This post was originally published on My 100 Day Plans, a civic action campaign in response to Trump’s first 100 days. As a guest blogger, I wrote to highlight the importance of everyday mental health choices in times of stress.
So, how’s 2017 going for you so far? For many, it’s been an incredibly stressful year. Have you hit the wall yet? Are you finding yourself overwhelmed, upset, exhausted and facing energetic burnout? Recent political upheaval may heighten these common emotions to more intense levels of depression or anxiety.
We spoke with our friend Dr. Amalea Seelig who kindly shared with us a few practical things you can do right now that will help you recharge your mental batteries and find your balance. In the days ahead, everyday choices can greatly improve your overall resilience during tough times. Even if you just pick one or two of the actions below, do them as often as you can muster.
Building some “recharge” into your #MY100DayPlans will make a big difference to you and those around you.
1. Notice your breath.
When I say this to my patients, many of them will start breathing as if their life depended on it. No, just notice you HAVE breath. Feel how it feels to breathe. There is a rhythm to your breath, see if you can follow it. You will likely only be able to do this for a few seconds at a time; that’s perfect. Even if you are someone who regularly meditates, this moment of attention will matter. This is a practice you can do at any moment in time, alone or with others, in traffic, buying clothes, or engaging in social media (an especially good time). Being aware in this way can bring needed moments of relief and well-being.
2. Choose your words.
Make conscious decisions about how you speak and to whom. When something is right there for us to say because it just happened or is upsetting, we repeat it, sometimes on multiple occasions and with many details, to whomever might be there to listen. Don’t repeat (or re-tweet) everything you hear, don’t focus on negative interactions you have had, and reduce gossip and complaining. You can even let others know this is what you’re doing; it will remind you, empower you and even might have others be more intentional about how they speak. Look for actions like these to conserve and build psychic energy.
3. Shut out noise.
At some point, being constantly available for the next update, story, email, message, tweet or Instagram is not a benefit, as compelling as it may seem in the moment. ALWAYS make choices about how much time you spend engaged online. Help yourself out of the rabbit hole; decide how much of your day you will devote to social media and news cycle consumption. Set your timer and press start each time you engage. When the time is up, step away from your machines.
4. Connect to your life.
Continue to do those things that matter to you, especially spending time with other human beings. Sometimes when something big is happening it can seem like that’s all there is to care about. But your individual life, and living it fully, is essential. Engage in your usual routines and hobbies, make plans for now and the future, and spend time out in the world. This structure, like a fortress, will support you; feel it. In some moments, you may experience some joy or gratitude; feel that too.
You have but one point of view. Everyone wants to think that might, right and good is on their side. But people you know — some whom you love and are related to, and even just other human beings with different lives, concerns and experiences — view things differently than you. See if you can understand another’s point of view. It doesn’t mean you agree with or condone that view. It also doesn’t diminish your conviction. We all live here and somehow we have to move ahead.
6. Take action.
Do something – whether it’s joining MY100DayPlans.com or any constructive action. Stop thinking. Though you may believe you are getting somewhere in there, the onslaught of your thoughts can paralyze you, distort reality and waste time. Act in some way, right now, that moves something forward in your life, your community, the real world. It can be small, medium or large. You will know what there is to do.
Go to sleep. Be consistent with your bedtime. Take an hour to wind down, with no distraction. Keep your room cool, dark and quiet. As you lay still, experience the value of the day that has past. Whatever you have contributed, fill yourself with it. Tomorrow is a new day, let it come.
We hope these reminders are helpful. For those of you who already do many of these activities but who are still feeling stressed, try going deeper into your practices or try out a new practice, like a new healing technique or a silent retreat. With all the noise and chaos, longer more immersive self-care may provide the deep recharge you need.
And for those still feeling especially vulnerable or upset, the steps above may not be enough. You may find yourself unable to emerge from the anxious fog. If this is your experience, please seek professional help. Dr. Seelig also shared recommended resources for additional support at the bottom of this post.
Bottom line: we are only a month into the New Year. This will be a long haul — start putting some healthy practices into your routine, either alone or with old and new friends. We will make it through this, one step at a time, one breath at a time, one day at a time.
Thank you for being there, and hanging in there.
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
~ William James
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