When I look back, my wedding day is a blur.

I definitely remember the excitement and gravity of reciting my vows at the church. I remember looking into my husband’s eyes and hearing him promise to stand by my side for the remainder of our lives. I remember actually getting married. The rest of day, though, is little more than a foggy recollection of checking all the bridal to-do items off the list.

Hair and make-up – check
Walk down the aisle – check
Greet 200 of my closest friends – check
First dance – check
Cut the cake – check
Make a dramatic exit – check

I hear it was a great party. As it turns out, our plans to have delicious food (which I barely ate), great music, and lots of friends and family celebrating in a beautiful space all came to fruition. I’m sad I missed it.

Through each stage of the day, I spent most of my time and energy worrying about what was coming next and what had already gone “wrong.” I was so distracted and focused on being a bride that I forgot to enjoy being the bride.

I wish I could say that was the last time I let busyness drown out my joy, but it’s not. I wish I could say that missing my wedding taught me to focus on the good stuff right in front of me and be present in the moment, but it didn’t. It isn’t easy to stop distractions from stealing your joy.

Ten years later, I’m only beginning to understand how to do that.

The Joy of Being Present

Over the past few months, I’ve had some big wins professionally and personally. I published a book, crossed a significant age milestone (that’s a nice way of saying I had a big birthday), and in a few months we’ll celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.

I made a choice as 2016 began to be more present in the moment. Knowing it was shaping up to be a busy year, I figured it wouldn’t be easy. I vowed to do everything I could to ensure these exciting moments would be more than blurry memories in 2026.

I’ve developed a few tricks that keep me in the moment when busyness, anxiety, or distraction try to steal my joy.

Take a Deep Breath

Is there anyone out there that isn’t aware of the health benefits of a few deep breaths? Long-term health benefits aside, a deep breath can also calm a busy mind, momentarily.

The first step to squashing distraction is to recognize it’s happening. The second step is to take a long, deep breath …or five. When you notice you’re no longer in the moment, briefly stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Wrangle that mind of yours, and do what it takes to regain control.

You don’t have to find a quiet space, get comfortable, and carve out time for this (though all those things are very helpful), just take one long breath. The physical act forces you pause. It pulls you back to the here and now. It centers you so that you can move on to the rest of the tricks listed in this post.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I stop and take a deep breath at least five times a day — ten if I have to leave the house and interact with other people. There’s nothing that calms me down and clears my mind more quickly and efficiently than this one simple act.

Check All Five Senses

Last weekend, I had my first book signing. As I was sitting at a table in front of the crowd, listening to another author share about his book, I felt my mind begin to wander into unproductive territory. Instead of letting it hop down a rabbit trail and solve whatever problem it was chasing, I checked in with all five of my senses.

I took inventory of the snow falling outside the shop’s window, and listened carefully to what my fellow author was sharing. I thought about the Chicago dog I had just enjoyed as part of the celebration. I took a deep breath and noticed the cologne the speaker was wearing, and held tightly to the book in my hands. Taking a few seconds to create a sensory memory grounded me. It brought me back to the present.

Use Self-Talk to Reframe Anxiety into Excitement

Anxiety can be a real joy thief. When given the chance to promote my book on a local television show, I almost let anxiety and nervousness ruin the experience. I woke up that morning feeling a little sick. To say I had butterflies in my stomach sounds too pleasant. It felt more like an army was trampling across mid-section.

I knew if I could reframe my emotions, I could improve my situation. Rather than letting the anxiety, fear, and nerves take over, I convinced myself I was excited. I told myself that this was going to be a fun experience and I was fortunate to have this opportunity. Self-talk saved me. When my stomach churned, I repeated to myself, “I’m so excited! This is going to so much fun.” It helped to change my perspective and keep me in the moment. Rather than focusing on what could go wrong, I focused on how grateful I was to have the chance to share my work with a different audience than I’d ever reached before.

Get Back to It Quickly

Mike Krieger, one of the founders of Instagram, admits “Life is what you should be experiencing, not a progress bar.” One of the app’s metrics of success is how quickly users can upload their photo and get back to the moment. He believes this is an important thing to measure because it means, “People are getting their tasks done faster and putting their phone back into their pocket.”

If you’re like me, using social media to share life experiences is a great way to connect with faraway friends and family and promote your work. But it can also be a dangerous distraction that pulls you out of the moment. So how do you enjoy the benefits of social media without allowing it to steal your joy?

I’ve solved this problem by creating and publishing photos and updates after the fact. I may pull my phone out to snap a picture or record a short video, but I leave the editing, captioning, and posting to a later date. I capture the moment in the moment, but share the experience long after it’s ended. Krieger’s right, real life is usually way better than that progress bar.

How do you ensure you stay in the moment when distraction threatens to steal your joy?