“He who looks outside dreams, he who looks inside awakens.”
— Carl G. Jung
As the novelty of the lock down/quarantine wears off, (and it will if it hasn’t already), it is very likely that expectations will not be met, tempers will rise, frustrations will mount, and anxieties will multiply over the coming weeks dare I say months. As we shift from a short-term event to the reality of a prolonged crisis (or as I like to call it, a Global Reset), we will each be “tested” to stay above the fray of stress.
As you will see, meditation and quiet time becomes even more important to stay grounded, as these winds of change become a force to be reckoned with. In this time, you will need to establish new routines, enforce healthy boundaries, reach out to loved ones (support groups), and practice self-care. Many people have reached out to me asking that I share some tips for coping with these times…
While there are many ways to cope with the stress of change, here is a short check list. Please share with anyone whom might benefit.
- Establish a Routine. There is great comfort in the known (and there are a lot of unknowns with this virus event. Fear of the unknown creates a lot of stress). Having a routine reinforces the known, and that brings a sense of peace of mind. Sketch out your typical day: Start with mealtimes, meditation times, time in nature (see # 2) personal time (this may be your work from home time) and time with others. Remember to be flexible with all routines. Being rigid with routines can lead to unmet expectations and hence, more stress. At the same time, be firm enough with your routines that you don’t assume the role of the victim. This too only leads to more stress. Remember the expression, “Once a victim, twice a volunteer.” Establish a few routines and do your best to stick with them.
- Practice Nature Therapy. Make a concerted effort (make time) to get outside each day (remember, your home should be a place of comfort, not a prison). Go for a 20-min walk around the neighborhood, or local park, if possible. If not, no worries. Consider filling your bird feeders, bird houses in the backyard as well. Make an effort to get back in touch with nature, know what phase the moon is in tonight. Feel sunlight on your face (get some Vitamin D). Breathe in the fresh springtime air. Reacquaint yourself with the smell of spring rain. Listen to the birds sing (mating calls), or spend some time each day in your garden (get your hands dirty with garden soil). If you can afford it, purchase a house plant (and talk to it, they love that). Before you go to bed, step outside and consider ending the evening looking for a new constellation (the “Night Sky” App is great for this). If you cannot make it outside every day, there are some great online nature videos, including (blush) Earth Songs. And, finally, if you cannot go outside, go inside (see # 9). https://vimeo.com/318015705
- Nurture & Honor Your Support Groups. Family, friends, and neighbors are all essential members of our support network (remember, no man or woman is an island). Take time to reach out (virtually, or by phone), not only to check up on each other but, to remind yourself you belong to a group/tribe. Quarantines can reinforce feelings of isolation and alienation, and these feelings can be precursors for emotional stress, specifically depression. Support groups make it safe to ask for help, and in these times we all need to help each other. If you need help, ask for it without shame or embarrassment. If you can lend a hand, do so. Practicing “The Golden Rule” is one of the corner stones of support groups (formal like Alanon or informal). Yes, we must all practice social distancing (I prefer the term physical distancing). Thank God, we have the Internet. Face time visits, Facebook video chats, phone calls, emails even old fashion letter writing works.
- Practice Creative Anger Management. These can be incredibly frustrating times. Many freedoms have been denied, and with frustrations come more stress. Remember this: every episode of anger/frustration is the result of an unmet expectation. And in these times, there are plenty of these to go around. Healthy anger involves healthy grieving too. Healthy grieving means to acknowledge a personal loss, acknowledge the feelings surrounding it, and then doing your best to let it go. Sometimes it helps to talk about it with others. Remember, it’s never healthy to keep these feelings in, where they become toxic. Keeping toxic feelings in tends to suppress the immune system, and given the times we are in, this is NOT a good idea.
- Establish/Practice Healthy Boundaries. Routines are important, but healthy boundaries are essential. Declaring personal time (in a crowded space) is essential. Sleep behaviors, eating behaviors, financial behaviors, screen time behaviors all demand healthy boundaries. If it helps, write down a few of your healthy boundaries. You may need to communicate these to others you live with and ask/remind them to honor these as well. One suggestion: Limit your time on social media and the network news. Follow up each week to review your boundaries. Again adopting a consciousness of victimization is not the way to go. See each healthy boundary as a personal course correction of where you wish to see yourself in the days ahead.
- Work Your Funny Bone. How is your sense of humor these days? In these times, we all need to work our funny bone. Be on the lookout for some comic relief. Try to find one funny thing a day. Become your own best audience. Social media is overflowing with funny memes, videos and jokes, running the gambit from irony to double and triple entendres. Consider collecting the best of all of these and make a tickler notebook. Your sense of humor will prove to be one of your greatest assets in these changing times. If it helps any, remember the word humor means fluid or moisture; in this case, go with the flow.
- Begin or End Each Day with a Gratitude List. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when your engaged in an attitude of gratitude. And no matter your situation, there is much to be grateful for. By comparison to people living in less developed countries, we are doing rather well with our quality of life even in quarantine. Remember that. As a popular meme says, “You are not stuck at home, you are safe at home.” Recognize the difference and be grateful. Identify three (3) things each day that you are appreciative of or grateful for. If you cannot think of anything, begin with breathing. It’s OK if you repeat some of these each day.
- Practice Creative Problem-Solving Skills. What to fix for dinner tonight? Create something new. How to re-budget your altered income? Create some options (e.g., refinance your mortgage, cook at home more often rather than ordering take-out, etc.). We are all creative, and in this day and age, many people are not only going through the same situation, many have posted on the internet HOW they've navigated around the problem. Enlist some help to think up ideas and then try them out. As the expression goes, “a person with no options is a person in trouble.” Exercise your creative muscle. Think up several options, write them down, come up with a strategy (or strategies) and begin to execute them…. see which ones work and then carry them out.
9. Meditate Daily! Find/make time each day (part of your routine and healthy boundaries) to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Put a pad of paper and pen by your side so when distracting thoughts appear, you can quickly write them down, then close your eyes and return to putting all your attention on your breathing. Focusing on your breathing is just one of many ways to begin/continue your meditation practice. Remember, meditation includes many things but first and foremost it is means to ignore mental/emotional distractions, or what I commonly refer to as “domesticating the ego.” Start with 5 minutes a day and build up from there. If you are new to meditation, recognize that you will get bored doing it (everyone does), and that is OK. Boredom is part of the domestication of the ego process. But stick with it. The benefits (staying grounded in the winds of change) are AMAZING.
10. Practice Compassion in Action. Stressful times can bring out the worst in people’s behaviors. Short tempers, rude behavior, selfishness, cynical attitudes, sarcasm, etc., etc. When you encounter these, remind yourself that these are indicative of a “survival mentality” (root Chakra, for those that understand this perspective). Stay above the fray by coming from a place of compassion (the Heart Chakra). Don’t lower yourself to “less than unbecoming” behavior. Simply stated, don’t match their vibration, allow them to match yours. And if you do find yourself demonstrating fear-based behavior, apologize, ask forgiveness and then do your best to express love and compassion, as best you can from your heart space.
Over the past 30 years, I have had the great pleasure to meet people who have been through hell and back. There are two paths: the victim and the victor. I much prefer the victors; they are so much more fascinating to talk to. In listening to their stories, I am reminded of their path of triumph: humor, forgiveness, optimism, creativity, acceptance, faith; what I call the “muscles of the soul.” These are not the gifts for a chosen few, these are birthrights for all of us. However, we must all put these muscles into play.
It is very likely we are in this for the long haul, meaning that we need to adapt to these new conditions. The world has been put on reset, and very likely there will be more changes to come. We have a choice, we can adapt and move with the flow, or we can claim victimization every time the winds of change knock us down. The choice is ours.
As always, thanks for making this a better world in which to live...
When we do get done with all of this, let’s celebrate!
About Brian Luke Seaward
In addition to being an author, Dr. Brian Luke Seaward is a renowned and respected international expert in the fields of stress management, mind-body-spirit healing and health promotion. Over his career in academia he has served on the faculty of the University of Maryland, The American University, The University of Colorado and the University of Northern Colorado-Greeley, as well as The Graduate Institute in Bethany, CT. Currently, he is the Executive Director of the Paramount Wellness Institute in Boulder, CO.
Two of this most recent and popular books include Essentials of Managing Stress and Managing Stress. Each book takes a modern, comprehensive approach to stress management, honoring the balance and harmony of the mind, body, spirit, and emotions. These books are often referred to as the “authorities on stress management” by both students and professionals because they equip students with the tools needed to identify and manage stress while teaching them how to strive for health and balance.
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