I’ve been navigating bouts of anxiety over the past week. While this was common in my 20’s, it’s been ages since this old friend came for a sleepover.
I realized the root of my dis-ease when I woke up Saturday morning: I’ve gotten sloppy about how and when I use my smart phone. I’m big on starting my day intentionally (read more) and know better than to look at social media or my ever-so-carefully curated news stream early in the day. But, sometimes I slide and the “need to know”–and the illusion that this enhances my sense of safety and well-being– overtakes me.
Unfortunately this mindless scrolling affects my nervous system big time. I immediately feel the physiological and psychological effects of looking at stressful news or Facebook discourse: my chest tightens, my breath gets shallow, my mind speeds up, I feel unsettled and jumpy and my ability to focus and solve problems greatly diminishes. I just plain don’t feel good.
Last weekend we were relaxing on a farm with some good friends. I had recently challenged my friend Dan to refrain from looking at his phone first thing in the morning and to try and just check the news once a day (he’s a former journalist and a news hound). He shared he was feeling so much more relaxed and content since disrupting his old habit of constantly checking the headlines. And he was finding his “need to know” was dissipating.
It’s true, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and there are a LOT of unknowns. But it’s never been more important to focus on living inside out and to choose (rather than be fed) how we want to feel, think and be. Living from the inside out (read more) is about mindfully deciding who and what we allow into our consciousness. We should be as vigilant about our information and media diet as we are about what food we put into our bodies.
If we aren’t, we will be living in stewpot of fear and it will be hard to access our wisest, more discerning selves.
This week I’m returning to my old bedtime and morning self-care rituals: gentle stretching, meditation, journaling, getting outside first thing in the morning, sharing my vision for the day with my loved ones and being more mindful about how and when I use my phone. I know that “knowing more” does not create feelings of comfort. Comfort and safety comes from knowing how to come home to myself.
My challenge to you this week: Put your phone in the bathroom or kitchen at night by 9 p.m.. Don’t look at it until after you’ve done some morning “mental health maintenance” (read the ideas above). Then, make a point to only look at the news consciously: either by taking a media fast for a day or a week or only looking at your news feed for a set amount of time once a day (10 minutes at noon, for example). See how you feel, sleep and roll during this week and notice how this mindful media approach affects your mood. I’d love to know how it goes.
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Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life coach/author/speaker and self-care evangelist Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find balance through the art and science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, Spirituality & Health and more. She and her team have certified more than 400 facilitators in 10 countries around the globe to lead life coaching groups and women’s retreats based on her work. She’s the author of two books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 18-year-old son. More on Renee here.