We are an overstimulated society. American adults spend an average of 10.5 hours per day in front of some kind of screen. On top of that, we live in a culture obsessed with productivity, our lives move at a fast pace, and the most common answer to the casual “How are you?” Is usually (and truthfully) “Busy.” On top of that, most of us live in noisy environments, with something always on in the background – the sound of traffic or the city, the television, radio, or other noise pollution. In a world full of constant movement and stimulation, it is important to ask – what impact does this have on my mental health? We are generally worn out, burnt out, irritated and exhausted.
Moments of stillness, solitude, and quiet reflection can be rare and incredibly difficult to find, especially for parents, but they are crucial for maintaining balance and well-being. When our minds and bodies live in a constant state of overstimulation, our minds never have the ability to rest and contemplate, our cortisol levels remain high and our body is not able to relax, all of which have a negative impact on our mood, feelings of self-worth and efficacy, sleep and relationships. Our overstimulated lives are driving us deeper into mental health crises, even while at the same time many people feel if they don’t keep up the breakneck pace, they are somehow failing, lazy or worthless.
The truth is – without balance of work and rest, stimulation and stillness, we will run out of steam, or worse. Due to the pace of the culture we live in, the demands on our time and the ubiquity of technology, we have to fight for personal quiet time, be intentional about seeking it out, and making it a priority. It is one of the simplest things we can do to instantly improve mental health, well-being and outlook, but it must be consciously done, otherwise it will never be convenient.
- Schedule time for stillness: Put it in your calendar! Schedule at least 10 minutes every day for yourself, find a place of relative quiet and privacy and just be. Practice mindfulness, incorporate breathing exercises, meditation, prayer or easy journaling. The most important thing is that you take time to inhabit the body and the mind, connect with yourself and your thoughts, and take an assessment of your inner world without the noise, “should’s” and expectations of the outer world. If every day feels like too much to start, try every other day. Also, expect that if a practice of stillness or mindfulness is new to you, if may feel very challenging and uncomfortable at first. That is normal, as sometimes being alone with our thoughts can be deeply emotional. However, as anyone who has been through the journey of recovery knows, healing begins with exploring these depths, and avoiding or suppressing thoughts and emotions through stimulation does not bring any respite, just distraction and more anxiety. Work with your treatment team to process through difficult thoughts or emotions, and practice those skills in your quiet moments.
- Schedule time for self-care: Besides incorporating stillness, or an intentional lack of stimulation into our daily routine, it is also essential to put self-care on the calendar. Take some time to ask yourself, or talk with your treatment team, about ideas for what kind of things or activities would best demonstrate self-care for you. Each person is different, some seek things that are more active, like quiet walks through the forest, others more restful activities, such as massage, knitting or reading. The most important element of finding something you can do to care for yourself is that as a result of that activity, you truly feel, in mind and body, worthy of the love you’ve shown yourself, and that you have enjoyed it. Self-care shouldn’t be a task to perform, but true enjoyment for no other purpose, and the opportunity to demonstrate to yourself that you’re worthy of care and love. Being intentional about incorporating rituals of self-care into our daily routines is the way we create the balance necessary to sustain recovery and resilience in the face of the pressures of daily life.
Take an honest assessment of your daily routines and ask yourself: where am I out of balance? Where can I cultivate more stillness, quiet, and rituals of self-care? Where can I carve out even just a few moments each day to check in with and honor my body, my thought life, and my spirit? The power the stillness, mindfulness and presence truly lay the foundation for long-term recovery, and a balanced, meaningful life, ensuring that no matter the chaos that life can undoubtedly bring, you always have a peaceful home within your very self and heart, to find rest.