I'm a woman in my early 20s and I feel mostly burnt out, and like I don’t have time for myself (not that I know what I’d do with that time to/for myself). My brain is constantly occupied, looping, feeling conscious, waiting - it’s always waiting. Waiting for something to happen - an asteroid to hit the earth, some fire to get lit somewhere near me, time to stop, a message to come, someone (anyone) to express their deep loving feelings for me, something to save me (with the heightened awareness that nothing is going to, and that I don’t need it in the first place), some long awaited reward, recognition to come my way and affirm importance to and for my life -- really just something, honestly anything. And the thing is, that these things do happen - everyday, all the time. I can barely feel them when they do. They fly away before I am able to register them. My boss gives me praise, my friends express love and concern, my dog does something cute, I get sent an exciting nude - and the feelings that come with it disappear the moment they appear and I’m left again - abandoned and bored. I expect people to tell me that it is mindfulness and self-love which is what I’m in need of to stop feeling this way. So here’s what I’ve tried - walking 20 minutes everyday without music to hear the sounds of the world, deep breathing for 10 every morning, reading, and writing. And a lot of times it works - it really really helps. But it doesn’t take too long before the next social media storm, a bunch of sweet texts from friends, or a pressing concern at work doesn’t completely take me away from my body and straight into my head. It’s constant regulation - every time, my mind wanders - I have to bring it back to my bodily sensations which is especially hard when there seems to be some mentally heavy work to be done. How, then, can I feel time instead of letting it blur past me? And when will feeling time stop being agonisingly boring? Where's the sweet spot? :(
Congratulations! You just put into words what every single person has been feeling off late. The need for constant stimulation, the constant stimulation itself, the fleeting feeling of satisfaction, the frustration when the “thing” didn’t fill the void we were hoping to fill, and the ultimate emptiness - it's all a vicious cycle.
Maybe it’s that social media has trained us to receive instant gratification when we hit refresh on our feed and something new reliably pops up - something that doesn’t happen in real life; maybe it’s our shrinking attention span as pointed out by many scientific studies; maybe it’s that we have trained to look for the next big thing in our life, instead of learning to enjoy the quiet “normal” moments. Probably a mix of it all, right? It doesn't help that the capitalist nature of our society encourages us to make every moment “count”, and not being “productive” is seen as a personal and moral failing.
Well, firstly, you are already on the right track. You are taking time out of your day to just be with your thoughts (which would have likely been our first suggestion to you). And yup, it doesn’t and will not work every time. Sometimes our thoughts are too chaotic; sometimes something is looming in the back of our minds that we cannot ignore (like a deadline at work or a personal crisis); sometimes we just didn’t get those twenty minutes to ourselves as we had planned and hoped. Maintaining mindfulness for all your waking hours is hard - if not impossible. Additionally, consider just sitting with the boredom, chaos, exhaustion and discomfort. These “negative” feelings are not always negative necessarily, and are often just unfixable and a part of life. We just have to get better at being comfortable with the discomfort.
Don’t be too harsh on yourself when a notification on your phone distracts you - they were designed that way, and a handful of product engineers at big tech companies make good money to ensure that it works every time. Depending on the kind of person you are, there are several tactics you can experiment with to see what helps with the passage of time feeling less boring. The obvious ones would be journaling, doodling, quitting social media and timed mini-breaks in between your routine, instead of just one big one in the morning. While these are not revolutionary ideas, so many people subscribe to them because they do work.
You can customize it to something that suits you. You talked about bringing it back to your bodily sensation - so if you have a desk job, perhaps every hour, you do one set of stretch exercises. Every time something makes you smile (boss’s praise, your dog’s silliness, an exciting nude), you use tally marks to indicate something good happened, and see how quickly they accumulate over a week, month or year. Even if you don’t go off social media completely, maybe you leave your phone in another room for 20 minutes after your work day is over and spend the time doing something else that holds your attention like cooking, reading, doing origami - literally anything that makes you feel stimulated away from a screen. Your early 20s is even a great time to get into a new hobby! These are just a few suggestions of goal oriented ways in which you can feel time, instead of just let it blur - at least when you are doing these specific things.
Even with all that we have written, the passage of time will sometimes feel boring, and nothing will excite us. Our highs will leave us numb, even though we were expecting lasting life altering experiences. There isn’t one sweet spot for us to tell you about (or at least we haven’t found it), but there are indeed ways to feel less numb and more in-tune with ourselves. We hope you will continue to listen to what your body and mind need, and customize a way to make most, if not all your days, a little more meaningful than the last.
The Second Puberty