A Practical Guide To Not Freaking Out

Ten positive actions you can do instead.

What a month. I have been falling asleep easily enough, but then *BING* there have been times I wake up at around 2 AM.

A zillion thoughts are swooshing through my brain as if I’m the lead role in a world crisis movie and my late-night epiphany will put to right the issue at hand. Constructive? Ah no, of course not! After some deep breathing exercises, I finally relax enough to fall back asleep. By morning my brain has reset with an appropriate perspective.

How can I work with my stress and concerns, to try and turn them around to my advantage as I did with my first job?

Here are some positive actions I have been practicing to keep my head on straight. These practices have made a difference in my life. I hope they help you too!

1. Pen To Paper

You don’t have to be Samual Pepys or Karl Pilkington to write a diary. Consider how journaling during strange historic events will be invaluable to our future. What is happening right now? How is it making you feel? What new things have you learned today? How does life feel right now as you are experiencing it?

Writing will not only help you explore your feelings, but it will also be a future window to our past. Get inspired by the Shapell Manuscript Foundation web site where a wealth of historical insights penned in famous manuscripts are revealed.

Write down your personal experience. You can share it in a blog or tuck it away to pass on to your children or nephews and nieces later.

2. Surround Yourself With Positive People

I have a cousin who is one of the most inspiring people I know. She came into my life shortly after meeting my husband and we clicked immediately. Our conversations always centre on self-growth and how can we be better people for ourselves and those around us. Even though she has endured extreme hardship, she faces life’s challenges with consistent positivity.

During our last visit a month ago she enthusiastically told me about a new author she had been reading and encouraged me to watch some of his videos. She is accepting and kind, generous and strong. She loves sharing what she learns and is excited to discuss and explore it. She and her husband are the kind of people where you not only relish your visit with them, you leave your time together feeling elevated, refreshed!

Even though we’re now two provinces apart, she took the time to text us just the other day, reminding us to keep laughing. Having people in your life that lift you is like going to the gas station to fill up so you can keep on driving. I am so grateful to have several people in my life like her.

3. Pay It Forward

Thank those good people in your life by passing on that love and compassion to others, whether you know them or not.

Over the weekend we were brainstorming about things we could do to maintain our morale while social distancing. One idea that came up is something I put into action yesterday.

Colourful letters taped in a house window read “WE CAN DO THIS!!”. A greyhound lurcher peeks out of the window too.
Colourful letters taped in a house window read “WE CAN DO THIS!!”. A greyhound lurcher peeks out of the window too.
Photo source: author

I cut out colourful letters and taped a short inspiring message up on the front windows of our house. Anyone that passes by our house seeking exercise or perspective will read “WE CAN DO THIS!!” (and perhaps even see a lurking lurcher in the window).

I look forward to changing up the message from time to time and expect this to be fun for me and hopefully encouraging to our neighbours.

4. Inhale. Exhale.

Here’s an easy one. It may seem silly to be reminded. It’s an oldie but a goodie and we alllll need to do this. It only takes two easy steps: breathe in, breathe out. (But not too deeply for too long now, your goal is not to hyperventilate!)

There is a multitude of available meditation apps, a lot of them are free or offer a free trial. Do whatever soothes you, whether it’s your own breath practice or have a professional guide you, but do remember to unclench your gut and breathe.

5. Jump Into Another World

Turn off the TV and radio. It is possible to remain informed of the news without having it on all day long feeding your anxieties. Lose your head in a physical book or get a Medium membership where you will never run out of interesting reading material!

Alternatively, did you know that the New York Public Library offers a free download of books? It’s certainly not a matter of availability for me that’s for sure — someone in our neighbourhood created a pop-up library on the sidewalk.

6. Perambulations

Leash up your dog, clear your head and your lungs with some crisp Spring fresh air. Take in those trees, marvel at those amazing magpies, take three deep intentional delicious breaths at the beginning and the end of your walk. Nature has a way of dissolving stress levels, like a good solid hug to your heart and your brain.

Don’t have a dog? Walk your neighbour’s dog or better yet, foster a dog. Humane societies are asking for foster help right now in the US and Canada.

And here’s a lovely piece of news: at the time I am writing this the Edmonton Humane Society Foster Program (in Alberta, Canada) has the wonderful problem of too many offers and has had to close off their foster applications.

7. Happiness Reminders

Our TV played a trick on us the other day and we were left with network television channels. It’s hard to imagine after listening to five minutes of the news that there is anything good left in the world. You know what, though? There really still is and will continue to be beautiful wonderful smile-inducing things!

People are lifting each other’s spirits through music.

Dolphins and swans are swimming in Venice’s canals again, where “nature has set a reset button”.

Lose yourself in laughter! Humour is subjective, but if you’re into British humour I find Graham Norton’s chat show “best of” highlights one of the funniest things to enjoy. (Warning: some naughty language.)

Everybody loves cats, right? This might be the best video ever posted on YouTube: “Kittens Inspired by Kittens!

8. The Social Elixir Of Gaming

Are you a Monopoly person or is Dominion your thing? Whether you’re a casual or serious gamer, board games are a fun way to get into a different headspace and lift your spirits. Roll those dice, tease your opponents and be open to laughing together.

If you live alone or missing your loved ones, why not indulge in some silliness online? My sister-in-law is working out the logistics of playing Catchphrase online via Messenger video or Skype together with the family. A quick search on your mobile device will yield a ton of free games like Words With Friends where you can challenge others to a game online.

9. How Are You?

Did you grow up with family gatherings? The point of the get-togethers is to keep in touch, to eat good food and to visit. To sit down and talk, face to face.

While social distancing is currently a must we do have the luxury of texting, Facetiming and emailing.

I have also been advised that there is a feature on our phones that allows us to talk into it and to hear the other person’s voice back in our own ear, imagine that!

While laughing over autocorrects is amusing, sometimes hearing the lilting tones of your loved one’s voice is just what the doctor ordered. When was the last time you called those friends you made when you lived in B.C. or California or Germany? I bet they’d love a call today.

10. It’s Your Crisis and You’ll Cry If You Want To

When all else fails, give yourself permission to have a good cry. We all have our breaking point and sometimes you just need a good let-it-all-out kind of sob.

My husband and I have moved ten times in our married life together. Every move has always been on a very fast turnaround which is awesome because it’s like ripping off a band-aid. However, big life events like moving can ramp up my stress to magical levels and there have been moments where letting it out is a healing release. Let the tears flow when you’re all alone and in a safe place. Go ahead and let those endorphins do their magic.

More than the usual share of us are dealing with higher stress levels these days. When we go through unprecedented times it is natural to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes anxiety can mushroom into feelings that should be addressed by seeking professional help and I really hope you do. No one should have to suffer from gut-wrenching stress every day.

However, if your anxiety comes in smaller shorter blasts that you want to work on, I hope these ideas will help you work towards some peace of mind.

My husband (who is a crisis manager extraordinaire) gently reminded me last week,

“The world gives what it gives and we just have to figure out how to make it work. Like all things this too will pass; we need to breathe and put one foot in front of the other and we will be fine! We are resilient and strong!”

And so are you.

Love to write about life📝/Obsess over Greyhounds + Lurchers🐕/Proud Canadian and four-time Albertan 🇨🇦 https://twitter.com/EiraB

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