With all that's happening out there, I'm slightly amazed by the sense of calm that has descended over me in the last few weeks. I'm usually riding waves of anxiety and managing it with any number of strategies that I've picked up along the way. It was once true that I could meet any calamity head-on but might get totally derailed by a broken shoelace. So maybe it is business as usual for me. In times like these though, I do remember that serenity is not the absence of the storm but rather the calm amidst it.
With that being said I thought I would share the strategies that I practice with some degree of regularity that have had the cumulative effect of putting me on a firmer footing and the ability to find the eye of the storm and sit down and marvel at the wind.
Positive Affirmations: this one is going to be uncomfortable but the cognitive practice of saying good things to myself while looking into my own eyes in the mirror was astounding when I first began it 16 years ago. Part of my therapy at the time was to rebuild a relationship with myself through this mechanism and learn to calm myself down. The words started to hit once I got into a rhythm. I said "I love myself", "I will take care of myself", "I am good enough", "I am ok", "This too shall pass", "I am letting go" over and over and over again. The daily practice I suppose is a form of meditation and these phrases became a mantra that I could play within my mind in any given moment.
Guided Meditation: I didn't find this one until much later when I showed up on the Faherty's (my good buddy's Alex and Mike Faherty have a brand that I am quite fond of) front stoop years ago and basically never left. Kerry, Alex's wife and one of the tri founders, gave me the gift of her guided meditations and it changed my life. I have been in crisis at times and simply found a quiet place, put in my headphones and listened to her guiding me through something as simple as breathing or something more complex like letting go. The science behind meditation is compelling and helps create better elasticity in your prefrontal cortex. The more pliable brain is maybe the more serene brain.
Daily Reading: find a spiritual text, motivational quote, poem, daily affirmation site, daily prayer site or daily meditation. Again when I am in a daily practice of reading something that grounds me and also uplifts me at the same time I know I'm in a good place. Brain food and soul food alike are incredibly nourishing. Upon awakening, if I roll out of bed and grab a reading to set my intention for the day I am less reactive. At times I set the intention to read a poem every day. Other times I will read Lao Tzu or daily affirmations. I have found that reading of your daily horoscope is NOT great for OCD but that's just me.
Exercise: When I approached my psychiatrist about 7 or so years ago with the idea that I would be better off NOT medicated she had very stringent stipulations before acquiescing to the request. Exercise was a focal point of our discussions. I quickly learned that exercise reduced anxiety for me. I always loved to run (absolutely loathe lifting weights and that doesn't do anything for me or my anxiety other than ramp it up) so that's what I do. When I'm injured or not in amazing shape I begrudgingly walk. But walking has been an incredible lifeline during the last few weeks. I get on conference calls or make the rounds with my team while walking and have been out there for 2-3 hours a day logging up to 15 miles. Find what works for you though and do that. I'm not sure everyone can listen to the Grateful Dead for 3 hours a day while walking but luckily I can and I recommend it.
Check-In Before You Check Out: telling on myself when I'm going down is something that has quite literally saved my life. When the edges of my mind darken and I feel the magnetic pull of the abyss it has been critical to connect. Call, text, email... I do something to let people know where I'm headed mentally. To self-arrest along the descent isn't always possible but plenty of friends, family, and doctors have been able to extricate me from it when I raise my hand.
We Over Me: Getting out of myself is another strategy for not letting the shit pile up. If I'm focused on how someone else is doing I get relief, even if just for a moment, from the internal voices and feelings that might be trying to take me down. The more outreach I do and the more I'm thinking of someone else the better off I find myself.
Make The World Small: I stopped reading the news recently, I deleted Instagram a bit ago as well and shrunk my world down to the present moment. I take each task of my day, each meeting, each phone call, each meal...each moment at a time. One second, one minute, one hour and one day. That is all I have and its all anyone has. The present moment and what's right in front of me is my only concern. Not what's happening out there.
I'm not a health care professional... so in addition to whatever I've suggested above work with whoever is supporting you on a plan. If you don't have someone to work with and you're struggling, call a hotline, google a doctor or ask a friend or family member to help you. I am grateful to have been taught every aforementioned strategy by someone else. It was given freely to me (I rather paid a lot of money for some of it actually haha) but nevertheless I give it freely to you. Be well and good luck exploring the infinite abyss.