Finding Balance in Challenging Times
These here have been some challenging times. As a country and a planet, we’ve been battered by a horde of natural – and unnatural – disasters. And it’s taking a toll. Even when you’re not directly impacted, it hits your nervous system hard. I’ve noticed that almost everyone I talk to is experiencing heightened anxiety… like we’re bracing for the next disaster.
It’s harder to focus, to feel joy, to be productive. People are on edge, angrier, more afraid. At times like these, it’s even more critical to double down on the practices that nourish our systems.
Here are a few reminders for getting yourself back to a good baseline to engage with the world – in your business, family, and community. I recommend you pick ONE that you commit to for the next week or two – choose the practice that will give you the most “bang for your buck”.
1. Sleep. More!
Easier said than done for most of us these days, I know. But it makes so much difference. To everything! The hours we sleep before midnight have been found to be more rejuvenating than those after. Try to get to sleep by 10:30pm.
Key to success: That doesn’t mean you start getting ready for bed at 10:28!! Begin your bedtime wind-down routine 30 – 60 mins before… If that means you have to leave the dishes in the sink overnight or not check email/Facebook one more time, so be it! And switch off all your electronics at least an hour before to let your brain wind down…
2. Start your day with 5 mins of meditation/conscious breathing.
When I do this consistently, it makes a huge difference to the quality of my day. I’m less quick to react when someone cuts me off on the road, I’m calmer, more patient, more focused, and my kids seem sweeter somehow. 😉 There are some great apps out there now that make it ridiculously easy. Check out Headspace and Calm as a starting point. I also love this 40 day online meditation course led by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach. Simple and powerful.
3. Walk outside!
This is my go-to reboot practice. The combination of exercise, physical movement, getting the blood flowing, as well as being in the trees and fresh air does my whole system right. I have my best ideas, and feel reset and better equipped to meet my day. Even if it’s a brisk walk round the block, smiling at a few neighbors and stopping to pet a dog – you’ll notice an increase in calm and happy feelings.
4. Laugh with a friend.
When we’re feeling anxious, stressed or depressed, we can tend to isolate. You know, that feeling of wanting to pull the covers over your head and hide for a while? But studies have shown that positive feelings are increased by being around (the right) other people. Recognizing that others are also feeling this way eases the stress. Laughter and connection increase oxytocin – the good feeling chemical.
5. Take a media break.
While it’s important to stay informed, the constant barrage of bad news and blow by blow analysis of local/global disasters serves to keep us more in a state of fight or flight (or freeze). Take news and other notifications off your phone, and dial back on social media consumption if you’re feeling more on edge these days. (Replace it with some good stand up comedy to give yourself a boost!).
6. Count your blessings.
This may be a cliche – but it’s an incredibly potent way to reset your mood and calm your system. You can make it a daily writing practice (morning or evening). Or just stop, drop and make a mental inventory of things and people you’re grateful for as an on-the-spot antidote for the blues. Neuroscience is showing us how a regular gratitude practice rewires your brain towards more positivity overall. For an extra boost, combine your gratitude practice with a walk in nature and you’ll be set!
Now, your turn…
What’s one small thing you can do to take care of yourself this week?
What will that give you?
How might that affect your relationships, energy levels, and aliveness?
And what’s it costing you not to?
One last gentle reminder, from a recovering professional “self critic”: whatever you choose, please don’t add any layers of guilt, shame, or “shoulds”. Just ask yourself the question…
“What would most nourish my body, mind or soul right now?”