If you’re anything like me, then your favorite part of January is the prospect of a fresh new year stretched out before you, full of promise and hope.
And if you’re anything like me, then your least favorite part of January is that it turns into February all too quickly and without incident. Unless you count distractedness and a general sense of overwhelm as “incident.”
And if you’re still anything like me (at this point let’s just go ahead and assume you are, just for the sake of this piece, okay?) then that weighs heavily on you.
The distractedness and overwhelm, I mean.
Because at the end of the day you yearn for simplicity and focus, you just aren’t sure how to stop it from slipping through your fingers.
Finding that inner quiet you crave can be hard enough, but carrying it with you throughout the day is even harder.
The day is loud.
The day is full of to-do lists, commitments to meet, mouths to feed, and places to be.
Meanwhile it’s all set to the fast paced narrative of social media. That constant buzzing in the background; the pings and dings that remind you not only what you’re supposed to be doing, but what everyone else and their Aunt Fay is doing.
As humans living in an Internet era we’re expected to take in and process a huge amount of information at an alarming pace.
Like, an unnatural amount of information.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed. And I don’t mean to feel overwhelmed, I mean to actually be overwhelmed.
January brought a lot of sickness to our home which led to a whole lot of unexpected down time.
It was an abrupt and complete stop, and while it came with it’s own set of challenges, it reminded me how much I prefer simplicity over busyness, singularity over multi-tasking, and connectivity over productivity.
So I’ve decided to do a little experiment in February.
An experiment against distraction.
If you too, are finding yourself in need of more white space and less white noise, I hope you’ll join me in a little bit of soul-care this month.
Here are 3 small but practical ways I’m going to practice slowing down and eliminating distraction.
1. ANALOG MANUALLY
As in, pen and paper.
I used to scoff at the idea of bullet-journaling but y’all, I have seen the light. I get it now.
I used to spend every January filling in a brand new monthly planner, color coding to my heart’s delight, and carrying it in my purse with me everywhere I went. But eventually I realized that I hardly ever actually wrote in it. I wanted to write in it more, there just weren’t enough spaces for my meandering words so, I also started carrying a separate journaling notebook.
Last January I discovered this bonus blank page hidden at the end of my monthly planner (I know! So exciting! ??) So I filled in a “January Recap” where I jotted down a few categories – Spiritual, Relational, Financial, Health & Fitness, and Creative Projects, and then wrote a few notes on each topic.
It was my favorite part of the whole month, and as I closed my planner I gasped with sudden understanding…
IS THIS WHAT BULLET JOURNALING IS LIKE EVERY DAY?
I decided right then and there decided I was finally ready to dip my toes in the BuJo pool. It’s been so much simpler to ditch all those separate notebooks in favor of one space where I can journal, track projects, and keep a calendar.
I am all in with this bullet journaling business. I even wrote a whole post about it here, in case you’re curious if you might like it too.
I’m not going to lie- it can be a time consuming hobby, (and this might just be my inner nerd talking here), but I’m actually excited about that. I really enjoy the slower rhythm of handwriting.
Plus, I really do believe there is power in writing your things down.
It keeps them real.
2. SCRUTINIZE SCREEN TIME
Usually I find social media to be a fun and useful tool, but every so often I’ll start to recognize a rising sense of anxiety and inner disquiet, which is always the first indicator that an imbalance has settled somewhere between my right-now life and it’s right-now distractions.
When my soul offers up these gentle reminders that it’s time to recalibrate, the first area I scrutinize is the amount of attention I’m giving to social media.
I start filtering all screen time through one question:
Is it valuable?
Am I scrolling for a reason, or as a reflex? Is this actually valuable or am I just ingesting copious amounts useless information?
Adversely, am I offering anything of value? Or am I just another voice in an already noisy space?
The Internet is a fabulous tool for communicating and connecting, but it’s also a double edged sword. It can be chaotic, loud, and stressful when given too much room in our lives.
You open an app and before you know it there are hundreds of voices in the room with you.
Remember that you don’t have to play the generous host, entertaining everyone’s words and cooing over all their pictures. It’s okay to excuse yourself from the party for some fresh air.
That being said, there’s still a lot value to be found online, and your soul will recognize it when it’s there.
Listen to that and follow it.
Doing so will in turn, help you be more mindful of what you yourself are bringing to the party.
This February I’m taking scrutiny one step further and I’m taking a Lenten hiatus from social media. I’ve never participated in Lent before, but this year it just feels right. I talk a lot about making time and space for our creativity to flourish, and while sometimes that means literal space, it can sometimes mean internal space as well.
We can’t create on empty, so I’m hoping that by pushing back the noise and the clamor, by taking this little break to listen in the silence, I’ll find fresh inspiration.
And speaking of silence…
3. PRACTICE SILENCE
Yesterday my girlfriends and I were talking to each other about that elusive inner quiet, and how we want to get better and carrying it with us throughout our day.
We talked about practicing silence, and how it can be foreign and difficult at first, but how there might actually be something to it.
Then Amber B. pulled out the book she’s reading about Mother Theresa and read us a whole chapter on silence and prayer. (Before you roll your eyes at how deep I’m making us sound, just know that we’re usually talking about last weeks’ Bachelor episode or how to make the best beer flavored cheese dip.)
But I digress.
Back to Mother Theresa. It surprised me that so many of her ideas about prayer were centered around silence. I grew up as a pastor’s kid in the evangelical church, and for as long as I can remember my idea of “quiet time with God” has been built on the staunch and sturdy pillars of prayer and bible reading.
Of doing more than being.
As someone who’s tendency is to be a rule-follower, I cannot tell you what a refreshing concept it is to allow myself to simply BE with God. With no agenda, no lists, no chatter, no requests, no avoidance, no rules.
Just silence and companionship.
I’ll be honest and tell you that it doesn’t come easily. My mind is prone to wandering, my hands to fidgeting, and my subconscious to accusing me of not doing it right.
But I’m finding that practicing silence makes room for possibility. It clears space where I need it the most- inwardly.
It creates margin.
Margin for things like dreaming, listening, inspiration, prayer, clarity, and simply just rest.
Even when it’s only ten minutes. Even when I spend the whole time listening to my stomach growl or chasing my thoughts down a rabbit hole. It helps to push back the noise enough for my soul to quiet and exhale.
I’d love to hear the ways that you practice soul care when life gets full and loud. What works for you, friends?