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One thing at a time
I’m grieving and holding the pain and fear of what is continuing to unfold in Israel and Palestine. As Liana Finck said, “I’m wishing for peace and safety for everyone for whom that’s still an option.” We are connected and yet we are not all equally affected.
I have a short mindfulness prompt for you today. I hope that it might serve you in some small way to care for yourself and others in the midst of this terrible time.
“One thing at a time” is one of the most enduring pieces of wisdom my mother taught me. It’s something that I’ve found myself saying to my own kids often. When one of them is overwhelmed, I’ll say, “One thing at a time. Just take it one thing at a time.”
I’ve been saying this to myself lately as well. When I start to feel that tightness in my chest, my blood pressure rising: One thing at a time.
This adage is also a key part of Catherine Price’s How to Break Up with Your Phone, which I read and loved last June. I went through her phone breakup process, which I highly recommend. I was struck by what she shared on multitasking—that there’s actually no such thing because our brains can’t do two cognitively demanding things at once. “When we think we’re multitasking, we’re actually doing what researchers call ‘task-switching.’” I learned this once but had conveniently forgotten.
I started noticing how often I’m doing more than one thing at a time, something I became nearly Olympic-level with during the crush of the pandemic and which contributed hugely to my burnout. In the last week with this horrific news cycle, I’ve been noticing myself sliding into this task-switching space again. How it makes my body feel jittery, hollow. Leaves my mind ringing.
So, in the midst of everything, let’s try a simple prompt today:
Choose an amount of time and resolve to take a break from your phone and from multitasking.
Do one thing at a time: Maybe choose one of your “medicines”? Go for a walk. Read a book. Listen to a song. Give someone a hug. Sit on your porch. Lay in the grass. Watch a movie.
For a more extreme version, Marlee Grace says in her book, how to not always be working, “Turn your phone off and go outside and never tell anyone you did it.” But our phones are often our lifelines esp in times of crisis. Still, maybe doing this for a short period would be ok and even good and necessary.
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