Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dealing With the Crazy in My Head {Plain & Simple}

Before starting, I want to make another book recommendation... a new find that I absolutely adore, "The Simple Living Handbook: Discover the Joy of a Decluttered Life" by Lorilee Lippincott (see her blog here). It is an awesome book with so many good ideas and new ways of looking at things! Thoroughly recommended - go check it out! (But not from the library... at least until I've finished it.)


And now to the subject at hand.

There are many ways to simplify. Decluttering the house, turning down the noise, unplugging from the electronics. Those are all important, and I'm planning to touch on some of those in coming weeks. But the most important place to simplify is a place that is not so easy to deal with.

It's inside my head. That crazy place that screams, "You're not moving fast enough! Go! Go! Go!" That place that keeps me going at a frantic pace, even when I'm outwardly calm. That is the place that needs clearing and decluttering.

Apparently I don't project a particularly frantic image, because I am constantly receiving the most surprising compliments on my calm demeanor.
"You handle parenting with such grace."
"You deal with things so calmly!"
"Wow, I wish I could keep as calm as you do with such a busy life going on."
While I'm always pleased to receive such comments, I'm afraid that the reality is too often quite different. Most of the time, my mind is frantically busy making to-do lists and stressing out over details, plans, and the much-too-busyness of being a mother, homemaker, and home educator to three boys.

Should I chance to have a few minutes of time to finally get something done, my mind looks something like this:
"Okay, I've got a few minutes - if the baby will just keep sleeping, maybe I can get something done. God, please let the baby keep sleeping! Hurry, hurry, hurry. Faster, faster, faster. Oh no, I need to do [A], [B], [C], [D], and [E], and there isn't possibly enough time. Go, go, go! Oh no, I forgot about [F], [G], [H], and [I]! Dear God, I'll never get it all done!"
I'm stressing out just thinking about it!

So here's the thing. My life is busy - true. My life is very busy - true. But a lot of the stress that I feel is stress that I am putting upon myself purely because of the craziness going on in my own brain. It's self-imposed. I am doing it to myself.

And that's where the comparison to the Amish comes in. The Amish people (and our ancestors from the Old World, to whom the Amish may be compared) do not have easier lives or lesser workloads than we modern Americans. If anything, they have harder lives and heavier workloads. (Just try plowing a field with a horse some time!) Yet with all of that, their lives are much calmer, their communities are much healthier, and their life-pace is much slower and more measured, as opposed to the crazy-busy pace that I maintain in my head regardless of how busy or non-busy I am.

Like most of us, I am used to frenetic levels of activities - constant to-do lists and deadlines, an over-stuffed schedule both within and without the home, and the constant dangling carrot of more-more-more productivity that we've been taught is the Holy Grail of modern life. Go, go, go. Faster, faster, faster. Move, move, move!  

We do it to ourselves. I do it to myself. But I don't want to do it any more, and I'm working on stopping.

But how do we stop the ingrained mental habits of a lifetime? It sounds simple ("Just calm down!"), but it isn't - because it's our status quo, our automatic habit, our addiction to mental stress. And switching to a slower pace of life is going to take a lot of practice.

When I realize (approximately fifty times per day) that I am operating in my usual frantic-rushing-crazy mode, here are the three steps I am working on:

(1) STOP - When I realize what I'm doing - making myself crazy by screaming at myself to go faster-faster-faster! - I stop! I force myself to stop where I am, mentally and physically, and I pause to re-set my mindset and my activity level.

(2) BREATHE - I physically slow down my breathing, and as I do so, I try to slow down my thoughts and set my mind on something positive (instead of worrying frantically about political or spiritual issues), and breathe slowly so that I can calm down the crazy that's otherwise going on in my head.

(3) SLOW DOWN - Yes, that's right - I physically slow down my movements. Instead of frantically scrubbing dishes and tossing them in the drainer, I'll slow down and force myself to enjoy the process and to feel it and do it calmly. Instead of racing through the house trying to get chores done faster-faster-faster, I'll slow my steps and make myself take a saner pace.

The habits of a lifetime aren't easy to break - but it's worth the effort. Why? Because all of the external work that I'm doing to declutter my house (and I'm on a roll right now with that!) won't matter if I can't tame the raging beast within my own mind.

Stop. Breathe. Slow down.

I think many of us need to escape from the bondage of "faster is better." We may technically get more done (though that's doubtful), but we enter into a dreadful mental bondage that enslaves us to a schedule that we can never keep up with and which makes us miserable and constantly stressed-out. It's worth the work to escape from that slavery.

Who wants to join me? 

Have a wonderful Friday, everyone!

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