Dr. Robert Schuller once said: “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” Indeed, the COVID-19 crisis is making our lives tough and rather crazy right now and for the foreseeable future. Many of us worry about how we will get through this. As days progress, we may become emotionally and spiritually drained. That’s why right now it’s time to toughen up our mental attitude. Our thoughts can profoundly impact our immune systems, both biological and psychological. Here are FIVE simple, practical, and easy strategies to help you keep strong and fighting back at Corona anxiety and stress.
- Take a News Break: You likely already know what you need to know. However, when your mind is saturated with doom and daily death counts, how can you feel any sense of peace? Instead, take a news break or limit the time your time watching it.
- Stop Terribilizing: The number one mistake most of us make is dwelling on what’s wrong about our lives and worst case scenarios. Naturally, be prepared and strategize to create an action plan of how you could deal with your challenges and uncertainties. Then let it go. There are circumstances that may come into play over which you have no control, but rest assured, you’ll deal with everything you must. Don’t focus on the challenge, focus on your ability to bounce back. Don’t focus on what you can’t do, focus on what you can!
- Start Possibilizing. To overcome terribilizing, create a positive mind-frame by “Possibilizing.” That is, create positive possibilities. Take charge of the scare thoughts that keep filtering into your conscious mind. Instead, thank them for trying to warn you, but firmly counter them with assurances that you can handle whatever life throws at you. You can manage each and every challenge. Develop a toolbox of affirmations…This, too, shall pass! All is well, right now! I’ll handle it! Yes, I can!
- Create a “Sweetspot” between Routine & Variety. Scientific studies found that people do better with a routine. You had one before this crisis, so build a new one, a stay-at-home one, Get up, get showered, get dressed and eat. Study, work from home or get busy and be productive in some way. However, we also need variety and there is a sweet spot between routine and variety. We are creatures of habit, but most of us like a variety of new things, too. Engage in other activities….exercise, take a walk, use online resources to learn something new, get grounded by being out in nature, even if it is your backyard.
- Turn on your Happy Genes: Although stresses may seem to overwhelm any thoughts of being happy, the truth is that the happier you are, the happier you will be! Our biology responds to our thoughts. When you think thoughts that make you happy, your body responds by turning on your happy genes. It’s a feedback system. Insist on your right to be happy, despite all the challenges you are facing. Do something that helps others and it may help you, too. But also, set boundaries and take time out devoted to only YOU and your needs.
1. You worry about EVERYTHING. You automatically think about what is or could go wrong.
TIP: Focus on what is right about a situation, not what is wrong. Remember, though, sometimes bad stuff does happen, so just be smarter with what you are concerned about. Don’t cave in to the automatic inner negative voice. Learn to evaluate better.
2. You do too much. When you can’t say “No” or keep doing too much all the time, naturally you’ll get worn down and stressed.
TIP: Learn to say “No” or “I can’t right now” or “I’ll think about it.” Delegate duties you try to do all by yourself. Schedule breaks and move around (can you say “Yoga moves”) or take brief breaks.
3. You stop doing exercise. When we get stressed, we need more than ever to help dissipate nervous tension in the body.
TIP: Even if it is a 10 min ride on a recumbent exercise bike jaunt, a quick walk around the floor at work…move!! Also, consider learning something new, like Tai Chi or Yoga. Movement can reduce your stress!
4. You want everything to be PERFECT! Let’s face it, things are seldom perfect. Others disappoint you…. You make unrealistic demands on yourself…shit happens, right?
TIP: Become devoted to the Japanese philosophy called “Wabi Sabi” that sees happiness and beauty even when the ‘vase is cracked.’ In my philosophy…to learn from your mistakes, you gotta go out and make some!
5. You are a time traveler and don’t embrace the present moment. Okay, you’ve heard it a zillion times, but that’s because it’s true. Fear is always about the future. Stress is being a far distance from the pleasant moments of today.
TIP: Set an alarm on your phone to go off and remind you to deep breathe, wiggle your shoulders around and enjoy being alive (You could also just say “This too shall pass!” , my Mother’s mantra). But, take time out to stop the runaway train of STRESS. Get off now and remember:
Our Thoughts Create Our Lives…Choose Wisely! Hugs, KT
Do you feel stressed? Most of us answer with a resounding “YES!!!” Stress, anxiety, and worry have exploded into epidemic proportions in our society. A faster paced life, economic woes, more responsibilities, less relaxation time…the list is long and the sources are many. But the biggest cause is…ourselves! We stress out ourselves because of our constant, mostly negative and worry-provoking, inner chatter. The good news is that with a few simple mental and emotional shifts, we can empower our creative minds to help us rather than hurt us. The next time your stresses are hitting the red zone, use these strategies to create calm during chaos and take an instant mental vacation.
Expect Less, Not More!
It isn’t as negative as it may sound. There’s wisdom here. Expectations can explode like an atomic bomb. Think of it this way, a simple mathematical formula (don’t worry, there’s not going to be a math test!). Einstein’s theory of relativity uses a simple formula for a complex issue. My stressitivity formula does the same: S = CE2
Stress (S) equals a conflict (C) in our expectations (E2). The more we expect and demand (of life, a person or situation), the more conflicted and thus stressed we can feel. Rigid expectations lead to future disappointments. Why go there in the first place?
Solution: Be open to many possibilities. Changes in our plans may NOT be the worst possible catastrophe. Roll with the punches. It’s strange, but many times life has a way of steering you into a different direction, one that actually is better for you. So, why worry and stress out? Scientific studies show that 85% of what we worry about never happens. But when bad stuff does happen, studies found 80% of people said they handled those worst case scenarios better than they thought they would. Bottom line…You’ll handle it and life may be steering you into a better way!
Ah, what would it be like to live in “Perfect World” where life is always fair, all people love you, good things happen and bad things do not? Many of us would run, not walk, to such a place. Unfortunately, life is a bed of hot coals filled with imperfect situations. The key is to adopt a different mindset about imperfection. Learn to appreciate it.
Solution: An ancient Japanese philosophy known as Wabi-Sabi views beauty as imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. A Wabi-Sabi mindset honors all things scratched, dented or worn (think valuable ‘antiques’). Based on Buddhist principles, this view suggests there is beauty in imperfection. Chill out and appreciate even the cracks. Indeed, to learn from your mistakes, you gotta go out and make some.
Become a Possibility Thinker
Worry and stress come from a hidden part of our psyche known as the psychological immune system that tries to alert, warn, and protect us from possible dangers. Just as the biological immune system consists of patrolling cells to protect us from infections with lightening-like ferocity so, too, our psychological immune system uses a barrage of rapid-fire thoughts to warn of what ‘could go wrong’. When tuning into all these potentially dire consequences instead of learning to discriminate which ones to heed, we allow ourselves to create an energy-draining habit I call terribilizing. Our auto-pilot thinking constantly screams about the worst in a overzealous way that produces fear and anxiety. It’s like a mental autoimmune illness.
Solution: Instead of envisioning the worst possible catastrophe, focus on alternatives that emphasize positive possibilities. I call this possibilizing. We are automatically wired to terribilize! To overcome that mindset practice challenging negative thoughts. This helps rewire this overzealous and harmful psychological circuit. The nexxt time your mind goes into disaster zone, counter those terribilizing thoughts by flooding your mind with positives that simply emphasize ‘what if I can’ instead of ‘what if I can’t” and instruct your inner emotional manager by saying: “Those thoughts are not helping, give me thoughts that help!” You can also just tell yourself to “SHUT UP!”
Empty your “BAGS”
Much of our mental baggage is loaded with blame, anger, and guilt (a B-A-G of mental junk). These powerful emotions are just old ways for generating more stress. Dump it all out! First, become more aware of your mental commentary that wants to a) judge everything (no, your are NOT Judge Judy…put down that gavel!), or b) become instantly angry (yes, we seem to have “Hulk” tendencies), or c) feel guilty (mea culpa, mea culpa!).
Solution: Gratitude-Communication-Forgiveness. The antidote for blaming and judging is “Gratitude.” Adopting an attitude of gratitude replaces faultfinding negativity. We turn on our more joyful brain chemistry by focusing on the good things in your life. The antidote for anger is learning to better communicate your ‘negative’ emotions by productively. Instead of flying off the handle, take a step back (or wait 10 minutes) and express your angst with “I messages.” Example: “When you said that I was stupid, I felt hurt and angry that someone I care about said such a hurtful thing to me.” Finally, the antidote to guilt is Forgiveness. Instead of falling into the “shoulda-woulda-coulda” trap, empower yourself by being the one in control. Your control your responses by empowering yourself to forgive and go on. Let karma take care of justice. The important point is that forgiveness releases the power of others over you.
Just say “No”
Many of us who feel stressed, simply can’t turn down any request. Instead we suffer through all the while feeling it is our duty to accommodate everyone, but ourselves. All the while we are efficiently taking care of everyone else, we are also seething with stress and resentfulness. When you are overloaded and stressed, others around you pick up that energy. Why go there?
Solution: Learn that it is okay to put yourself first and to establish boundaries. You can simply say “No, sorry!” or even “I’ll think about it.” Or just “No” without offering lengthy apologies. Remember that “NO” is NOT a four-letter word. Use it, it’s okay. Tough luck if someone is annoyed or not. You deserve and need to put yourself first sometimes, too. You can’t do it all (well, YOU probably can do it all, but you’ll be miserable…who needs that!!)
Focus on “Now”
Stress often comes from living in the future! You can tell you’ve become a time traveler if your mental commentary is repetitively looping with “What if’s!” Of course we all need to plan and put our best foot forward, but after doing that we don’t help ourselves by getting on the “What if” conveyor belt. Placing your mind mostly in the future (as you likely already know) robs you of your present moment.
Solution: Focus on the present moment, but plan for the future. Remind yourself of this as often as it takes to make some changes. Learn to check in with yourself and fully appreciate being alive in the moment. You can set an alert on your cell phone to remind yourself to take a big breath, loosen those taut shoulders and just heave a sigh of relief that you are alive and okay. Look up to the sky and enjoy that moment. Go out and hug a tree and enjoy that moment! Soak in a hot bath and enjoy that moment. You’ll handle all you need to. Give yourself a break! You are worth it. Enjoy your moments…they make up your life! It’s up to you….Choose wisely!
Feeling on edge, unsettled, and anxious? You may need to step into the ring and fight the voice of doom and gloom. Here are some tips to help you boost your battle against ‘bad’moods!
STOP TERRIBILIZING. Assuming the worst may happen keeps your body in a constant state of tension, worry and anxiety. Unfortunately, this is part of an ancient biological program called “Negativity Bias” that makes us focus more on the worst case than the best case scenario. This backfires in contemporary life. Remind yourself that 85% of what we worry about never happens. Prepare and be proactive, but expect the best, not the worst!
START POSSIBILIZING. Learning to focus on positive possibilities is a learned skill. Even though bad stuff can happen, studies show that 80% of people said they handled it better than they thought they would. What you think about you will bring about, so focus on what’s right about a situation, not what’s wrong and you will tend to draw more of that energy to you.
FIND YOUR MANTRA. What can you say to support yourself during times of stress and worry? Build up your toolbox ahead of time. My sister uses “Keep it real!” to remind herself not to go to the dark side. I like “This, too, shall pass!” What works for you?
ALLOW FAILURE. Worriers are often perfectionists and hate failure. But you can think of failure differently: to learn from your mistakes, you gotta go out and make some! Just maybe life is taking you in a different direction than what you are demanding. Float past failure, forgive yourself, and above all, remain open to possibilities.
FIND YOUR “SWEET SPOT” BETWEEN DUTY AND PLEASURE. Life is a balance between “have-to” and “want-to”! Juggling responsibilities isn’t always easy. But it is super important to take a break and even pamper yourself. (Yes, it really is okay!). Hire a babysitter and go out, take a bubble bath, get a massage, take a hike and visit Mother Nature to ground yourself. Focus on fun and enjoy your days, there are precious moments awaiting you, why miss them?
It seems to come out of the blue…suddenly you feel afraid, short of breath, maybe your heart feels like it’s beating our of your chest, you feel dizzy, or cold and shaky. That’s a panic or anxiety attack beginning. Before you let it spiral out of control, there are three immediate steps that can help you quickly recover.
Before I explain the steps, it is important to realize that your body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do when you tell it there is danger (by your rapid-fire thoughts that are ‘terribilizing’ or making a stressful moment into something much worse). From your body’s standpoint, it is responding to the thoughts of danger you are sending it. To its ancient programming, there might be a lion outside your cave entrance, or a neighboring tribe ready to attack…danger, danger danger! So unknowingly you are mobilizing your body for fleeing, freezing, or fighting, none of which is actually needed. What to do? Here are three simple strategies that are easy to remember and do the next time fear knocks at your door.
I call this the STOP-LOOK & LISTEN technique:
- STOP. The first thing to do is just simply shout “STOP” to yourself, or see a big red STOP sign. Some people may snap a rubber band on their wrist. The ideas is to STOP the runaway train of terribilizing thoughts and do one other super important thing…BREATHE slowly and deeply several times.
- LOOK. Now come back to the present moment. Fear is all about the future and the “what if’s.” Look around where you are and name some objects, count something, or just focus away from the scary body sensations and more on something else. Move around if you can and talk to someone or sing or count backwards from 100. BREATHE slowly and deeply!
- LISTEN. Now is the time to speak to yourself compassionately. Say “so what!” to the “what if’s.” Here are some things you can say:
“This, too, shall pass.”“I am safe and I am fine.”
“All is well.”
“I’ll handle it, always have, always will.”
One of the things to realize about an anxiety or panic attack is that they are an SOS from your inner you, i.e., a “Stressed-Out-Symptom.” So after you recover from feeling bad, remember to do a little personal inventory and ask yourself:
“How can I take better care of myself?”
“Am I getting good amounts of sleep and the right type of nutrients”
“Am I having too much caffeine or nicotine or both?”
“Am I exercising or allowing myself some down time?”
Always take some time out after you’ve had a bout with anxiety to pamper yourself. Take a warm, relaxing bath, light candles and play music. Take the day off, play with your pet, do something you find enjoyable. Go fishing, do gardening, or connect with Mother Nature. Becoming more peaceful, focused, and serene calms the pangs of apprehension. Where there is peace, there is no need for fear.
Remember, your thoughts create your life…choose them wisely!
The “Five Minute Mental Marinade” Can Change Your Life!
Worry, stress, and anxiety have no place in your life, except as brief emotional messengers beckoning you to find solutions to a difficulty or challenge. These natural emotions, however, can harm, subvert, and destroy your happiness unless you learn to manage them. In “Why Worry? Stop Coping and Start Living” I provide lots of ways to do just that… https://whyworrybook.com/buy-the-book .
But here is another and, believe me, it can change your life! It draws on resources from your mind, body, and spirit. This triple whammy creates a powerful energy to help you solve your issues and manage your emotions. Without engaging these subtle resources, much of the time, our brains react negatively primarily because we have unconsciously programmed it to do so. It’s the way we are brought up, the example we mostly see, and because we are unaware of a powerful truth….Worry is a Choice! You are not the victim, you are the chooser of your reactions and which thoughts you pay attention to.
One powerful way to begin becoming the leader of your thoughts and not the follower of your fears is to re-program that automatic negativity, which I call “terribilizing” (making something that is a problem into a catastrophe) and overwrite that response with “possibilizing” (creating a mentally positive possibility that things will be just fine or you can handle whatever you need to handle).
What’s the Secret? Here is a great way to begin reprogramming your mind to react in a way that will allow you to feel happier, more in control, and feel more grounded:
This is the FIVE MINUTE MENTAL MARINADE. Do these before you go to sleep each night:
- RESTING in bed, place both hands across your chest in your heart area (one on top of the other and resting your arms on your chest).
- CLOSE your eyes and take 5 deep, slow breaths.
- RECALL 5 positive things that happened during the day (we usually recall everything that annoyed us…don’t go there!).
- FOCUS on someone or something you really LOVE! Focus on that feeling and those thoughts for a few minutes. Enjoy this fully!
- TAKE 5 more deep, slow breaths.
- RELAX and let yourself drift off to sleep, allowing your mind to marinate all night in this positive energy. If you catch yourself reviewing problems, repeat the entire procedure.
The more consistently you do the FIVE MINUTE MENTAL MARINADE, the more amazing your results will be. You might even try this during the day, especially if things are stressing you out. Find a place to be alone and do the FIVE MINUTE MENTAL MARINADE.
Life will often challenge us. Just as we solve one problem, another may arise. Worry is something that is natural and tries to alert us to problems. We need, however, to manage this helpful emotion before it kicks into automatic terribilizing and negativity, dragging us down a negative spiral of reactions.
It’s up to you to take care of yourself, to become the leader of your thoughts. What better time than now to begin charting a new way? What better way than to infuse into your life more loving kindness, relaxation, and positive energy. Marinate and enjoy!
Did you know that no matter what your age, you are attending school year round, no breaks, no vacations? This institute of higher learning is called ‘earth school.’ In earth school, you don’t just learn lessons in your head, you also learn in your heart and spirit. In earth school, if you don’t pass the courses, you must take the classes over and over until you get the lessons. In earth school,
No spiritual student is left behind!
It seems the smart thing to do is to learn our lessons using our minds, bodies and spirits and then move on. This was one of the messages of spiritual luminary Marianne Williamson (http://www.marianne.com/ ) who spoke in St. Louis at a recent day-long seminar I attended. Here are some of my notes and personal reflections on the wisdom she shared.
Our lives represent a ‘highly individualized curriculum.” That is, our experiences are uniquely ours. Our challenges are specific opportunities for growth and self-actualization. Indeed, the universe is a self-actualization machine. That’s a scary thought. You mean I’m responsible for how I react to everything?
One of our first assignments is “relationships.” Our earliest relationships are the families in which we are born or the families taking care of us. Most of our emotional programming is automatically programmed by age 7 or 8. However, most of this programming derived from the people and circumstances around us, not due to our conscious choosing. As we experience life and subsequent relationships, much of our responses, then, arise from our earlier programming, for better or for worse.
The challenge is to learn how we have been programmed and often to unlearn or ‘rewire’ these automatic responses. Of course, if you had the perfect childhood and parents and experiences, you may pass “GO” and skip ahead. For most of us that’s not the case.
Here are 5 ways to pass the ‘relationship’ course with an A+. These are based upon what I’ve learned from Marianne as well as my own curriculum in ‘earth school.’
- During disagreements, take a 2 minute break for ‘spiritual silence.’ Surrender your thoughts to God/Spirit/Universe and say to yourself: “I am willing to see this differently.”
- Express your emotions in “I messages.” Discuss your feelings as to how something felt to you when someone did or said something, not how much of a ‘jerk’ the other person is.
- Detach from the outcome. Express yourself for the purpose of releasing your emotions productively. Don’t expect or demand the other person agree with you. The point is for you to recognize the importance of your own emotions.
- Do not ‘text back’ to fear, anger or guilt. In fact, turn off the internal phone entirely!
- Seek a win-win solution. There doesn’t have to be one person who is right and one who is wrong. Compromise and communication are powerful keys.
Of course, relationships are just one course in earth school. But what you learn will have powerful ramifications on every other aspect of your ‘highly individualized curriculum.’