We live in a fast paced world, wouldn't you agree? We are bombarded by so many things during our day, that it is hard to not be affected by the numerous excessive stimuli coming at us. At some point, we might tell ourselves that we can "handle it", but how successful are we at actually doing that anyway? I know for myself, that if I don't find the time to gather my strength to move forward with all that I have to do, I will be impacted by the many different directions of negative energies from events and people. This is where having time for ourselves plays a real part in our ability to deal with day to day life. Most of us tend to ignore such an idea that promotes self-care, and just power through the day. But at what cost? Yeah, sure, we get things done. Yet, we likely tend to feel as if we just fought a battle with the wind and ultimately lost (in whatever way we are keeping score). We may even find ourselves exhausted and occasionally sick.
The title of this post denotes an important idea in taking care of ourselves. That space of quiet...that time of non-doing, should not be pushed aside. Rather it should be embraced as a way to refuel or connect back to ourselves after a day of constant activity. Whether we call it meditation, a retreat, a camping trip, or even five minutes sitting in our home with the electronics unplugged, we need to be able have some space where we are doing nothing but going within to find our center again. For many people, the concept of seeking that inner sense of balance is quite foreign. Western society does not teach us to take care of ourselves in this way very well. If we want to be successful, we are taught that we have to push ourselves to the limit - and show no signs of weakness or inability to prevail. It is just not practical, nor is it mentally healthy. Eventually, we face the consequences of that level of engagement with the world, and it is usually not in our favor.
What I have often taught my clients, is to find five minutes each day, or even two five minute periods (one in the morning, and one in the evening), where we find a place of solitude. Even if you have to go out to your car and lock yourself inside. Turn off your radio, phone, and anything else that could distract you from going within yourself during this time. Just be. Allow the silence to come to you. Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowly. Deep slow breaths. Clear your mind of all thoughts, and all concerns. (They will be there when you come back, but for now you are putting them down and giving yourself permission to take time out for your own needs of self-care). Allow your ears to hear the sound of total silence. Silence can in a way be very loud for the first couple of moments. Your mind might feel like it is being deprived of the noise you are use to hearing. You are causing a shift in your level of mental and auditory stimulation levels. This is a gift you are giving to yourself. Some ambient noise will still be heard, but not noise you normally hear like the TV, phone, or screaming kids.
Once you have found that you are relaxed and feeling a little more centered, you can open your eyes and gather your thoughts for the next things you need to do. But the point is that you took time out for yourself, and created a few moments of silence. Your mind and body will thank you if you do this regularly, and you will find that you might be able to add time to this process (10, maybe even 20 minutes per session of quiet time). I have sat with clients for whole sessions in total silence. Sometimes that is what they need that day. It can be a real marker for improving your way of dealing with stress and life as a whole. This is something I suggest to anyone seeking even small ways to increase their level of self-care. I am willing to assist you in developing this coping strategy, if you would like help. Please feel free to reach out to me to explore this opportunity.
Shawn Thomas Berthel M.S., is the owner of Life Path Counseling PLLC, and a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. He lives in University Place, Washington.