Have you ever driven to work and realized when you arrived that the car must have been navigating itself because you have no real recollection of the journey? Or perhaps you put the car keys in the refrigerator? Maybe you keep replaying a crisis or conflict situation in your mind like an endless loop after it's over. Recognizing the moments when our bodies seem to be on autopilot while our brains take a trip elsewhere is sobering.
Being preoccupied with work, multitasking, and dealing with significant stressors all set the stage. Unfortunately, we forfeit the now while we are lost in the past or looking ahead to the future. Being futureminded is indeed important, but not always at the expense of the present moment.
There are definitely some moments when taking a trip outside of the current reality serves us well. As a case in point, I would rather be on a Caribbean beach than at the dentist's office getting a root canal. A good dose of guided imagery can work wonders to distract us from unpleasant or painful experiences. Consciously employing healthy meditation techniques regularly for stress relief is another good example.
However, if my brain is not open to receiving input at times when it should be (like when I am driving, performing nursing duties, or interacting with people, to name a few), the risk of problems increases on multiple levels. These include losing situational awareness, being error-prone due to lack of focus, and fostering less-than-optimal interpersonal interactions. Being distracted negatively impacts listening abilities and can send an impression of aloofness or convey an attitude that the other person is unimportant. It is easy to envision how any one of these problems can manifest in a very bad way at work and in everyday life.
Living life in the moment opens our minds to clearly register the details that surround us. It allows us to use our senses to the fullest, engage our internal early warning systems when appropriate, and take pleasure in smelling the roses, both literally and figuratively. Our human connectedness with people improves through the gift of giving them our full attention, even if only for a few minutes.
Next time your brain wanders off when it should be on duty, consciously rein it back in and experience the present!
Until next time,
LINDA LASKOWSKI-JONES, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM, FAAN