By Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Hands Free Mama
As my family prepares for an upcoming out-of-state move, I’ve been forced to think about what home means to me. I’ve always believed home is a feeling, not a place. More specifically, home is the feeling of peace and completeness I feel when I am surrounded by the people I love.
But recently, my definition of home has expanded. Home is also living Hands Free.
What began as small changes to let go of distraction, pressure and perfection has become a necessity—like water, air and food. Each day, I need time to connect to what matters in some form or fashion. I need time to rest, laugh, listen and breathe.
Smelling my daughter’s freshly washed hair … feeling sunshine on my face as I wait for swim practice to conclude … jotting down writing ideas in a notebook … tight hugs before we go our separate ways … my Hands Free moments are home to me now.
But I must be realistic. As much as I would love all moments in life to be calm, present, safe and undistracted, it is simply not possible. We live in a fast-paced world saturated with duties, deadlines and devices. In a world inundated with distraction, it is easy to get far from home.
Yet with almost four years’ experience living Hands Free, I am able to detect when I am getting too far from what matters. No longer am I willing to push and pressure and “yes” my way through life to the point that I lose sight of everything that matters most.
Here are some of the difficult truths I say to myself when I am getting too far from home. These “red flags” help me realize when I need to say no, re-establish my boundaries or reassess what matters and what doesn’t.
My distraction radar says:
“You’re staying up too late.”
“You haven’t sat down all day.”
“You’re eating at the kitchen counter.”
“Your heart is racing.”
“You are complaining more than you are being positive.”
“You are quick to anger.”
“You are bullying yourself.”
“You are trying to do too much at once.”
When I hear these painful truths in my head, I don’t ignore them like I used to. Nor do I make excuses or get defensive. Instead, I do one of the following actions to bring myself back home:
• I lower the bar. I remind myself nothing has to be perfect, just “good enough for today.” • I turn away from the outside/online world and turn toward my inner circle of friends and family. • I take a walk. Even 10 minutes of fresh air and time for reflection helps me feel rejuvenated and less overwhelmed. • I silence the inner critic with three powerful words: Only Love Today. • I resist the urge to push myself beyond my limits and make a reasonable plan for getting one item accomplished at a time. • I throw on a hat and stop fussing over my appearance. • I treat myself with kindness and compassion like I would a friend who is going through a hard time. • I say, “I cannot worry about that right now,” and stop obsessing over things I cannot control.
Whenever my distraction radar goes off, I try to do one of those things—even if it is for only a few minutes. These actions help me protect what is important in my life and keep me moving forward on my Hands Free journey. My friends, we cannot control all the circumstances of our life, but we can control some. When faced with feelings of being overwhelmed, take a moment to evaluate: Is everything I’m trying to do today necessary? Is there somewhere I can lower the bar? Is the feeling of home in here somewhere? Each day, take one small step toward what brings you peace and fulfillment. This way, you’ll never get so far from home that you can’t get back to what matters most.
Rachel is the New York Times best-selling Author of Hands Free Mama. She resides in Alabama with her husband and two daughters, who inspire her daily. You can join her on her journey to let go of distraction and grasp the moments that matter at www.handsfreemama.com.