the unquiet mind: in which i search for a way to turn down the volume in my brain

Isn't it frustrating when you know you're doing something that hurts you, that makes your life more difficult, yet you can't seem to stop? Awareness is a necessary precursor to change - that's been proven to me again and again - but sometimes awareness becomes another burden. 

I'm in one of those times of my life when my level of busy-ness is well past my comfort level, and there's nothing I can do about it. Although it's not quite short-term, it's not permanent. I've gotten through this before - and I've done it without re-triggering any stress-related symptoms or illness. In some part of my mind, I know I can do that again.

I know that the best approach, the most useful tool I can use to get through this - and even to enjoy each item on my crowded calendar! - is to stay in the present. Not just one day at a time, but one moment at a time. Live life as it comes. 

Yet at the same time, some evil, non-rational part of my mind is sure this busy-ness will destroy me, that I'll fall apart, that I won't get through it. And that part of my mind is trying to live the whole thing at once. Every moment becomes: I have to do this, and this, and this, and this, then there's that, and that, and that! How will I do it all? I can't! I will fall apart! 

And that evil part of my mind, the part that lives in the future, robs me of so much present enjoyment. Worse, it robs me of the down-time I do have! And it triggers insomnia, so I'm less equipped to handle the busy-ness of the following day. 

Like everyone - like all of you - my irrational mental bete noire is well-known to me. I've been wrestling with the same pitfalls all my life, and I can give myself a huge pat on the back for how far I've come. (As should you!) I'm a whole lot better at keeping this stuff under control than I used to be.

But still. I struggle.

I search for ways to "turn off my brain," or at least to lower the volume for a time. Sometimes physical exercise helps... but sometimes I can't relax my brain enough to enjoy a walk. Sometimes reading helps, but if my mind is jumping around too much, I can't concentrate enough to read. 

When I was in grad school and experiencing an increase in anxiety, I tried re-booting a meditation practice, something I hadn't done in at least 15 years. I didn't get very far. Learning to quiet your mind is a gradual process, and - like most new habits - the toughest part is getting started. (Maybe I should just note that and get started anyway.)

So here I am. Trying to live a week or a month or three months all at once. Knowing full well that at the end of that week or month, I'm going to say, There! I did it. It was easier than I thought. Some of it was even fun. And I'm fine. I was fine all along. 

So why can't I just know that now?


johngoldfine said...

Have you ever thought about getting a dog?


johngoldfine said...

"So why can't I just know that now?"

Because knowledge is not much damn use when it comes to feelings, not that I've ever found.

It's like writing. Knowing all the rules for good writing can only keep you from being a really bad writer but are no use at all in stimulating the creativity of a really good writer.

allan said...

You have to apply the one-inch window from writing to the calendar/these other tasks.

laura k said...

You have to apply the one-inch window from writing to the calendar/these other tasks.

Yes. The one-inch window that for some reason I always call the two-inch frame.

This is from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

I think it's another way of saying "stay in the present".

laura k said...

Because knowledge is not much damn use when it comes to feelings, not that I've ever found.

Hm, interesting. About writing, definitely true. Feelings, maybe. But this is also thought, thought processes, and those are within our power to change.

Or else how it could be that I've gotten better at this, that it's not as bad as it used to be?

(Unless my efforts and the change are coincidental! ARGH! Too much thinking!!!!) ;)

Dogs do help. :)

impudent strumpet said...

This is interesting, because it's kind of similar to something I've been fruitlessly trying to blog about. (i.e. not only have I been getting stressed about things that I shouldn't, I've also been getting stressed about the fact that I'm getting stressed about them).

I haven't come up with anything productive or conclusive or helpful or useful though.

laura k said...

Keep us posted, and I will, too.