The Difficulty of Being Still

We are all too familiar with the concept of burnout; we go too hard or too long, and eventually run ourselves dry. Especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are being forced to experience a new form of stillness. But what we don’t often talk about is how difficult it is to stop, to do nothing, and be still. It’s easy to keep busy, there’s no shortage of apps, videos, games, etc. for us to fill our time. It is in the stillness that I often find myself the most uncomfortable, that’s when the monsters in my head come out. What is it about being still that is so uncomfortable? Without any distractions, it’s just me, myself and I.

I spend a lot of time on YouTube, where I consume a whole array of different media. I love science and math channels, video game speedrunners, it’s where I get my news, and the cliche cat videos. Although I do genuinely get a lot of value out of the content I watch, I often use it to excess and as a coping mechanism to deal with quiet. One way I practice being still are times that I feel bored or restless and feel the urge to pick up my phone is to wait a few minutes. For me, I recognized my dependency on constant noise and distraction when waiting only those few minutes doing nothing felt excruciating. But I have some good news for you, it gets easier. Maybe at first I could only wait 2 minutes before I cracked and reached for my phone, and that’s ok. If next time I’m able to wait 3 minutes, that’s awesome. It’s those little steps we need to acknowledge. And if tomorrow I can’t wait at all cause I’m having an especially awful day, well that’s ok too.

Yesterday I had an especially challenging day; I’m stuck at home, I had a lot of energy, felt incredibly frustrated and useless. I’m not usually an outwardly angry person, but I was raging. I didn’t know what to do. I paced around, lifted weights, and nothing seemed to help. I felt very helpless, and wanted to do something. The idea of being still was torture. The feeling of intense restlessness lasted for about an hour, following which I was exhausted and took a nap. I’m sharing this story to remind you that nothing lasts forever, no matter how much it sucks.

It’s important to be compassionate to myself, and acknowledge the effort and intent, not necessarily the perceived outcome. I can be a really tough critic of myself, and simply acknowledging that I am doing a hard thing has really helped me be more gentle.

Even if we are physically separated, we’re all in this together. Being still can challenging, but we’ll all get better at it, together.

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