) you’re sitting on the couch next to your partner, as they’re scrolling through various social media accounts, playing games, etc. Is this someone you feel connected to? No, of course not.
Our phones can create a physical and emotional barrier. While we may be striving for connection through texting, checking Facebook, or sending an email, we are quite possibly ignoring our most important relationships and the greatest opportunities for connection as we do so.
It’s also possible that through the distraction of social media (or whatever your technological vice may be), you are able to disconnect from your own internal process, so you don’t have to deal. First, we all do it and, let’s face it, sometimes a little distraction is necessary.
However, you may find that the more time you spend looking through pictures of everyone else’s “perfect” lives or tuning out those pesky emotions through virtual realities, the worse you feel. Why? Because in the minutes or hours you spent immersed in technology, you actually lost connection with those moments and — quite possibly — with yourself.
Here are two tips to help you manage your technology use so that it doesn’t interfere with your most important connections:
- First, acknowledge and notice what impact technology is having on your connections. (It looks different for everyone). Remember, the instant gratification that is often associated with technology is not always better. After all, it can leave us just as quickly. Challenge yourself to remember that the “connection” you experience from viewing other people’s lives through the picture-perfect lens of social media skews reality.
- Secondly, set reasonable boundaries for yourself or household around technology use. For example, creating “no phone zones” like at the dinner table, or in bed will allow you to connect with your partner. Also having setting aside specific screen-free times of day to check-in with your partner can drastically improve your connection.
Actively make a choice to engage and connect with those around you…you have the power! Once you are able to peel your eyes away from that friendly glow, you may just find there’s another human right in front of you or better yet, you may even find yourself.
All the best,
Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFT-C
You’re Already Amazing.
Yet if you’re like most people, you may also feel pressure to be different. Be better. Be “more.” We get relentless messages from the media, our culture, and sometimes even our relationships, that we’re not quite good enough as we are.
Of course, you want to be the best you can be. Most people are motivated to enter life coaching or therapy because they want to be a better partner, be a better friend, be more fit, be more social, be more successful at work. While it’s admirable to want to grow, evolve, and be the best self you can be, what is not helpful is believing invalidating messages that make you doubt your worth, your competence, and your own strength.
This can leave you second-guessing yourself, feeling anxious and stressed, or just feeling the burden of needing to create change. When we become focused on what we feel we are lacking, we lose connection with ourselves. We can easily become so focused on what needs to change, that we lose contact with what is (and all of the strengths we have right now, in this moment).
Part of my job as a therapist and life coach is to help you get back in contact with how awesome you actually are… right now. By trusting yourself, tapping into your strengths, and feeling good about yourself it becomes even easier to make strategic improvements to your life.
The good news is, when you’re in a place of strength you do not need to make big life changes to feel big impacts. By incorporating small changes into your routine, you can begin to own your awesome. When we create greater connection within ourselves, we open the door to love ourselves more deeply and connect with others in a more meaningful way. In the words of Rupi Kaur “How you love yourself, is how you teach others to love you.” I have five quick tricks to help you feel more connected to your happy, healthy, “best self” that will make you more aware of how much you already have to offer.
- Take the time to notice. We are typically so busy moving through our daily activities, we don’t take the time to check-in with ourselves. Often our bodies are giving us cues throughout the day, that our minds have gotten very effective at ignoring. For example, maybe you get to the end of your day and notice tension in your shoulders. This can be your body’s way of telling you, “Hey, this is stressful, let’s take a break!” Noticing can be a big step toward becoming more connected with yourself. Try setting time aside within your day to check-in; ask yourself how am I doing? Is my body trying to tell me something? What do I need right now?
- Offer yourself some compassion. It’s easy to focus on what is not going well. We also have a tendency to give others more time and compassion then we would offer ourselves. Very rarely would we be as tough on others as we are on ourselves. Give yourself a break! One way to do this may be by repeating affirmations (either verbally or in writing). It could be as simple as repeating, “I did the best I could and that is enough.” You can also send compassion to areas in your body that are tense (you will know where these are, because you will have been practicing “noticing”). An example would be when you notice tension in your shoulders from stress, roll them back and forth and say to yourself “I am resilient and can make it through this stressful day.”
- Take a deep breath. You have likely head this before and may wonder, why? How can taking a deep breath possibly be helpful when I am extremely anxious? There is substantial support that when we take deep breaths (slowing down our rate of breath and using our diaphragm), we alter the response of our nervous system. In turn, this creates biological changes that support a decrease in stress. Remind yourself to take deep breaths throughout the day, and notice how this can alter your mood.
- Do something for you. Frequently, we lose track of our needs or even activities we feel fulfilled by. When was the last time you took a moment to do something for you? This can range from taking five minutes out of your day to read a book or online article to planning a weekend getaway. Evaluating what it is that you need to feel fulfilled and moving toward it in manageable steps is another way to start connecting with your awesome.
- Remember: You don’t have to perfect to be awesome. There will always be a “more” (I should be more___) and with that, there is also an “enough.” Challenge yourself to hold that you are enough. Perfection is not realistic. Yes, there will be opportunities to grow and create change, but with that create some space to acknowledge what is working. You have talents, gifts, and skills; don’t be afraid to acknowledge and use them!
How Owning Your Awesome Helps Your Relationships
We have primarily focused on how these tools can be used to help you as an individual. However, the real beauty of these strategies is that they can be used to improve connection in your relationships. By creating deeper connection within yourself, you will make room to connect with your partner in new and more meaningful ways. The more we know about ourselves (e.g. what we need, what we want, etc.), the more we are able to engage in meaningful relationships and connections.
You can re-purpose the tools I shared to create connection in your relationship. For example, taking time to be in the moment and notice what is happening for both yourself and your partner can be extremely helpful. Remember- when we’re always focused on our to-do lists or what more needs to happen, we forget the positives that are happening right now.
Focusing on taking deep breaths, especially in an argument with your partner, can help your nervous system regulate, so a productive conversation can take place. Remembering that no one is perfect (even our partners) and offering them compassion, can increase connection and trust within your partnership. You can modify these strategies to fit what you need, whether that’s creating connection within yourself or using these techniques to strengthen the connection in your relationship.
I hope these strategies help you stay connected to yourself… and own your awesome.
Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFT-C
Couples Counselor • Life Coach • Therapist