Peace, be still. Listen. Hush. Shush. Breathe. Be quiet. There’s a lot of us online who spend way too much time speaking or spectating. Don’t be one of them all the time. You don’t have to reply to every post or even acknowledge every reply to you. Sometimes the hardest path and one less traveled is to not take the journey others do at all.
We live in a very noisy world – literally and figuratively. I spent the weekend at our state’s aquarium and it had awkward soundproofing triangles on the side because of the noisy roads nearby. (Easier to see in this ancient pic below)
What kind of metaphorical soundproofing do you have in your life? We’re constantly barraged by advertisements online and streams of posts from our friends and peers, and news articles are always fighting to be as psychologically loud as possible. What do you think this is doing to us? We’re getting louder and louder. We’re becoming less able to hear good things that are quieter. Truth of the matter is, we’ve been in this deafening noise for so long that some of us seem to have forgotten what it’s like to step outside of it.
Step outside of it. Every day in this tough year I see another acquaintance snap and make a drastic negative life change because they can’t take it anymore. Divorce and breakups, quitting a career, torching a project, permanently cutting off friends, suicide. People “can’t take it anymore.” The only way you’re going to be able to survive and succeed in a perpetually negative noisy world is to manage to get outside it and know the opposite exists, and what it looks like. A lot of still-successful celebs and commentators I’ve noticed will do so once a year with some kind of “break”. Even they need to be quiet sometimes.
I want to examine just three simple things you can do to bring more peace and balance in your life if you’re roped into tumultuous news and entertainment. (I have more but let’s narrow it down to a few you’ll remember)
1. Take a Sabbath
The word comes from Shabbat, the Hebrew origin that dates at least back to Moses’ 10 Commandments. For practicing Jews that’s Saturday. For most Christians, it’s Sunday. But you don’t have to be religious. It’s a generic principle. You need to take time to mentally rest from the crap you have to put up with every other day of the week.
Decide what that would look like to you. Maybe your phone is always turned off all day on the first day of each month. Maybe you refuse to open certain social media apps on a certain day of the week. Whatever you do, you need to define it as a law that you live by, one nearly as big as “don’t kill people”. One public figure takes an entire month away from being online, with assistance from peers to find out what was missed. What matters is that you take a well-defined regular quiet break. Do what fits into your own work schedule.
Do you know how hard it is to do nothing on purpose? For some of us, it’s boring. For others, it’s a nightmare that lets our inner demons have a voice. Many of us don’t want to be left alone with our thoughts. For those and many more, to go meditate on purpose about their life and problems is a terrifying idea that takes legitimate courage to face a little introspection.
Introspect. Take time to sit on the floor quietly with your eyes closed for 10 or 15 minutes. Set an alarm if you have to. You can hum or empty your mind and think of nothing and see what bubbles up. You could have paper and pencil ready. You could only focus on your breathing. You don’t even have to call it meditation if you think it’s silly. But we don’t get enough of it. You may even find time to meditate on the go, if you go running without music like I do. But if you don’t give yourself time to introspect, you forego one of the only ways to course-correct your life and improve where you’re headed. And maybe if you faced those demons they’d leave and take some anxiety and stress with them.
This is one of the reasons I have this blog now, but I write elsewhere too. Writing has a deeply therapeutic effect on a cluttered soul. When you write down what’s on your mind, it suddenly doesn’t have to be on your mind anymore. You can clear and quiet your mind. I’ve encountered this numerous times, where I finally write down a list of things that have been secretly plaguing me and then suddenly I can think and breath again.
I can’t overstate the value of coping with stress, anxiety, and possibly depression by writing. Barf your mind onto a page. Make it a note document you can conceal from everyone. Spill it. Start a journal or diary. Let it all out and see how it affects you. You’ll feel better once you realize you can have a paper therapist. It might help you become aware of things you keep forgetting, and you’ll be able to look back a few weeks later and see what ended up mattering versus what didn’t age well.
It doesn’t matter how you go about it, but if you can’t give your subconscious some ways to participate in your life, you’ll go crazy. We’re seeing it happen to all kinds of people this year. If it means you have to start hiking into the mountains, do it. It’s one of the reasons people find various vacations alluring. You need one around once a week. There was a time in our culture where that’s what weekends were for, but we rush into them so hard or work on those days now and we’re less sane and less mentally healthy than ever. If you haven’t, start doing something for your present or future self. Turn down the signals. Find time to be quiet.