With 24-hour television news stations, multitudes of social media apps, websites, radio, YouTube… it seems anyone and everyone is talking about something, debating issues back forth like a boxing match, challenging us to do, dance, sing, influence… and the noise level keeps rising. With our fear of missing out, we often forget to put up temporary, but necessary, boundaries to separate ourselves from the noise around us and give us time to decompress.
Don’t get me wrong: I personally enjoy the richness of life’s noise, to a point. But for the sake of our mental health, it is so important that we, as impactful, busy women, learn to lose the noise around us just long enough to be able to embrace silence, and find that personal time just to think, to unwind, re-stabilize and re-focus.
Silence is not only powerful – its empowering.
“When we’re frazzled, our fight-or-flight response is on overload, causing a host of problems,” says Clinical health psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP. “We can use calm, quiet moments to tap into a different part of the nervous system that helps shut down our bodies’ physical response to stress.” Being silent can help:
- lower your blood pressure, decrease your heart rate. A 2006 study from the National Institute of Health found that a 2-minute moment of silence after listening to music lowered subjects’ blood pressure and heart rate.
- improve cognition and focus. Without the stimulus of noise, our brains can better focus on the task at hand.
- reduce cortisol levels and anxiety and promote better sleep. In silence we can slow down, take time to observe the things around us and just be, reducing anxiety and being present in the moment.
- improve creativity. Periods of mental downtime have been proven to increase creativity.
Leaning into the silence
I’ll tell you about my friend, Sara (her name has been changed for this article). Like many active, engaged women, she could usually keep many plates spinning at once, so to speak. Sara is a mother of two teenagers, a well-respected influencer, entrepreneur, writer, and podcaster. She has a large presence within her community. But, last month, she was trying to keep one plate too many going. The “noise” became overwhelming, and she felt like she could barely catch her breath. I recommended she temporarily stop what she was doing, lose the noise, and embrace the space that silence provides.
Leaning into that silence allowed Sara to reconnect with herself. She listened to her breath. She practiced gratitude. She took that time to determine where her life was in and out of balance and considered what she could do to re-set the scales, so to speak. She thought about where she needed to set boundaries and with whom. She wrote it all down. In doing so, she told me she could think more clearly: She felt revived and completely ready to take on the world once again.
There Will Always be Spinning Plates
There will always be busy spinning plates and there will always be “noise”.
BUT there are many ways to find moments of silence even in our busiest of days: taking an opportunity to simply close the door, letting those around you know you need a few minutes to yourself; having a routine that allows for quiet time – whether it’s enjoying a quiet morning cup of coffee as you contemplate the day ahead, or winding down at night with meditation.
Many psychologists recommend dedicating 20-30 minutes a day for quiet time (and not necessarily all at once) as an opportunity for us to:
- check in with our personal values – what’s really important and why;
- reaffirm our goals and personal objectives;
- enhance our relationships by taking stock of the people in our lives with whom we want to purposefully spend more time;
- assess what’s within our control that we can change, and what is not;
- feel a sense of “wholeness”, of being re-centered.
No matter how you find your personal quiet time, I urge you to make those moments of silence meaningful to you. I promise that taking time to lose the noise around you will empower you to show up as the best, least stressed, most engaged version of yourself. As Deepak Chopra said, “There is no substitute for the creative inspiration, knowledge, and stability that comes from knowing how to contact your core of inner silence.”