De-stressing for Success

I recently wrote a blog about the latest and greatest event technologies. I am now going to do an about-face and talk about “unplugging” from it all.

I just returned from a week long yoga retreat at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. It was a bit like going back to summer camp although even more enjoyable than I remembered as a kid. The retreat center, a beautiful, rustic campus in the Hudson River Valley, offered great vegetarian food and lots of healthy activities to fill the day. Of course cell phones and all electronic devices were highly discouraged. This gave me a chance to slow down, enjoy nature, meet new people and because the facility was highly committed to sustainable living, become a bit more environmentally conscious. I finished the week feeling recharged and refreshed.

My experience led me to believe that this “unplugging” is a necessary part of life (at least a healthy one) and something so many people are neglecting in their race to keep up. We have become a culture of distraction, gaining a sense of satisfaction, importance and even an identity by always being “on.” Although we are all busy connecting through social media and a myriad of other technologies, there are less authentic connections with neighbors, friends, family…and ultimately to ourselves. It’s a high price to pay.

Harvard Professor, Leslie Perlow has conducted research proving that people who are able to disconnect from their wired world (this includes during vacations and family time) can lead a happier, healthier lifestyle and even increase productivity. In her book, Sleeping with your Smartphone she discusses her work with Boston Consulting Group implementing structured “PTO” or predictable time off for consultants. Participants reported being more satisfied with work (72% versus 49%) and more likely to stay with the firm for a longer term (58% vs 40%).

A creative project called the Sabbath Manifesto saw a critical need for our society to disconnect in order to reconnect. They created the “National Day of Unplugging” which encourages people to refrain from all technology – texting, tweeting and Facebooking – for one day and instead “connect with loved ones, nurture your health, get outside, find silence, avoid commerce, give back and eat together.” The date has passed for this year (it’s in March) but there’s always 2013!

I must admit, as I was driving back from the cocoon of the retreat center, I began to feel a bit anxious…how can I sustain this relaxed and centered feeling? And then I noticed I had begun to hold my breath.

The breath is a good indicator of how we are doing. If the breath is shallow or choppy, our body will not be relaxed. Stress and tension is recorded in your body and is cumulative. Chronic tension and over exertion eventually give way to disease. Simple daily activities like slowing down the breath, becoming more mindful of thoughts and actions, making healthier eating choices, refraining from eating and multi tasking, engaging in physical activity (i.e. taking a walk at lunch) and getting up 15 minutes earlier to meditate or savor your cup of tea or coffee in silence can all help us stay grounded, free us from an obsessive cycle of response/reaction, lead to more meaningful and strategic decisions and even improve our outlook and health. We all know it, but putting it into practice is the key. As the famous yogi Pattabhi Jois (founder of Ashtanga yoga) said, “Practice and all is coming.”

To start you off, here is a neat way to bring some relaxation right to your desk. You might want to give your office mate a heads up…or maybe they can join in!

Namaste and enjoy.

The Castle Group, Executive Vice President, Keri McIntosh
Written By: Keri McIntosh


Outdoors of the Castle Group office