Turning Down the Noise
I'm writing this as I enter the 7th week of social distancing. I've been doing all of the reflecting - one of my favorite activities. I love checking in on myself, my self-improvement goals, what is working well, what is not, and make sure I'm taking care of myself. I may have lost some of you already because this is not how you spend your free time. I invite you to stay with me here. I will explain how you can more readily turn down the noise and access supportive habits.
I know this specific habit supports my health, my purpose, and increases how often and how easily I can access joy. When I reflect and take time alone to write and/or talk out what's on my mind without external influence I find freedom by listening to just myself. I use this time to summarize the beautiful and not so beautiful loudness in the world and interpret it through my own lens. When I let myself have this time I'm also more capable of passing on to others what I have come to learn through these experiences.
I needed this time. I needed a wake up call. I wish more than anything it wouldn't have had to be under these circumstances, but I'm grateful it opened my eyes and reminded me to always ask for what I need and allow myself to have it. It shouldn't take a pandemic for me to feel it's acceptable to take that pause. I've always had a hard time accepting that about myself. Shout out to my fellow introverts who might especially understand this need. It's okay to say no to the noise and yes to yourself. For those who may not understand, and you're looking to understand an introvert in your life, this is typically one of the many ways we recharge. When I don't prioritize that, I'm not able show up in the world as the best version of myself more often than not.
I haven't been able to sit down and write for many of the reasons above. That's largely what this experience has felt like -- turning down the noise. It's felt like freedom yet none at all. There are far less options of how I can spend my time, yet I've still found plenty of ways to stay preoccupied and busy. It's felt like freedom because there are 24 hours in the day to manage my personal and professional responsibilities. I love that flexibility. I feel more productive not having to factor in a commute. I have had so many ideas, emotions, thoughts, revelations, and so much on my mind in general as I look back on this past year. Therefore, it's felt hard to come here and share. My thoughts have been everywhere, and there have been so many. I've needed more buffering to process.
We are all always so "busy". More often than not it feels like we say it with such pride too. Why?
Does it support our egos because it means we are important and needed?
Or are we also afraid to be alone and quiet with ourselves and our thoughts?
Are we really happy and showing up in the world the way we most deeply desire?
When who we want to be isn't who we are, why would you want to sit with that in silence and stillness?
I pose these questions because I've had to ask them myself. They're tough and deep. They can't typically be answered quickly. A few years ago I realized I had spent half of my life being someone I thought sounded incredible in my head and on paper, but I was pursuing it for all of the wrong reasons. Not just traits and behaviors, but also with my career that ended up making me see that I was pursuing professional roles better suited for a personality opposite to who I really am. I love a challenge, and I am always up to learn new skills, but that's different than personality. Personality, according to research, stays stable for a majority of your life.
I find taking time to turn down the noise and reflect to check in with myself as a means of self-care. It's a way to stay in alignment with my core values. It allows you a moment to slow down and take a pause. I want to continue to find behaviors and habits that support my focus, my authentic self and well-being, and my purpose in the world.
Yet I'm confident the noise will return and I'll struggle in the same way again. I'll have to check in again. When you find yourself needing to tune into yourself more and the outside world less, what will you do over and over again to come back home to yourself? I want to leave you with some framework that can hopefully spark creativity in coming up with your own tools.
I'll have to ask myself, is this supportive noise or hindering noise?
Take a deep breath, do some conscious breathwork, and pause.
Am I listening to what the world, society, social media, and other people are saying or am I listening to me?
What do I want, what do I most deeply need and desire? Write it down.
This is way easier said than done and some of this is neuroscience. We build our habits from cues and rewards. I was just listening to a webinar on habits that shared this idea thanks to VitalSmarts (find the article and letter about this at this link). Consider a daily habit of yours - why do you do it? A cue (also known to be considered a trigger response) sends us into autopilot (a routine) where we access the habit. A reward tells us this is meaningful to recall and access again. This could be negative, positive, or neutral.
I mention this because if there is a habit, like taking time to turn down the noise and write, that you want to add in, it is more likely to stick to if you understand what your brain needs to make it happen.
I can cue myself out of autopilot mode when it's not serving me to access a new habit by having a word or action that begins the rewiring of pathways in my brain.
I can give myself a reward when I've completed a post or journal entry.
I know this is easier said than done, but I hope an example below will help you as you consider new habits that support turning down the noise in your world that support your purpose. If that sounds like too much right now, come up with 1 and try it for 30-45 days. Check back in with yourself then and see how it's going.
Routine/Behavior: I keep saying yes to everything and everyone to people-please.
Reward: Control. I'm doing it all, and if I'm in control I'm less likely to get hurt by people or anything outside of myself.
What I can work on rewiring this to is....
Routine/Behavior: Provide clear and realistic timelines. Say no as needed.
Reward: Less anxiety, getting what I need, building relationships
Cue: Disagreement with loved one
Routine/Behavior: Yell, reactive instead of responsive, turn to a substance instead of a solution
What I can work on rewiring this to is...
Cue: Disagreement with loved one
Routine/Behavior: Kindly and calmly ask for what I need in order to come to a resolution and/or acceptance - space and/or time, discuss and tackle in the moment if in the right frame of mind, write, whatever you need
Reward: Hopefully you're given what you need and, therefore, able to reach a considerate resolution
What you may have noticed is that we are focusing on the behavior after knowing and understanding what makes us feel rewarded.
If you are still sitting there like, "come on, really though, HOW do you tune out the noise?" It's everywhere. I can't prescribe that for you specifically, but, in order to kickstart some ideas that work for your lifestyle, I manage the people I follow on social media intently as well as how my notifications come up on my phone. I stay aware of how someone or something on my phone makes me feel and alter as needed. I'll also keep my phone in a separate room or out of sight while I have "focus time". I changed my ringtone/text tone so my family has a different sound than anyone else. That helps me prioritize and know when something could wait. This one thing, managing my relationship with my phone (yes, I know that sounds ridiculous), in and of itself really helps me.
I hope you are able to take away at least one new habit you'd like to form now to take away into post-pandemic life after reading this so you can make coming home to yourself a habit.
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