Our country has been through a lot: We witnessed the worst mass shootings in our nation’s history. Our opioid and suicide epidemics show few signs of relenting. We’re reminded on an almost daily basis of widespread sexual misconduct towards women of all ages, in all walks of life. And the list goes on. In fact, you likely have several personal crises you can add to your list.
Whether you are experiencing sorrow first hand, through the stories of loved ones, or from the media, we are all feeling an extra degree of stress and sadness with no sign of relief in sight.
So how do you stay sane? Short of finding a rock to live under for the foreseeable future, there are things you can do to handle it better and stay grounded. Here some tips I frequently share with my family and friends:
a regular habit of activities you enjoy. Some will be more involved –
i.e. play a round of golf, get a massage, work out, watch a movie or eat lunch
with friends. Others take less time: Go for a walk, listen to music, close
your eyes and breathe deeply, work on a crossword puzzle or
Sudoku. Throughout the day, take five minutes of quiet and
peace to give your mind a break and re-charge your
batteries. You will be more productive overall if you do.
- Reduce sources of
stress in your systems and routines. Objectively analyze yourself and
your lifestyle, defining your strengths and weaknesses in specific
categories. Create an achievable and prioritized plan for improvement. Each
day determine one thing you can do that day to help meet your goals, and then
do it, even if you don’t feel like it. Take one small step every
non-destructive psychological or physical ways to decrease or eliminate
the stress that does creep in. For instance, rip paper into little
shreds (you may wish to imagine that the paper represents a particularly
vexing situation). Write in a private journal that
no one ever has to see — paper is unconditionally accepting, so you can vent,
think things through, pray, or whatever you wish. Throw a tennis ball
against the wall as hard as you can, catch it on the rebound,
and throw it again, or stomp your feet on the floor as hard and fast as you can
for ten seconds. Make a regular appointment to talk with a trusted friend
or a group of colleagues. Each of these simple strategies, some of which only
take seconds, can make a noticeable difference in your day.
decide to put a smile on your face. Smile when talking to an angry
colleague or impatient child; your tone will immediately be much more
calming. Smile at someone on the street, at the beautiful sky or a
magnificent tree, at a funny cartoon, or even at yourself. Smile at the
situation, even when you’re at the end of your rope. You’ll find that if
you do it often enough, you do in fact become happier.
- Reach out of yourself and help someone else. It can be as simple as helping someone carry their groceries, or it can be more involved, like volunteering to tutor a child or at a non-profit that shares your goals. It is healing to focus your gaze outward, and gives a sense of increased control with the knowledge that you are making a difference.
- Make a list of everything and everyone for whom you are grateful. Every evening, read the list. Then add at least one good thing that happened during your day, and at least one thing you did that made another person smile.
2019 has been a troubling year thus far, with plenty of grief and stress to go around even if you are not directly involved in tragedy. Following these simple tips can help decrease the tension as you face the headwinds of the coming months.
Originally published in the Huffington Post, December 2017.