Antidotes for Anxious Times
October 25, 2016
by Kim Childs, CPPC
Earlier this month, a former client asked for strategies to deal with the current climate of hostility and anxiety in America and around the globe. In addition to trying on some recommendations, my client decided to volunteer with a local political organization in order to feel she was “doing something” in these challenging times.
I applaud everyone who’s focused on being the positive change they seek in this world right now. It’s why this quote, from historian and activist Howard Zinn, is one of my favorites.
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act…”
Focusing on what we can do and control in anxious times is not only energizing, it creates the kind of future we desire to inhabit, one brave act at a time. Here’s a round-up of some ideas for staying calm, centered, and connected to what most matters when the world seems out of control:
–Take inspired action. Some of my friends who’ve volunteered with political campaigns and cast early ballots in the U.S. presidential election report that they felt better after doing so. “It felt like a big exhale,” said one, while another chimes in, “I try to take what action I can to make a difference…it’s empowering to focus on what I can do, and to try and get out of victim mode.” Also, helping others feels good and it’s a win-win.
–Step away from the screen. My friend Deborah Sosin, a therapist, mindfulness specialist and self-described “diehard news junkie,” says that even she needs to unplug from the media at times. “So much exposure to traumatic news and images can trigger anxiety, depression, substance abuse, insomnia, and a range of stress reactions,” she says. In a recent essay, Sosin wrote about the tension between wanting to be informed and wanting to take care of herself. “If I tune out, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about the world,” she remarks. “I can’t watch anymore, at least not for a while. And I still care.” Sosin, who’s also written this award-winning picture book about a girl who finds the world too overstimulating, notes that our children need breaks from the media, too. “Put all devices aside for a while and go for a walk with them. Notice the sky, the trees, and the grass,” she says. “If your kids ask questions about the news or politics, answer honestly and simply, then redirect the conversation to something in their lives, in the present moment.”
–Play. “I’m making a conscious attempt to do things I enjoy,” reports a friend. “It’s like a small energy bar of good feeling in the midst of all this chaos. Also, I make sure I have music in my life, whether it’s playing invisible drums along with my car stereo, a dance aerobics class, singing in the shower, or shimmying in the hallway on the way to a staff meeting.” Play boosts our mood, and those positive vibes can likewise uplift those we encounter.
–Self-soothe, and move. Several people note that practicing yoga, meditation, or Reiki help them maintain equilibrium. I need my morning rituals and daily walks to ground myself. It helps that I do them near trees, open sky and a lovely pond, as exercise and time in nature are natural relaxants and mood boosters. Finally, one very simple practice when stressed is to place a hand on your heart, take a few conscious breaths, and say to yourself, “Right now, in this moment, I’m here and okay.”
–Put things in perspective. Another friend says that remembering that the world has survived major shifts and crises before helps him stay calm. “Nothing that is happening right now is all that different from anything that has happened in the past, at least in the greater scheme of things. Light and dark forces are always seeking to balance each other out, and the world is certainly in a transition…” He advocates spiritual practices that keep us connected to the light, within and without. I further recommend a daily gratitude practice, or a nightly “What Went Well?” exercise.
–Keep things simple. What items can come off your schedule or to-do list when life is challenging? Which routines can you simplify? Which invitations and requests can you decline to make more space and time for what you truly need? Simplify, for peace of mind.
–Escape. Entertaining ourselves is also good medicine in troubled times, whether it’s comedic parodies of political candidates, cat videos or uplifting movies. One friend of mine is currently finding comfort in Star Trek reruns. “Seriously, a little escapism with clear enemies and reliable victories is sometimes just what the doctor ordered,” she says.
I agree. Beam me up, Scotty!
Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and sacred living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.