Have you ever noticed how when you feel overwhelmed with a thought, external noises seem amplified? Have you ever reached for the volume on the radio in order to think clearly? When in thought, how easy it is to snap when someone (often our children) interrupts the thought with a question or some distracting, mindless noise? Sometimes, it isn’t just one thought but the overextension of tasks. We may have so many things to accomplish that we find ourselves being pulled in multiple directions. Any pull in yet another direction can be the final tug that uses up the last ounce of elasticity we have, resulting in us snapping. When we have something complicated or an overload of items to concentrate on, any external stimuli can nearly drive us to the brink of sanity.
Finding a quiet place, devoid of distraction, can provide for a peaceful respite from the external commotion. It offers an isolated chamber in which to separate from the buzzing world around us. We begin to hear our own thoughts more clearly. But sometimes, those thoughts are actually the source of the noise we need to silence. The noises in the head—those persistent worried thoughts relentlessly screaming for attention—are the guilty culprits for causing the stress and anxiety. They can infiltrate even the most quiet rooms and penetrate the darkest of nights, keeping us awake with demands to be heard.
Eric Church has an opening line in one of his popular songs that starts out, “Turn the quiet up. Turn the noise down.” It is often much easier to turn the noise down than it is to turn the quiet up. I have found it easy to create a place absent of external distraction in order to turn the noise down. What is far more difficult to achieve is turning the quiet up. A million thoughts race through my head. Evaluations of my personal life and relationships, staying in touch with clients, work projects, writing subjects, areas of interest and pursuits, did I lock the door, did I put something away, what are the plans for tomorrow, paying bills, earning money, and … well, it seems I never run out of things to think about. Often, they all compete for my attention at the same time. Their attention demands can have me twisting and turning in circles funneling into a spiral of confusion.
So, what can we do to turn the quiet up? How do we pay attention adequately while not becoming overwhelmed with an overrun of thoughts at once? I’ve found a few things that work well for me to regain control through the turbulence of chaotic jumbled thoughts.
Some things really do not matter. Often I find myself caught up in the little things that have no real bearing on what is important to me. Making a list of goals, wishes, and desires allows me to stay more focused upon the things that do matter. When something unexpected pops up, I can evaluate it within the realm of needing my attention or not. If it is something I need to attend to I can add to my list. If not, I can excuse it and not have to continue thinking about it.
2. Determine what you can do about it
Too often we worry about things we have no influence upon. I don’t know why it is so easy to allow energy and time to get sucked away on thoughts of things I have no control over. To be honest, this can be a tough one for me, especially lately. Perhaps I just don’t want to admit that there are things in my life beyond my ability to control. Whether I want to admit it or not, it is the truth. I have come to realize this more and more. But I still struggle with letting some things go without investing a great deal of wasted wishing for it to be different. Remembering it isn’t just about having the courage to let go but more about the prudence of demonstrating the wisdom to embrace the present makes it more palatable.
Once we determine what matters and whether we have the ability to do anything about it, we can prioritize. Knowing what is really important to me allows me to then be able to prioritize those things that do need my attention. If I have something that is needing my attention immediately, worrying about something that requires my attention next week isn’t going to serve me very well. It takes the focus off of what is before me, and thus I am less effective. Having a prioritized list makes breaking things down into manageable steps. With each accomplishment, another voice is silenced and more energy is gained going on to the next.
Persistence allowed the tortoise the victory over the hare. The famous fable holds value because it rings true with life. Most of us do not make a decision in one moment and reap the benefit in the next. It takes continued effort. Whether it is quitting a nasty habit, improving our health, or embarking on a new adventure, we must work on it. Those relationships or things that truly matter to us, the ones that we can do something about and hold significant priority, require consistency.
5. Take care of yourself
In all honesty, this probably should be the first on the list. However, I feel this list is more circular than linear. In order to have the strength and energy to do any of the above, we have to take care of ourselves. Getting proper rest, eating healthy, exercising, all have a great deal of influence on our mental health and ability to properly be the master of our own minds rather than the slave to our thoughts.
I have written this at a time I find I need to get back on track with managing my own life. I have recently found myself in position of being overwhelmed with a tremendous amount of mind chatter pulling me in every direction. The above list have been things that have worked well for me previously and hope will provide more focused direction as I implement them once again.
For me, I view life as an unfolding a story. The book of life, if you will. No book comprises a single chapter, nor does one chapter tell the whole story. Each word contributes, line by line, making up the paragraphs of the page. We continue filling the pages, forming the chapters that will fill the book until our story is completed. As we prepare to write the next section, how do we realign ourselves and incorporate what we value into the story?
I am interested in hearing what works for you. What are the things that have held you back? How have you silenced the internal noise? How do you turn the quiet up? How to do you find focus and concentration when life throws you more than you have bargained for? Please share with me in the comment section below. I am very interested in hearing your words of wisdom, advice, or humorous anecdotes.
Make it count.