3 Tips for Mental Downtime

I often long for the “good ol’ days.” Life seems to get more complicated as the decades pass by. Technology and expectations are increasing at a rate I have no desire to keep up with. I think of the contentment of my grandparents, living the lives that were in front of them, building relationships with people nearby. So peaceful, so simple (seemingly).

We lead a full life. We like it. It works for us.

But while we make an effort to keep from getting overwhelmed by busyness, I’ve found there’s a new source of overcommitment threatening our family.

Mental Busyness.

Over the past year my husband and I each began to pursue writing. He’s written several children’s books and I’ve written a middle grade Christian fiction novel; we’re both working toward getting them published.

We attended an amazing writers conference in May that opened our eyes to elements of this journey we didn’t even know existed. The top surprise being the importance of “platform.”

Platform is just another way of describing the realm of your reach or influence. The more people you can reach, the more books you’ll eventually sell.

When you think of an aspiring author, you probably picture someone at their laptop, hot beverage nearby, typing away as a story flows from their fingertips. And yes, that is an accurate picture of an author. About 2% of the time.

So what about the other 98% of the time? This is spent crafting query letters and proposals (that must be nearly perfect, lest they get thrown out immediately). And some of the time is spent on social media, attempting to build an audience.

Honestly, I dislike social media on any terms other than keeping up with my own relationships. Now don’t get me wrong—I understand there’s merit to connecting with a potential audience, and I’m willing to put in time to do so. I realize it’s a business move. A must.

But guys. Oh my word.

Let me just say it’s beyond disheartening to research potential agents only to read over and over again “we will be Googling you and expect you to have a strong Twitter presence.” And Facebook. And Instagram. And blog. And email list. (Insert me pulling out my hair.)

It’s easy to fall into the dangerous territory of thinking, “Well, I apparently have to sell my soul to the social media devil if I ever want to become a published author. So much for the message God put on my heart. So much for the countless hours I poured into my manuscript.”

This is when I realize I’m holding the reins too tightly and not giving God enough credit.

God is the one who guides our paths. God is the one leading us to the right people and places on our journeys. So why am I the one trying to steer the ship? I have to constantly assess my frame of mind.

While we endeavor to keep our physical schedules at a healthy, manageable pace, what about our minds? We’re overcome with mental busyness.

We just returned from a long weekend away. One hotel room, five people. By the time we got home I was seriously craving some free time. You know, free time—you may have heard of it. The space required of all humans to continue functioning in such a busy, distracted world.

It’s not just physical downtime we need, but mental downtime as well.

If I wake up, immediately check Facebook and Instragram, go on with daily activities and chores (checking social media every time the kids are occupied), put the kids to bed and jump back online to continue building my platform before my head hits the pillow, what kind of life is that?

It’s a whole new type of rat race, that’s what. Our grandparents would shudder at the thought.

Thankfully, we have a patient, loving God. This means he’s not going to shout to get our attention when he has something to tell us. He’s going to wait patiently, watching and loving us, until we shut down the chaos in our minds enough to crawl back to him and sit quietly in his presence.

And that’s when God speaks to us. That’s when we’ll actually allow our ears to be tuned to him over the noise of our full lives.

Having a full life and chasing your dreams are not bad things. They’re wonderful, God-given things. But we’re the ones responsible for how we fill the moments of our days, physically and mentally.

Downtime is the best way to form fresh, potentially life-changing thoughts and ideas, and it’s the only time God can truly speak to my mind and guide my heart. And without that, it’s all meaningless.

Here are three simple ways to give ourselves more mental downtime:

  1. Turn off the radio. Am I the only one who defaults to music in the car or in the kitchen? I love music and can’t imagine a day without it. But what if we take some opportunities to deliberately replace music with silence? What might God want to say in those silences?
  1. Change our morning and/or evening routine by just 10 minutes. Ten minutes is doable for all of us, right? Set that alarm for ten minutes earlier or stay up ten minutes later, turn off all our devices and just be still. Listen for the voice of God.
  1. Schedule it in. We need to be deliberate. Turn off the TV while we’re folding laundry. Turn off Netflix before the next episode loads. Make a lunch date with God and write “meeting” on the calendar.

Let’s change our habits today. Let’s be deliberate about prioritizing mental downtime for ourselves, and give God space to move.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. You can also enter your email address to receive future blog posts directly to your inbox! Thanks for reading!

4 thoughts on “3 Tips for Mental Downtime

  1. These are great thoughts! I have had to change my perspective on time to be more like money. I only get so much to spend. What will I invest in? There are bills to pay, sure. But there should be enough left over to be generous to God. If not, I’m consumed. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll shut off my radio now.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Chip! Yes, having enough blank space left to be generous to God is the key! 🙂

  2. Jessie, thanks for this this wonderful and welcome nugget of wisdom and for drawing attention to this ‘invisible’ challenge in all of our lives! We don’t often think of our mental busyness as an issue along with our physical schedules, but it is often the bigger problem of the two! You are right, we ARE in a whole new type of rat race these days, and not only are grandparents shuddering but many people in the generation just above you are as well. That’s how fast it changes. The only answer is to create margin and to purposely experience quiet. It’s a foreign concept, especially in our country, and I believe it needs to be resurrected. I am 60 years old and love getting alone in the silence with God. It gives life to me, calming my anxieties and helping me regain perspective. I wonder how many of your readers/peers could do so for more than just a few moments, if that, without going stir crazy? Thanks for reminding us that we will find God in the stillness. I dare those who find themselves lost in mental busyness to try it. It is a beautiful thing!

    1. Excellent thoughts, Beach, thanks for sharing! And you’re definitely right – there are still many people who are resisting the trap of mental busyness and the social media pull! Thank goodness – the rest of us need role models!! 🙂

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