Shutting out the noise - JJ Landis
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Shutting out the noise


Do you struggle with anxiety at all? Anxiety is something I wouldn’t have really identified in myself until I faced my battles with depression head on a few years ago. Only then did I realize how wrapped in angst I am. An odd connection exists between the two. They seem opposite – with depression, I’m down. With anxiety, I’m up – too up. Not happy “up,” but wired “up.”


That neurotic feeling that everything will fail if I don’t stress about it, that my kids will drop dead if for one day I forget to have them bathe or change clothes or do homework or eat vegetables or do chores or make their beds.


If I neglect to engage them in meaningful dinner table conversation or miss family devotions or go to work and leave them with a sitter or, shudder, allow them to be bored. Certainly these offenses will land them in therapy someday, to sort out their dreadful childhood with an inattentive mom. It’s the turmoil that a lot of moms deal with. At least I think I’m not alone with this. Oh shoot, please tell me I’m not the only one!


My anxiety has many faces though, and it does not always deal with motherhood or wifehood. Sometimes things just push me to madness.Smells. Noises. Crowds. Especially crowds.


I’m the person who gets a headache if you wear perfume near me. I can get nauseous from the smell of burnt food – even the next day (this happens surprisingly often in my kitchen). My heart races if there is music on while I’m reading, or writing, driving in traffic, or concentrating on a conversation.


If the television is too loud, I snap. If the kids touch me too much, I snap. If my sweet husband serenades me with mandolin music while I’m working (this also happens surprisingly often), I bite my tongue, pinch my arm, close my eyes, rock back and forth Rainman-like, anything to keep me from snapping. (He lives to annoy me, hoping to get a mention in the blog.)


As I type this, a housefly about the size of a Cessna is a buzzing in the window two feet in front of me. I want to smash it painfully and then scream in fury and victory.


I can rock all I want to, but the triggers aren’t going anywhere. They are here to stay. The never-ending concerns of raising children are, well, never-ending. It doesn’t matter if I am nervous or calm. As well, the smells and sounds of life aren’t going to lessen because of my irritation.


What generates my stress is not The Issue. What I do with the onslaught of the world’s considerable aggravations is The Issue.


Last week, my adult nephew stayed with us for a few days. Whenever our family drove somewhere he rode in the passenger seat and I in the back with the kids. The weather was such that our windows were down. I was pleasantly greeted with powerful wind. The conversation in the van muted, I heard nothing more than the air pounding my face. And I relaxed, relishing the tranquility that came with the nothingness of the speed-driven breeze.


Sometimes when the noise of life gets too heavy, too distracting, it’s a good idea to find a place of solace. And if that place is in the backseat of a minivan with the windows down, so be it. Go ahead and let the wind feather your hair like the 1970s – it is so worth it for the breath of calm.


When I read my Bible, journal, pray, think, I like to laze on our comfy, rocking loveseat. Books and papers litter the blue cushions; the bookshelf is stained with rings from my coffee cup. But do you know what? I absolutely cannot concentrate on one thought or prayer for more than five seconds when I sit there.
I am an awful Bible reader – absolutely no focus. And when I pray I visit places in my mind cluttered with lists of things to accomplish. I’ve tried the technique of jotting down my wayward thoughts to deal with later. But the thoughts leak with such intensity, I feel helpless in reducing their flow. Calm is transient. Anxiety is assured.   


Like the wind drowned out the world in the minivan, lately I am finding the same bliss comes when I put in my earbuds, blast my running playlist music (Skillet, Casting Crowns, Disciple), and jog through the neighborhood. (Loud music is okay, but only if it’s played on my terms.) I stare at the asphalt in front of my Saucony-clad feet and focus on nothing but the ground. And this is how I pray and worship.


What about you?
How do you deal with anxiety? With intrusive thoughts? Maybe deafening music and a view of black pavement isn’t your thing. Maybe you take a walk and appreciate nature. Maybe you are someone who doesn’t like the singular focus that I so crave, but you find calm in the midst of noise and chaos. Maybe you’ve found a way to conquer neurosis once and for all.


Whatever your style, find it and pursue the peace that comes with not worrying, not stressing. I’d love to hear your story.
Thanks for stopping by!
  • DeVonna
    Posted at 21:32h, 12 September Reply

    I am familiar with the angst I hear you describing and struggled for years with similar feelings over them. And then I was diagnosed. I have bipolar. I was given medicine and a caring doctor and therapist and now I can truly enjoy the peace of a busy life. I’m not saying you are bipolar, I’m certainly not qualified to decide that, but my point is, you may be struggling with a treatable condition. Have you seen a doctor for it? God bless and keep you.

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