Live, Mind, and Work: The Antidote to Social Media Anxiety

I have been off of social media since Ash Wednesday. Nine full days have felt more like nine months in that I feel emotional, spiritual, and mental clarity in fresh ways that somehow it must have taken longer than only nine days to get here? Those scrolling images and habitual updates already feel like forever ago. This shows that even short social media breaks can have a huge impact on our well-being.

As I was walking around a local pond during these early, lovely days of Spring, and pondering how settled my soul was beginning to feel, I Thessalonians 4:11 came to me :

“and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.”

This verse can be a gentle admonishment for anyone who is feeling the creep of an anxious hum forming in her interior life. Social media is loud, public, and the work of other people’s hands. It’s noisy. So many images, marketing, opinions, to-dos, statements, crafts, clothes, patterns, passions. Because we are getting inundated with chronic visual input, our minds start ruminating and dwelling on “her affairs” even when we put away our phones. Her decor, her mothering style, her way of reading the Bible, her ideas. And if we follow about 400 women, that is 400 women’s voices, affairs and work on display to us over and over again all day! These lives can begin taking over our own, overpowering our unique thoughts, ideas, and creative output.

In my time away from social media, I have had the surprise of desiring to write again which has resulted in two blog posts and some journaling. I cleared out the winter clutter of my den, all the dark pillows, throws, and layers and lightened the space with some Spring decorating. I made pretty Spring wreaths from artificial flowers glued and wired to embroidery hoops, and knotted a simplified macrame birdfeeder. I have listened to great podcasts and dug deeper into stimulating books. I have hosted old and new friends, reached out more, and am dreaming about new, local possibilities. It’s as if I am being set free to do “me” again instead of dwelling on all the “hers” and what they are doing. My time isn’t being sucked away looking at hundreds of highlight reels, but creating my own singular, real-life highlight reel for me and my family to enjoy.

I had told you in my last post that I had Social Media FOMO, but I didn’t fully realize all that I was actually missing out on in my real life. I now am beginning to fear missing out on the now, because presence is where the magic is, and that’s where social media leads us away from. Presence is where we live at peace, manage our own affairs, work with our hands. We can’t do these well if our mind and eyes are distracted and living in someone’s else visual real estate.

Let’s invest in our own space well. Our interior spaces, our living spaces, our relational spaces. Let’s quiet ourselves, simmer down, be content with less stimulation, inspiration, and opinions. Let’s mind our own affairs, working with faithfulness within our homes, jobs, and resources, with full focus, clarity, and bringing the first-fruits of our best selves. Let’s work with our hands, tending our people, kneading the bread, digging the garden, stitching the fabric, stirring the soup, cleaning the corners, typing the words, wiping the counters, knitting the yarn, folding the shirts, hanging the banners, arranging the flowers. There is so much life to be living right in front of us! Not her work. Not the work of the past, not the allure of a beautiful future, but the right-now work of the real-life present. The invitation to a peaceful and meaningful life is in front of us. Let’s say yes to it.

Invitations in Mid-Life

Today is lovely. Cold morning, warm afternoon, with the sun shining through my front windows. Homeschooling is complete for the day. Some of my boys are playing card games, one is fishing, and another has a mandatory rest as he recovers from a cold. The laundry is humming, the dryer rattling with zippers chinking the sides. The dog is napping under the buffalo-check heated throw that I have nestled over my lap.

This day looks like one of the hundreds of days that I have lived alongside my family. Living, working, learning, playing, resting. Working part-time this year has shown me how much I value and believe in this quiet path I chose twenty years ago, to methodically make a home, raise my children, read books, nap, cook, and tend to our needs. A life marked by connection, albeit broken, and rhythms that bring stability and growth.

Somewhere in my early forties, I questioned my choices, the normal angst that arises in mid-life, wondering if I chose the right path. Was there more? Would I do it differently? It can be deeply unsettling to allow your mid-life self to ask the questions, sit with them, and not react immediately and rashly with a life overhaul, a new side hustle, a jump towards a host of activity to quell the storm of shaken identity. It’s important to allow the rumblings to come, to sift through the thoughts and questions, to find kind counsel to offer compassionate listening. Just as it is normal for our teens to navigate puberty with the deeper questions of identity, we too as middle-aged women find ourselves walking on that same path. We need not fear this rite of passage. It’s an invitation, a threshold, towards the next half of life.

Here’s what I know after a few years of questioning, listening, and waiting: I don’t regret any of it. Sometimes we think that if we had done differently that maybe it would have been easier (that could be true), happier (I doubt it), and more fulfilling (that’s not the point). But the thing is, that imperfect, faithful journey grew us, deepened us, refined us. We never “miss out” if we were following God and living by faith. Sure, maybe there are some choices that we would change, but He was faithful to course-correct, redeem, and lead us into “pleasant places”, drawing the lines around us.

I have settled into this mid-life season. My body is thickening, around my mouth is becoming softer and wrinkled, stray grays grow throughout my hair. My joints ache like they never have before. My sleep patterns can be erratic with ebb and flow of monthly cycles of hormones. None of this is to be ashamed of. We are softening, body and soul. We soften our judgments of ourselves and others. We envelop our children with our bodies in warm, comforting embraces. We soften into a deeper sense of womanhood, recognizing that nurturing ourselves and others is a calling until the end. We tenderize our interactions with our husbands, recognizing that this life of fleeting intimacy deserves more grace, more acceptance, and more kindness. We give up the pressure to perform and please, and soften into grace.

Ask the questions. Listen. Adapt. Accept. Soften. Continue to build a durable faith, built on love and presence. These are the deep invitations in mid-life. We are loved and held. This is our identity. We are accepted, received, delighted in. He has not withheld goodness from us. Look around. It’s all here!

A Slow + Quiet Lent

The gentle stirring towards the deeper way continues in my soul. I am discontent with the shallows I have been swimming in, but the pull of addiction is an hourly war. I know what I want–depth, intimacy, slow– but the power of my iPhone screen is mighty. The quick fix of connection, the addiction to Instagram inspiration, the numbing escape from the here and now, habits made over the years.

I have FOMO–fear of missing out. That I’ll miss out on the life announcements of people I care about on Facebook. I’ll miss out on the minimalism boho beauty from photos of homes, tables, food. I’ll miss the content of my favorite online creators, the funny Stories and memes that lighten my day. I look to these online spaces to quickly fill holes and aches in me that takes greater time to find in books, courses, podcasts, Word, prayer, newsletters, conversations. Lighter, quicker but not high-quality, meaningful, or deeper. Social media nurtures my impulsivity to spend money, to be ADHD about my tastes, desires, and focus, to question my path + purpose + productivity. I fear to feel alone, disconnected, unseen, which is ironically how I feel online anyway, but the illusion keeps me coming back.

I rarely blog or craft or create anymore. These things take time, and my brain is trained for fast and instant. The slow work of the hands doesn’t give the dopamine hit that a quick scroll of Instagram does. This reality saddens me and yet I feel trapped.

I love the season of Lent. 40 days of invitation to repent, listen and fast from something in order to make space for the Lord. I know my call is to walk away from my personal Instagram account and from Facebook to make room in my heart for healing, space to breathe mentally and emotionally and to allow my short-circuited brain to rest. I desire greater times of prayer, thinking, writing, face-to-face conversations, creativity, and clarity. My truest desire is for intimacy, with God and others, in richer, truer, sturdier, and vibrant ways.

I will be using this Prayer guide and this devotional book. I also signed up for these weekly Wednesday videos for support in the journey. How about you? What resources will you use to guide this holy season? What patterns of living do you feel trapped to that aren’t serving your spirit, soul, and body well? Where can you make space for healing, light, and conncetion?