When I think about backtracking to a place where I was better at taking care, I find myself in a time in my life where I allowed myself a lot of solitude and space aware from pretty much everyone and everything and as an introvert, that kind of space and solitude is necessary for me to process, re energize, and just generally function well. I spent hours reading, walking outside, writing, listening to music. It’s not that I was less busy – I spent plenty of time doing other things too – school, church, sports, choirs, dating, hanging out with friends, etc. I just chose different ways to spend my personal time. Granted, I have two kids now, so there is less absolutely alone time, but the truth is, I spend plenty of time on things that don’t really add anything to my life except for noise.
So, what’s the noise? For me it’s made up of two major things: mindless consumption, and 24/7 access to other people’s thoughts and opinions which leads to information overload; and then a third thing that happens if the first two things happen: daily life tasks (housework, paying bills, making phone calls, returning emails, planning Girl Scout meetings, etc) pretend to be more urgent than they are because my brain is in overload and everything starts to feel really off and unmanageable and miserable. Survival mode ensues, even if there is no real crisis at hand.
Mindless consumption includes scrolling social media and internet sites with no objective and no engagement, reading clickbait articles, having the radio on when there’s nothing on I actually want to hear and I just spend the whole time changing the station, and watching tv on my phone while also doing household chores (because I am not fully engaged in the show or the task at hand or the people around me or my thoughts – it’s just distraction and noise).
Information overload happens so naturally for me. I’m incessantly curious. I love gathering information. I want to know all the things about everything. The internet has given me access to so much information, that it can easily become too much information when I constantly gather gather gather and then try to quickly apply that info and adjust according to it and then it’s just noise and I can’t even hear myself anymore. I find myself reacting to the noise when I really need to step away from it for a while and recenter myself.
When factors one (mindless consumption) and two (information overload) are in full force, then the third factor – daily life tasks – becomes noise because with all the other things in my brain, the tasks seem to register more harshly and begin pinging around in my brain, yelling at me. They magnify so much that my brain seeks to squash them completely and so, distractions must be had. Then come in factors one and two again. And the cycle continues.
Maybe you’ve been here (or somewhere like this).
It’s not pretty.
I recently took some personality quizzes (because I think things like that are fun) and as I looked through certain answers, I realized that the person that I really am and know myself to be would answer one way, but the person that I have been acting like for the past few years would answer another. I have literally spent years of my life acting one way much of the time when in fact the authentic version of myself would have acted another. I have been going against my own intuition, strengths, and self to try to fit some role or please some people or achieve some goal that could have been achieved anyways – my way – but instead I felt intense pressure to do it someone else’s way and gave in to that pressure. I became convinced that my way was wrong, immature, irrational, not good, not realistic when in fact my way was the way my soul needed to do things so that everything worked and fit and flowed as designed but the criticism (or perceived criticism) of others was too loud for me and I didn’t allow it. I was not quiet enough to hear myself anymore, to hear my creator anymore, to hear the still small voice. I was too anxious with jumping through hoops, doing it all on my own, not trusting the divine with my being. That’s caused me so much damage.
It’s hard to call out your own damage, but it’s okay to claim it, to admit your need.
I need enough space to breathe and think and process and create so that I can step into the world and already know who I am, not try to gather that info from the outside. This is a huge part of taking care. I can’t effectively do the things I need to do, want to do, or am called to do if I am not even dialed in to the truth. Once I am dialed in to the truth, able to access my storehouse of knowledge, talent, gifts, and strengths, then I can take care of my life and all that’s been entrusted to me, then I can determine what things I need to dismiss, disregard, or distance myself from, creating healthy boundaries that allow me to thrive and not just survive.
What’s causing noise in your life?
What do you need so that you can dial the noise down?
I need to re-build habits that decrease the noise and contribute to me being replenished and refined and brought back to life as the person I was designed to be. For me, those habits include:
- spending time outdoors (drawn to skyscape, water, forests, fields, old cemeteries)
- exercise (walking/hiking, Pilates, light weights/resistance bands, I’d love to try kickboxing)
- reading (novels, memoirs, magazines, personal blogs, some online articles)
- writing (creatively, journaling, making lists, etc)
- listening to, discovering, curating, and singing music
- spending time just musing/daydreaming/staring off into space and weirding people out
- working on/developing personal projects (book, vispo, photo projects, handmade gift etc)
- exploring (driving back roads, trying something new, walking around a store or town or library, finding a new coffee shop, discovering different art/writing/music, researching a specific topic, etc)
- meditation and prayer occur within almost all of these activities for me, but doing these things specifically as well
If I am regularly engaging in those habits, then I can actually do the following really well:
- spend time with friends and family
- volunteer/lead (Girl Scout leader, etc)
- complete home projects
- do scheduling/budgeting/planning
- eat mindfully (no binging or emotional eating)
- do daily life tasks (housework, grocery shopping, email, making calls, paying bills, personal care, going to work, etc) without feeling super stressed
- continue my education (online courses like Coursera, Edx, Influence network, maybe grad school?)
- blog/freelance/write for a larger audience and/or compensation
- join/participate in groups/teams for various interests or purposes
And I then I can also do these things without letting them become noise/information overload:
- engage in and use social media (really engage with people, not just scroll and click)
- watch Netflix/tv (stop and watch, not just use as distraction)
- catch up on news/current events/pop culture (just sources I choose, not everything everyone posts)
- listen to podcasts (this one can almost go in either of the other two categories…)
Just like there are negative effects to turning the food pyramid upside down by eating more sweets and fats than fruits and vegetables, there are negative consequences when I do these things too often in the opposite order.
Looking over my lists, it all makes sense to me, for me.
What makes sense for you?
I know what I know about myself, about what works for me, about what I need. I don’t have to prove or justify that to anyone else. I don’t need to let the noise drown out the truth.
Neither do you.
I can trust that I don’t need to see everything or know everything or respond to everything. I can trust that what’s meant to be will be, even on the internet.
You can trust that too.