I have never, ever been good at staying still. From tossing and turning in my sleep to setting my meditation app to three minutes at most, wiggling is a part of who I am (to the chagrin of everyone I’ve ever shared a bed with, I’m sure).
As I’ve grown up, my constant need to be doing something has shifted from not being able to stay in one place during storytime to needing a distraction from my distractions. I can’t journal without listening to music, write without tuning into a podcast, or watch a movie without my art supplies in hand. I think it’s because I’m scared of what will happen when I finally tune all the noise out—the thoughts I might think, the feelings I’ll feel, etc., etc., etc. That makes sense, right?
In all honesty, I am the last person who should be giving advice on tranquility. Between my full-time job and many beloved freelance gigs, I regularly overwork myself. I am terrible at relaxing and often find myself spending the minuscule moments of downtime I’ve allotted myself sucked deep into TikTok’s vortex until I realize, wow, it’s bedtime. I pass out without thinking much about anything at all, and then I wake up and do it all over again.
I can’t journal without listening to music, write without tuning into a podcast, or watch a movie without my art supplies in hand. I think it’s because I’m scared of what will happen when I finally tune all the noise out.
Nevertheless, I know what I should be doing. The problem, as always, is acting on it. That’s why we’re going to start small.
Stillness—in the sense I’m referring to, at least—doesn’t necessarily mean lack of movement. If you’re uncomfortable in a certain position, you’re allowed to wiggle until everything is just right. Furthermore, it’s not even about finding comfort or acceptance in hearing your own thoughts or living in your own body. Sometimes that doesn’t feel good, and that’s okay. That’s a conversation for another time.
For now, the goal is to track down some of the micro-moments of stillness that may (hopefully!) help us live in the exact space we happen to be in right now. Or, more succinctly, some moments where we can just be. Sometimes that means feeling the tough stuff and thinking the tough thoughts, and sometimes it means closing your eyes and enjoying the fresh air. Regardless, let’s be here now. (I thought I came up with that phrase for a second, but it’s definitely Ram Dass/Mason Jennings lyrics running through my head. Go figure.)
Enlist a partner.
AKA your pet, who will lie happily in the sun while you pet them.
Utilize (yes!) technology.
Set a timer and forbid yourself from doing anything until the alarm sounds. Try out one of those hardcore social media-blocking softwares—or one of the sweeter “here’s a reminder to unclench your jaw” push notification apps. And actually follow the instructions.
Set up some rituals.
Every time you start your car, lean back and count to ten. Or make it a rule that you can’t drive until the current song finishes.
Give yourself reminders.
A note on the cupboard that encourages a quick breathing exercise before opening, perhaps?
Let the to-do list be done.
Instead of jumping on to your next task after finishing something, take a few minutes to enjoy a feeling of accomplishment. Done with your laundry? Lie down with a fresh sheet. Just sent an email? Close the laptop for a second. On a similar note, once your daily “I love you” text to your mom or best friend is sent, put your phone away and bask for a second in the knowledge that they are so happy to hear from you.
Take your morning coffee and tea solo, before you start (and can’t stop) scrolling your emails. Just hold the warm cup in your hands and s a v o r. Similarly, enjoy your lunch outside, no screens allowed. Chew slowly and when you’re done take a few minutes to enjoy the feeling of satiation before jumping into whatever’s next.
Try a treatment.
Reiki is a great idea. And massage, always.
Keep the commercials.
Instead of skipping through a commercial as soon as it comes on, turn the volume on mute and give yourself thirty seconds to breathe.
Sit in a massage chair at the mall.
Specific! But if you happen to walk by, stop.
Or on a park bench.
Even if you’re there all the time, you’ll notice things you never noticed before, guaranteed.
Spend time near water.
You can’t bring your phone in the pool!!!! If you don’t have access to a lake, river, pool, etc., take a nice long bath or shower.
Secure the appointment.
Book some quiet time into your calendar. The time of day or amount of time you have does not matter—just treat your stillness as the most important event of your day.
Before it’s time for bed, put your electronics away, close your book, and just be. Reflect on your day, do your gratitude practice, listen to the sounds of the night, whatever. Just give yourself a bit of time to unpack before starting all over again.
Sophie Vilensky (@sophiavilensky on Instagram and Twitter or if you met her in second grade) is a Real Housewives scholar and naturopath’s daughter. At this point in time these things are very important to her.