Articles written by me on Self-care and Palliative Medicine
On Self-Care & Palliative Medicine

Time Out

In our modern, frenetic world, we all need to understand the importance of “Time Out.” The poets have been telling us this for centuries. “The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away. . .” (Wordsworth 1807). There is clear scientific evidence that unchecked reactions to stressful situations generate physiologic changes in our bodies that elevate blood pressure and pulse, and can even damage the walls of our blood vessels permanently if we don’t find ways to relax and unwind the tension that can tie our insides into knots.

Time Out need not be an extended vacation. A walk around the block during lunch, a few quiet minutes in a conference room alone, or a brief time in a darkened yard looking at the moon and the stars can be amazingly therapeutic. Even several minutes of deep relaxed breathing at one’s desk can help to diminish the effects of unwanted stress on mind and body. If you can take the time to close your eyes and remember a pleasant experience, a favorite place, or a joyful intimacy with a family member or close friend, you will do much to help your body ‘de-fuse the bomb’ that adrenalin is creating inside you. Even better, if you will commit to regular daily exercise as well, you will dissipate significant amounts of anxious energy while conditioning your heart, lungs, muscles, and joints to work more efficiently for you.

Time Out gives us the opportunity to re-connect with our thoughts and our priorities, and to relax those tight aching shoulders that tell us we are not handling the daily stress too well. Remember, each of us has unique and wonderful gifts that we give to our friends, our family, and our co-workers. Time Out allows us to remember who we are in the grand scheme of things.

There is a powerful poem by a modern poet and corporate strategist, David Whyte, which reinforces the importance of solitary time. I want to share these words with you in closing.

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
tonight.
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.
from The House of Belonging

Through a series of Time Outs, we stay in touch with ourselves and our priorites. And we keep ourselves healthier. . .both mentally and physically in the process.

Stephen L. Hines, M.D.
February 2000

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