Did you take up my challenge last week and press pause on your busy life?  If so, how did you go?  One of the problems we face when we stop ‘doing’ and try to focus on ‘being’ is that our busy minds don’t always get the message. I might stop, but my mind suddenly remembers something I haven’t done; or I start thinking that I’m going to get even further behind in my work; or any number of things. My brain is just overloaded with information and this makes it difficult to focus, make decisions, or just pause. What can we do for our overloaded minds?  Have you ever considered that our minds are full of mental clutter?  A Google search of “mental clutter” brings up over 16 million hits – probably adding even more to that mental clutter if we’re not careful.

I’d like to share something that has helped me reduce that sense of overwhelm. First, I need to take some time out alone. My tools consist of loose sheets of paper and a pen. Each page is given a title and this might be any person, situation, project or area in my life, either personal or professional. I have to be honest, when I last did this, there were a lot of pages and  I even had one page for God! I then proceeded to list my concerns, thoughts, gripes, disappointments, whatever about each one on its page. Next, I took a clean sheet of paper and marked it “to do.” Looking at each item (individually) on a page, I asked myself, “is there anything I can do about this?”  If there was, I wrote it down on my ‘to do’ page (so I didn’t forget), and if not, I prayed, telling God that there was nothing I could do about the situation and I’m leaving it in his hands. (How many of us stress about things over which we have no control?)  By the time I’d completed doing this, I felt great – that whole sense of overwhelm and low level panic were gone. (By the way, I destroyed all of my pages, except the ‘to do’ one as I didn’t want to create further problems for myself!)

While this all sounds simplistic, it’s a powerful tool for reducing the clutter in our minds. In an ideal world, we’d do this at the end of each day and avoid getting anywhere near feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  Many of our problems arise because we don’t take the time to reflect on and deal with the issues that come up each day. If daily seems too much, why not consider having a weekly declutter. It’s a useful life skill we can teach our children too.

Jenny Billingham

(If you have a topic that you’d like more information about and think might interest other parents, please don’t hesitate to email me with suggestions at j.billingham@mueller.qld.edu.au  Thanks.)