Managing The Intake/Output Balance

Today I feel like a knuckle that hasn't cracked in years, but yearns to. I feel a little wound up, a little like everything I've experienced this week has settled in between my bones and is now aching, to remind me it's there.

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Who else out there remembers being a kid and poking at end caps in the Target register line while your parent pulled out a well-worn checkbook, wrote a check, and noted the expense for balancing purposes later? Every time I write a check, I think about those moments, when things were so much slower and my attention span was still somehow longer.

I've been thinking specifically about the idea of balancing your intakes and outputs lately, and it takes me back to the lessons of balancing a checkbook or balancing chemical equations that I learned in high school. I always thought it was so interesting how things worked out in the end, as long as you didn't eff it up.

Someone recently said something about how we, as a society and as humans in this society, spend most of our days intaking absurd amounts of information. Pop yourself into the middle of Los Angeles, and your cup runneth over the second you step outside your apartment: billboards, bus signs, bus stop posters, banners flowing from behind tiny planes: it's all vying for your attention, and it's all getting a piece.

There are two facets to finding this balance that I've been working on: curating and creating. We can only curate what goes in - unless you're able to live a cabin in the woods lifestyle, it's almost impossible to remove yourself from the noise. From there, to keep the noise from building into a loud, rather dull static in your mind, it's essential to create. Let me explain:

First, Feed Yourself The Good Stuff

Are you feeding yourself well? Not just in a literal sense - social media is kind of like pizza and soda and candy. It's delicious and amazing, but we're eating it every. single. day. All day. We're eating it on the toilet. We're eating it in our Lyft, we're eating it right before and after yoga class and on our lunch breaks and even at work if it's our job to spend time on social media.

For the connected person, the junk food is almost unavoidable. But here are a few things that I've worked on to help manage it:

  • Unfollowed nearly everyone I am friends with on Facebook. Even family, even close friends. That way, if I want to opt in to see a friend's posts, I search their name and go directly to them. It also helps me realize when I'm just doing something to be nosy or if I genuinely care; 80% of the time it's to be nosy.
  • Avoided following people out of a feeling of obligation. I'm not the greatest at this one, but it's a helpful way to gauge whether or not I truly want to follow someone: am I following them just to be nice? If yes, then will their posts clutter my feed or make me feel overwhelmed or sad or angry? If yes again, just don't follow back. Ultimately, who's following who is not a marker of your friendship or loyalty.
  • Ditch the notification badges. If you can, ditch the apps all together (I've tried and all I've ended up doing is keeping a Facebook tab open at all times in my mobile browser...not very effective at curbing my use of it). If you must have the apps, go into your settings and get rid of all notification badges. Do this for email too - it will make you feel SO much better.
  • Don't knowingly harm yourself. If you're having a bad hair day, don't browse through lovely pictures of your friend with the gorgeous mane. Don't seek out drama, gossip, political bummers, or contentious people. Just...skip it.

When you find yourself sinking in to an old habit, try to replace it with a more productive or positive one. For example, instead of scrolling through Facebook, maybe click through to an article that sounds informative (and not fake) and give it a read. Go to a blog you enjoy, or watch an insightful YouTube video. Try to use as much of your "social media" time in a way that fills you up with good, healthy stuff instead of filling you up with greasy cheese and rage.

You've Curated Like A Champion - Now It's Time To Create

Don't cringe just yet! I'm not telling you that you have to create lyrical poetry or magical velvet paintings every day. 

Your version of creation can look any way you want. It can be through physical creation, or it can be a physical manifestation through movement or music. It can be organizing your home outside of the typical cleaning routine, it can be writing on a blog. Anything that takes you a few steps away from the mundane and gets your energy moving in a new way - that's the creation I'm talking about.

So no, sending routine work emails doesn't count. But calling a friend to tell them a story does!

Creating something, as often as you can, can help you balance the ruckus in your head. It's helped me feel a little less scattered, even on days when I create some terrible, awful things. (Seriously, some of the poetry I've written in the past twenty days of my thirty day challenge has sounded like poetry a third grader writes in hopes of getting it put on the fridge - and it doesn't even make the cut).

It helps you get all the bad noise out of your mind so that the true melodies can shine. It's so cheesy, but I think focusing on how I'm engaging and using my mind a little more, I've been able to see myself more clearly as a person.

And now I'm completely cured from consumerism and I only ever read sophisticated and intellectual things on the internet.

(Just kidding you guys - it's a daily battle that I regularly lose. But I'd rather be losing than quitting this one!)

Sending you all the love and balance that I can muster this evening.