The Problem with an Idle Mind

In my life, I have gone through several periods where I was not working, and I spent most of my time at home secluded from the outside world. These times occurred during a serious illness that I had and also when I was in-between jobs.

I remember clearly when the four walls around me were my best friends. I spent day and night at home. My favorite thing to do was watch TV, I wanted to get lost in someone else’s reality. Being on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket was all that I wanted to do. I had family and friends around, but I craved being alone…even though it wasn’t good for me.

Memories

I remember having way too much time to think. I recall hearing my friends talk about a long day at work, or not being able to see my loved ones very much because they were busy working and with their families. There I was with nothing but time on my hands. There I sat with a very idle mind.

A mind that is not busy can get one in so much trouble. We can invent problems that are not even there. I remember replaying a lot of events and conversations in my past. I remember wanting to redo parts of my life. I would analyze everything, and I found my mind wandering to places that I didn’t want to go. It can truly be detrimental to be alone with your thoughts. Too much idle time can cause stress and negative emotions.

Today

Fast-forward to today. I am a busy mom with young children. I have a lot of responsibilities and my schedule is jam-packed every day. From sunup to sundown, there is something to do with hardly any alone time or downtime in between. It’s funny how life can change like that. In the blink of an eye, situations and life circumstances can change drastically.

Nowadays, I don’t really have much time to think. I am constantly focused on what I need to do at any given moment. I am an overthinker and a deep thinker. I often get lost in brief moments of thought, but I can’t stay there for long. Late night and early morning are my moments of reflection.

Being busy has downsides, it can cause one to feel stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted. We strive for a delicate balance that we don’t often find. Given the downsides to being busy, there are some perks that I have found to be very helpful.

The Opposite 

A busy mind doesn’t have much room to wander and think. It doesn’t have time to think of past regrets, failed relationships, and all of the “what ifs.” A busy mind has less of a chance to become astray.

There is currently a lot going on in my life at the moment and the other day, I went out and spent some fun quality time with my family. The daily stresses and worries didn’t even cross my mind. Of course, they have come up again in thought, but while I was out and busy, all that I was focused on was my family and all of the fun that we were having. This is why staying busy in some way is so important!

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Get Off of the Hamster Wheel

There’s a perfect description for when our minds don’t stop racing. We know it as the “hamster wheel.” One thought leads to another, and it just snowballs from there. Having your mind spinning constantly in circles can be a very uncomfortable feeling.

I have struggled with anxiety and OCD most of my life. I know the hamster wheel feeling all too well. My mind wanders when I have a moment of quiet in my day, which is few and far between. Usually, I am so busy these days that I don’t have much time to stop and think, but there are times, especially early in the morning and late at night when my mind wanders.

Application

We know that a body in motion stays in motion. This can also be true for the mind. When we are constantly thinking, our mind stays in motion and stopping is very hard to do! Rumination feels like it’s a good idea because we feel like maybe we will get somewhere or solve something, but this is quite the opposite. Repeatedly thinking thoughts causes a lot of stress and although it can feel like we can lessen anxiety by thinking things through, more often than not it causes more damage.

“Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

 – Van Wilder

When our brain is in motion, it can be very hard to stop it. The wheel just keeps spinning over and over again. The energy used to think fuels more thoughts that fuel even more thoughts…it can be very distressing! There are two things that help me.

A Break

When my mind won’t stop going and thinking, I do the following to try to get it to stop:

  • I look around the room and I try to focus on different characteristics. For example, I try to find all of the red items, the objects in the room that are square, or really large items.
  •  I close my eyes and I focus on my breath. I notice how I breathe in slowly and exhale slowly. I just allow myself to be with no distractions. My breathing is the only thing that I focus on.

These small moments of mindfulness make all of the difference for me! I hope that if you find your mind not able to turn off that these two tricks will work for you as well.

Wishing you and I a quiet mind!

Walking on Eggshells

Some of you may know my goal for this year is to be authentic and not be afraid to just be me. In most ways, I feel like I am doing better in this area, and in few ways, I feel like I am slipping back into my same old patterns.

Thankfully, I know what stops me from being authentic, but sadly I don’t know how to work through it. The two things that stop me the most are fear of rejection and being perceived incorrectly.

Experiences

As we go through life, we accumulate many different experiences, some good, and some bad, but they all shape us in some way. These experiences become part of us and it’s hard to shake. Our beliefs and thought patterns are tied closely to what we have gone through in life.

I have been guilty of this too, but I feel that we live in a world that is full of judgment and people making assumptions. Oftentimes we see a person, or a situation and we have instant thoughts that come to mind. This is natural, we automatically think of many things when we see something. Much of the time, our perceived view of a person or situation couldn’t be farther from the truth. This is why looks are deceiving.

There have been times when I could have put money on a situation that was unfolding, or that I knew something about someone. I can tell you that I was floored many times by how wrong I was. As ironic as it is, most things in life are not what they seem.

My Thought Process

I always feel the need to censor my thoughts and actions. That I need to go through the motions in my head before I allow them to be free. I try to examine how each thought or action could be misconstrued or misinterpreted. I know that much of this is my anxiety talking, but a lot of it is due to unfortunate circumstances and past experiences.

I feel like trusting in today’s world is very minimal. We place trust in people every day without realizing it. When we drive a car, we are placing trust in the other drivers being responsible and safe while sharing the road with us. We trust that when we go to the store someone will be there to help us find what we are looking for and serve as a cashier when we are ready to check out.

When it comes to true trust as in relationships, I believe that many of us have trust issues due to our pasts. I feel like it takes a lot for someone to trust someone else, myself included. Past hurts spill over into our future and it’s hard to start over with a blank slate even though everyone deserves that chance to prove themselves as trustworthy.

Life Lessons

One thing that I learned the hard way is that one has to be careful when interacting with others. There are many instances where people perceive what is happening as something that it is not. Sometimes people take actions the wrong way. It’s at no fault of their own, everyone perceives things differently, however, it can make for a very difficult situation.

Even though I am much more introverted than I used to be, I have a very friendly personality and I love to talk and engage with other people. You can usually find me smiling even when that smile is covering up the pain. People take my laughter, smiles, and genuine concern for others as me flirting with them or being interested in them in some way. Of course, this is great if this is the case, but I often find it heartbreaking for me because I feel that I can’t be myself with others without creating an awkward situation. Someone always sees my personality as a step further than it really is.

Baby Steps

Sometimes I feel like I need to scale back, hide, repress, and not put my true self out there. Part of me wants to clam up because I never want someone to see me in the wrong light. I strive every day to be seen as the genuine and trustworthy person that I am.

In the end, I know that one is not supposed to care what others think because we know what is in our hearts and our minds. We know our intentions and it’s not up to us to make sure that everyone is on the same page. We all see things differently and that’s where open communication comes in.

These feelings leave me walking on eggshells daily, but I won’t give up. I won’t allow fear to hold me back. I have the power in me to take control of a situation instead of it controlling me. Life has enough stress, there’s no need to add to it! I am not responsible for other people’s thoughts or actions, only my own. I aspire to live a life where I don’t have to rehearse everything. One baby step at a time, I will learn to just be me…to just be.

365 Days

A photo is a memory captured at that very moment. A moment that we will never get back. The memory will carry on as will the emotions and feelings attached to it, but the actual memory is frozen in time.

I was looking through some of my pictures and I happened to stumble upon one that was taken exactly one year ago today. I stared at the picture, and I couldn’t believe that a year had passed.

The photo was of my children sitting at their little table painting a picture. I remember this moment plain as day. Their smiling faces, the beautiful colors of paint, and the creativity that flowed from them even in their young age. I was in shock that 365 days had passed since that photo was taken. 365 days had passed since that memory was experienced.

Time Flies

Growing up, I always heard from those older than me that “time flies.” I kept hearing that the older that you get, time passes even quicker. I didn’t know what anyone meant by this when I was young. It felt like Christmas came every 10 years as a child because to me it felt that time passed so slowly.

As I grow older, I can see that this is exactly the case. I’m only in my thirties, but it seems like every year passes quicker than the last. Time just keeps moving. I think this may also have to do with having a family and more responsibilities. It keeps me busy and constantly moving.

Reliving the Past

I look back at photos or think of a memory and I can’t even believe that so much time has passed. This is another reminder to live life to the fullest and cherish every moment for one day it becomes a memory. These beautiful memories that we collect along the way stay with us for a lifetime.

Sometimes it takes a date and time stamp on a photo to realize how fast this precious life goes. It is also amazing to see change and growth that occurs throughout the years!

Behind the Blinds

It was really early in the morning; the sun hadn’t come up yet. I got up, got dressed in some warm clothes, brushed my teeth, and washed my face. I always wake up hungry, so I headed downstairs to make some delicious breakfast. I usually have either decaf coffee or tea and some oatmeal with blueberries and kiwi mixed inside.

I started to make my coffee; I like it iced no matter what season it is. The water was boiling on the stove ready for my oatmeal. I washed and cut up the fruit to put in my bowl. I was drinking my coffee and decided to walk over to the blinds in the kitchen to take a peak outside.

It was still fairly dark outside, but the sun was rising. The streets were still, there was no one walking, the cars were parked where they were from the night before, and the world was quiet. No animals could even be seen. The houses that surround us all had their blinds shut as we did. On the horizon, smoke could be seen coming from a chimney and that was a little reminder for me that life is still occurring in all of these houses even when the blinds are shut. The smoke from the chimney was a symbol of someone keeping warm inside on this winter day.

Deep in Thought

Being the deep thinker that I am, I got lost in a brief moment of thought while enjoying my coffee. I thought to myself, “these homes can even represent people.” On the outside, we don’t see half of what takes place on the inside. Our outward appearance may change over time, or if we choose to change it, but overall, we stay pretty similar, though on the inside, we are constantly changing.

Behind the blinds, people are sleeping, eating, talking, and getting ready for work. There are people taking care of their families, watching TV, and maybe reading a good book. Life is happening in each of these homes. I wrote a story back in September called Neighborhood Mysteries, where I talk about the many unknowns in the neighborhood. We see many smiling faces and beautiful houses, but behind each beautiful home are people living their lives like you and I.

Behind our exterior body, just like the blinds that keep us closed off to the world, there is much life. There is so much happening within us even when no one can see. Our bodies are regulating many things to keep us alive. Our hearts are beating, our lungs are breathing, and our bodies are regulating our temperature. Our minds are busy in thought. Growth and change are happening within us.

The Takeaway

Even when we can’t see growth or change, it is happening, even if on a smaller level. There is life happening all around us and within us even when we cannot see it with our own eyes.

You may look out of your window and see a bunch of homes, or a quiet world, but inside there is much more going on than we can imagine.