These days, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the pain and joy and beauty in the world.
I open my Facebook feed and see it all in rapid succession: the fallout from last week’s ICE raids in Mississippi; Simone Biles landing a historic triple-double and winning her sixth national title; births and deaths and anniversaries and new jobs.
This is on top of what’s happening in my own life: Evan turns 6 today (what?!); he both makes me laugh with his clever jokes and ignites my rage with his high-octane tantrums. I haven’t even unpacked from our trip because we slid right into school and work. One of my best friends is moving away, and it makes me cry to even think about it.
It’s a lot to take in.
It’s the reason why on some days, I don’t even open my social media accounts or look at the news, because all of those peaks and valleys feel like too much to handle. My To-Do lists are so long, and my brain is so full, that it’s hard to even notice what’s happening around me, much less to care and engage.
I’m constantly trying to find the sweet spot where I’m informed enough to be an engaged friend and citizen but am also caring for my mental health. I can imagine that you relate.
I’m reading a book that’s helping me zero in on what matters most to me, what will help me make my highest contribution by doing “less, but better.”
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less is teaching me to set one priority at a time and to defer or decline the rest. I’m learning to default to no instead of taking on so much, a habit that comes from good intentions: wanting to help other people and make the most out of every day.
The more open space I create – by going to therapy and getting the thoughts out of my head into Google Keep, by getting rid of physical stuff that doesn’t spark joy, by setting aside quiet time whenever possible to meditate – the more I have to offer others.
I’m adopting a new mantra: Clear out and tune in.
When I’ve cleared out more open space, physically and emotionally, I can tune into when Evan is starting to get upset and help him calm down. I have the bandwidth to learn about what’s going on in my community and in the greater world and do something about it. I see the opportunities that come my way instead of letting them pass by unnoticed.
Clear out some space yourself today, whether it’s capturing your To-Do list on a Post-It or doing a full Getting Things Done brain dump of everything on your mind. Start a box of items to donate. Say no to an opportunity, so you’re free to tune in to what really matters and make your highest contribution.