Going On An (Information) Diet–Starving Distraction to Gain Peace

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I’ve been thinking a lot about peace these days, what it means to me and my family, how to hang on to it over the long-haul.  I’m a Christian, so I understand peace to be, ultimately, about the Prince of Peace, Jesus.  He’s who we’re singing about in all those carols this time of year, and remembering that helps me to breathe in the midst of the season’s festivities.  Entering into and nurturing a relationship with him is, I’ve discovered, the starting point to a fundamentally different kind of (peace-filled) existence.

Still, we all do things–year round–that sabotage our personal peace, things that end up affecting not just ourselves but our families and friends as well.  The number one way I work against myself in my quest to maintain a peaceful heart and home?

I consume too much media. 

We’ve all heard it; the human brain can store only so much information.  Yet never before have we humans had the ability to access as many important facts, hybrid lies, complete lies, and useless info-bits at the click of a button.  And I have a confession:  I love it.  Even if I can see that some Internet “fact” is a lie, it’s all good.  In that case, I can bookmark it, text it to my sister, and get the particular pleasure of discussing just how much of a lie said fact is.

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But a funny thing happens to me after too much engagement online, whether it’s social media, news websites, or blogs–I find that I can’t concentrate on my real life, and I get anxious.  The actual goings-on of my day get upstaged by the vague chatter in my brain as it tries to process enough (mostly mindless) info to last me a month, maybe a year.  I lose patience when my son tries to tell me about some world he discovered in Minecraft because I don’t have the mental space to receive One More Piece of Info.  This is sad because often he uses the sharing of factoids to jump-start deeper, more meaningful conversations with me.  I know all this.  Still, when he starts in, my brain screams no mas.

And then, when it’s dark news stories I’ve been consuming, I find myself replaying horrifying scenes in my mind, ad infinitum.  Even though I know that most of the time, a). I don’t have all the facts in order to ascertain the complete truth in a news story, and, b). I can’t help the situation, other than to pray, still I can’t shut the fretting off.  Then, as I worry about things I can’t change, I’m rendered useless to effect change in the ways I can.

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Now, since I have no plans to go permanently dark on the Internet (I work from home, after all), I’ve had to come up with other ways to mitigate the effects of media on my mind and in my home.  I’m not always faithful to stick to my resolution since information is to me like molten lava cake is to others.  Still, these things have helped:

I limit my exposure to social media.  I’m not a member of 50 different sites so I don’t have a ton of checking to do anyway.  When I do want to check a social site, I give myself two minutes or less on it if I don’t have any notifications that indicate something’s changed.  And if something has changed, I try to limit myself to ten minutes, tops.

I consume very little news.  Virtually none, to be honest.  It’s impossible to avoid headlines and I find that I can sort-of stay up on major events that way.  But any more info than a casual glance affords is too much for my anxious heart.  I try to pray for local, national, and world issues as they come to my mind but I do not spend time thinking about things over which I have no control.  This is a biggie for me.

Is my heart a perfect oasis of peace these days?  No.  Do I spend too much time thinking about things that have no real bearing on my actual life?  Sometimes.  But I’m working on it and it’s making a difference.

Is there any chance that cutting back on media consumption might help you too?

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The Fixer

Are you a fixer?  When faced with a problem, big or small, do you look for solutions, figuring there must be something in your life you can tweak to make it go away?images-1

Maybe it’s just me.

I find that I want to control my life, like, a lot.  This is never clearer than when some problem crops up in my life.  It might be a relationship issue, an educational conundrum with one or all of my kids, or scheduling thing, another bout of depression.  Doesn’t really matter.  When something messes up my daily rhythm I want to beat that thing into submission, posthaste.  I want it dead.  Ahem.

What I’m learning, extremely slowly, is that sometimes problems can’t be solved by brainstorming, list-making, worrying, kvetching, vision-casting, or binge-eating. images

Sometimes the best thing to do when confronted with an “issue” is to…wait.  As in, do nothing.  (As a person of faith, I assume that praying about stuff is not the same as trying to fix it, so I’m not suggesting that praying is unnecessary.  It’s very necessary).  Not everything has a solution, at least not one I can see.  And even if it does, I can’t always effect change.

So I am learning to be still, to wait, to sometimes go slow in the face of obstacles.  I am praying and watching.  I am seeing stones in my path and not reaching for the keys to my forklift.

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The thing is, life keeps going whether I strategize or not, and problems often work themselves out (rather, Someone works them out, without my helpful freakouts, thanks).  If all this seems like a call for passivity, for hanging back and hanging on a minute when things go wrong, it is.

Deep breath.

Sometimes in the midst of life’s craziness, it really is better not to try to fix things, but to simply be.