What do you do when you’re stressed?
How about when you’re upset?
We all have our go-to coping mechanisms, and I have recently discovered my personal favorite: distractions.
Ah, the art of distraction, being a person who has pretty bad ADD, finding distractions comes just about as naturally as breathing; in fact, if it were an olympic sport, I would take home the gold (being tragically uncoordinated, inserting myself into an olympic analogy is the only way I will ever come close to a gold medal and ohhh my goodness this is the worst run-on sentence and I just proved my point about the whole ADD thing).
Sometimes that’s the advice I have to give myself. I don’t know about you, but as soon as something shakes me up, my first reaction is to react; to sprint to the closest distraction I can find and use it to crowd any unpleasant thoughts out of my mind until they are dismissed forcefully like a pinkless, sweat pants-wearing Regina George from the lunch table on a Wednesday.
Midterm tomorrow with material I don’t understand? Point me in the direction of the nearest peanut butter jar please.
Feeling down on myself for eating too much of the aforementioned peanut butter? Bring on the Netflix marathon!
Angry at myself for watching too much Netflix when I should have been studying? Excuse me while I numb my mind by scrolling through my Instagram feed to observe the Spring Break highlight reel in all its selfie-stick glory!
Notice something? It’s a cycle. I went from being stressed to stressed and bloated to stressed and bloated and angry to stressed and bloated and angry and jealous. It’s so easy to push our negative thoughts away by crowding them out, because it’s a lot less scary than taking the time to slow down and sit with our thoughts.
This is a reminder I love to tell others, retweet, and write in loopy cursive fonts hugged by cute little olive branches (does a quote really exist if it’s not surrounded by olive branches in feminine handwriting?) but it’s rarely something I do.
Sitting with my thoughts is hard; it’s uncomfortable and makes me feel restless and often times anxious, unproductive, or bored.
I can think of about 50 things I’d rather do, 50 things I should do instead, or 50 reasons I don’t have time to be still.
Isn’t that just the greatest excuse?
“I don’t have time.”
But we do. When it really comes down to it, we have time for the things we make time for. How can I say I don’t have time to be still if I have spent the past half hour dancing poorly to Uptown Funk in my kitchen with a cookie clutched in each hand tighter than Leonardo Dicaprio would hold an Oscar?
I do have time. I have time to be still.
After catching myself half-watching Friends for the past hour during what I have told everyone, including myself, is an “unbearably busy week,” I snapped down my laptop screen, walked into a different room, and sat.
I sat with my thoughts, no matter how ugly, scary, or overwhelming they felt; I acknowledged them without dwelling on them, slowly letting them go, like releasing a bouquet of colorful balloons into the sky, one by one.
After sitting still for what felt like a painful amount of time (but was probably 15 minutes), something changed; I woke up.
I heard the birds singing together outside my window.
I noticed the incredible comfort of the couch I was sitting on.
I felt the warmth of the teacup in my hands.
A beautiful chorus of tiny moments had been singing to me the whole day long, and I cannot believe I have ever gone so long without noticing them.
I don’t want to overlook these precious little moments by crowding them out with Netflix, binge-eating, social media, or anything else. I don’t want to distract myself from missing the beautifully simple and seemingly subtle gifts God is showering me with every day.
So now I’ll give you the advice I have given so many times, but have finally learned to take: