I quit listening to podcasts for a week and this is what happened

I turned off the background noise of other people’s thoughts for a week because it was making me nuts, and hoo-boy did it make a difference.

A black and white photo of a pair of broken earbud headphones

CONFESSION: I listen to 4-6 hours of podcasts per day. And given that I’m both a freelance writer and have a toddler at home with me, that’s a significant portion of my day.

Like, too much of it.

So I decided to quit for a week. Just to see if maybe, just maybe, all those other voices and all that extra noise in my head was causing me more stress than the stuff I was trying to distract myself from in the first place.

I’ve actually done this before but always as part of church-wide prayer and fasting. This time I’m doing it solo, which provides way more opportunity for cheating and quitting, so I created accountability for myself with a daily journal, shared below for your voyeuristic enjoyment.

Read along, then slide in the comments to commiserate about all the ways you distract yourself that are probably not helpful!

If you want to skip the daily notes and jump right to the takeaways section, you can click right here and do that thing.


Monday

This was a work day, when I don’t podcast much anyway, and I missed the gym because tired, so I didn’t encounter many obstacles. Spending a good chunk of my time writing about why I’m abstaining and then sharing it helped, too. Don’t underestimate the power of putting your intentions in writing and/or telling someone. Even if you never mention it again, it signals to your brain that you’re serious. So helpful.

That said, there was momentary resistance at two points, both of which were expected: kitchen time and ablutions. Those are my time, the time when Mama gets to tune out and do her thing, and I always have something on. It gives my brain something to do while my hands are busy. Not having that entertainment caused a glitch in my flow, but it only caught me for a moment. Then I put on some actual music instead. I’d forgotten how much I like that.

Day 1, a rousing success!

Tuesday

I decided at 5am when my alarm went off that I’m not going to the gym this week. Between the hella-early start time and the lack of podcasts to disappear into, I don’t think I can face it. I’ll go back next week and hide all the cookies until then.

While I was supposed to work this day, I ended up running a mishmash of errands, which meant lots of time in the car—my second-biggest podcasting time. Fortunately, I’d prepared by putting music on my phone for the first time in approximately a hundred years. Jamming to old favourites like Marvelous 3 and Squeeze really lifted my mood, even when a great-grandmother nearly T-boned me at the grocery store.

Several wins today! But I admit to being a bit disappointed. The stress-related jaw clenching is still there, and my singing parts gave out so quickly that they’re either massively out of shape or I’m even more chronically sick than I thought. It’s only day two, though. Holding it lightly.

Another expected-yet-frustrating hurdle: showering. I always have something on. Music is okay for this experiment (and starting one’s day with worship is never a bad idea), but something deeper needed silence. I left my phone in the kitchen. I didn’t have any grand revelations in the shower, but I did notice I was thinking. That sounds stupid and obvious, but the fact that they were my own thoughts and not someone else’s is meaningful.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully (at least as far as this is concerned—every day is eventful with a three-year old). Driving my husband to the start point for this year’s ruck wasn’t bad since we kept each other occupied, but I think I cheated on the way back. I downloaded SJ Tucker’s story albums specifically for Mack, and we listened to that on the way home. I’m not sure if that breaks the rules, but it didn’t feel like it? So I won’t count it against myself. Besides, I could barely listen anyway because I was so focused on the rain on my windshield.

Another good day! I’m feeling much more at ease in the silence. We will see what more driving days bring, though.

I did notice I was thinking. That sounds stupid and obvious, but the fact that they were my own thoughts and not someone else’s is meaningful.

Thursday

Mack was supposed to have a playdate, but she claimed a bellyache, so they stayed in downstairs. This shouldn’t have changed my day, but gastrointestinal symptoms shoot me into orbit, so instead of writing, I deep-cleaned the house. Ordinarily, this is when I’d podcast it up hard; long stretches of time doing mindless tasks is primo listening time. But instead, I fired up my “Nostalgia” playlist and rocked out to late-90s hits and Ayumi Hamasaki. I used to do this all the time when I’d clean the whole house once a week (what was I even doing with my life back then), and it was refreshing to have a beat to work to.

I am struggling a bit with expectations, though. Because I’m intentionally making mental space, and God is talking all the time, I expected to get a big revelation/word right away, especially given the season we’re in. But the closest thing I’ve had is when I was vacuuming and directly asked what He wanted to say to me, all I heard was, “You’re drinking too much caffeine.” And honestly, I’m 50/50 on whether or not that was actually Satan.

maybe, just maybe, all those other voices and all that extra noise in my head was causing me more stress than the stuff I was trying to distract myself from

Friday

There was a lot going on this day, so I honestly didn’t notice the lack of background podcasts. Visiting all morning with a friend, working during naptime, and trying to clean the office/playroom with Mack made the day full of sound in its own right.

I will say that I did notice a correlation between drinking mostly decaf coffee and my jaw being less tense at the end of the day. Now, I’m not making any wild statements like I actually did hear from the Lord yesterday and not the enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy my caffeine intake, but the odds are skewing that way.

Saturday

This day was a trashfire. Mackenzie was in fine form beginning at breakfast and didn’t let up until she passed out (at night, because hahaha joke’s on you if you thought she’d nap). I almost broke down in tears twice.

This matters because the tenor of the day revealed just how severely circumstances impact my craving to put on a podcast and check the eff out. All I wanted was to not be where I was, doing what I was doing; podcasts let me do that when I physically can’t.

BUT. Because my head is clearer, I could see how not doing that made everything better. When I’m in that mode, I obsessively turn the podcast on and off trying to focus on it to get relief, but it competes with other audio signals (Mackenzie, running water, the TV) for attention, and that ramps up my frustration faster than if I addressed what’s upsetting me in the first place. In that situation, podcasts are lighter fluid on a grass fire. Not having access to them during this particularly stressful day highlighted their futility (and actual harm) in moments I think I need them most.

*stroking her beard* Interesting….

the tenor of the day revealed just how severely circumstances impact my craving to put on a podcast and check the eff out

Sunday

I woke up to discover the annoyance I’ve felt every morning is almost totally gone. Each day, I’ve had this nagging tug of ughdontwanna about morning ablutions; for some reason, I want someone talking to me first thing. But today, I was perfectly happy to put on chill instrumental music like I’ve been doing for dishes and bedtime. A win!

Sundays don’t usually get a lot of listening between church and family time, so I didn’t miss much here. Instead of podcasts on the drive to pick up Lino from the long walk, I shared my favorite Urge album with Mackenzie (she liked it). The drive, the chores, the ablutions—all of it passed peacefully, with barely a blip of sound-struggle.

A successful last day!


TAKEAWAYS

It cleared and focused my mind, enabled me to be more present with my kid, released anxiety and tension from my body, and made space for me to hear both my own voice and the voice of God.

I didn’t want to do this fast. Who wants to deprive themselves of a creature comfort, especially one that’s free and doesn’t do lasting damage to your body, even it’s only a measly week?

But re-reading these daily notes, it’s obvious that it needed to be done. You can sense the tension dropping as the days went on and the chaos in my mind stilled.

By the end, what I noticed most wasn’t what was there but what wasn’t: the lack of needing to put something on the second there was a pause. That almost subconscious impulse to fill all available space with voices now fades away as fast as it pops up.

I am a bit sad that I didn’t have any major revelations, but that isn’t actually the point. (Although that thing about drinking too much caffeine turned out to be legit.)

Much like a crash diet won’t change your life forever, a break from podcasting is a short-term confrontation of a larger issue. I needed to get real about the nature of my listening addiction, and I did precisely that.

Going forward

While podcasts will be coming back into my daily life, I’ve unsubscribed from half my list and deleted episodes stored up “just in case.” Heaven forbid I be without something to jam in my earholes!

I’m also declaring the start of my day a no-podcast-zone. Those precious couple of hours before the toddler spools up is when I meet with God, and I can’t really do that in a genuine way when I’m hopped up on someone else’s thoughts.


Final thoughts

Overall, this fast did exactly what I needed it to do. It cleared and focused my mind, enabled me to be more present with my kid, released anxiety and tension from my body, and made space for me to hear both my own voice and the voice of God.

I just hope I can remember all this the next time I find myself teetering on the edge of a breakdown with someone else’s voice shouting in my ears.


YOUR TURN!

I’d love to hear from you! Especially if you read all this.

Do you have fill up every empty moment to distract yourself from the stresses of adulting, too? What’s your vice? Have you been able to address it?

Share your story in the comments and lets support each other in our first-world, digital-age struggles!

Change hurts, which is why no one wants to do it (but you should)

Changing your life doesn’t usually spark joy. It usually sucks. Like, a lot. But it’s worth it.

by Eiko Ojala - A layered digital papercut of the inside of a person's mind with small figures digging in it

Googling “change your life” turns up 5,370,000,000 hits in less than a second.

Five.
BILLION.

Humans are clearly looking for advice, resources, and tactics to take what we’ve got and make it into something better.

Trouble is, we don’t actually like change.

We like the idea of change.

When we run across stuff like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or The Happiness Project, we jump on it like Mario on a mushroom thinking we’ve found the solution to all our problems. High on hope, we breathlessly share our life-changing aspirations with anyone who will listen (and some who’d rather not).

I mean, who doesn’t want to quit smoking, clean up their eating, purge their house of clutter, delete their social media, quit their soul-crushing job, and move to a tropical island? That’s the stuff that dreamboards are made of.

But….

Who wants to suffer withdrawal from nicotine or sugar or caffeine, face their hoarding and attachment to objects, lose friends and be left out, start over at the bottom rung, and be alone in a place where they don’t speak the language?

Nobody, that’s who.

And so while we love to talk about changing our lives, very few of us do.

Because we forget that change has a cost.

We forget the struggle, the lack, the fear, and the pain we’ll suffer as we reach for our heart’s desire.

To truly change our lives, we have to sacrifice things that bring us comfort and security, things we’ve lived with so long we don’t know who we’d be without them, things we’ve accepted as our identity. Ideas, habits, beliefs, relationships.

We have to choose to leave the old behind to step into the new, even when it hurts like hell to do it.

As I stand on the precipice of a life I’ve never known, I find I must become a person I’ve never been. I’m shedding my skin, sheets of old me sloughing off by the week, taking with it my assumptions about who I am and what I need to not just survive, but to thrive.

And it hurts.

Letting my husband take his rightful place when I’ve been in charge for years hurts.

Allowing my daughter to have big feelings when I want to stop them hurts.

Selling my creative services when I’ve only ever used them for myself hurts.

Accepting changed friendships without trying to reclaim them hurts.

Confronting a call to speak in public when I’ve dropped out of classes to avoid it hurts.

Living faith-forward when I’m so good at controlling the details hurts.

Working with my body when I’ve been at war with it for decades hurts.

Shedding the dragon skin hurts.

But there comes a point when the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change.

And on the other side of that is a life even dreams can’t imagine. One free of the itchy tightness suppressing my spirit. One where I walk upright, fully myself, unburdened by fear.

One I want–but have to pay for.

Enduring the crucible is the only way to truly change your life. There is no easy way out, no magic bullet, no fairy godmother. In order to be different, you must be different. And most people choose not to because it’s hard, it’s messy, and it hurts.

But it’s worth it.


Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. [Joshua 1:9]


What changes are you facing that are costing you more than you bargained for? How can you remind yourself that it’s worth it?