Find ways to take a break from overwhelming situations.
I found myself sighing heavily the other day, feeling bogged down and overwhelmed. So I took a quick inventory of the list including finances, health, relationship, family, friendships, and spiritual life. While there are things that could improve in every category, nothing was actually wrong in my own life. Everywhere I looked around me, however, was a mess. Friends and family were facing huge challenges and beyond my immediate circles, it seemed like the whole world was in the midst of an apocalypse. Between repeated hurricanes, floods, fires, the attack on Las Vegas, the conspiracy theories, the fake news and the daily drama and disappointment dished out by our politicians, it is no wonder I found myself sighing heavily. I was suffering burnout from what I have since coined, “OPD —Other People’s Drama.”
Since we weren’t designed to sustain such continuous levels of intensity and since the world doesn’t seem to be slowing down the blows, we all need to take some time out to restore our own state of personal balance. Here are some reminders that will help you (and me) restore our internal wellness.
Take a news and social media timeout. While I am a great advocate of being politically aware and involved, it is also important to take a break from the news. Our government has turned into a really bad reality TV show and it feeds our drama addictions. Just give yourself a peaceful day (or longer!) off where the only challenges you face are actually your own. This doesn’t mean you have to become politically passive or uncaring. Just give your system a little rest.
Turn off the TV if just for an evening. Aside from the news, a tremendous amount of our entertainment is drama-based and emotionally draining. Death, sabotage, conspiracy, infidelity, superficiality, jealousy are the ingredients of most of our TV shows. If the you are what you eat theory is true, gobbling up heavy doses of these issues on a daily basis can’t be good for your health, mental or otherwise.
Watch or read inspiring content. Whether it is spiritual in nature, a great Ted-talk, or personal growth-related articles, steep yourself in uplifting input that facilitates ah-ha moments, insight, and enthusiasm. Even just a few minutes a day devoted to uplifting content can counteract a lot of negative input.
Exercise. Movement kicks endorphins into action and releases stress.
Nature. We are all suffering from nature deficit disorder. When the going gets tough, go outside. Gaze at the stars, the moon, the ocean, a flower; breathe in the natural beauty that surrounds us. The healing and restorative effects of nature are tangible.
Recreation. Do something simply for fun. Recreation recreates balance, joy and harmony.
Steep in the present moment. When we attempt to manage too much—the past, the present and the future—we get totally overwhelmed. Depression is when we are stuck in the past. Anxiety comes when we are worrying about the future. The present moment is the only thing we have any control over. As you feel the anxiety, depression or overwhelm sneaking up on you, take a deep, calming breath, realign with the present moment and move forward into the next moment. This is a practice that can be mastered every moment of the day.
Be creative. Creative expression through journaling, art, music, dance, gardening, decorating, fashion—whatever your method—will restore joy and strength to your spirit.
Meditate. This is the ultimate “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free” when we give ourselves a moment or an hour to surrender to the blissful, peaceful state that lies in the center of our chaos. Swami Prabhavananda said to imagine yourself as busy, bustling city and within that city is small temple full of peace and serenity. The temple is open and available to you to enter anytime you choose. Meditation is the door.
Pray. In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, I saw a lot of “thoughts and prayers are not enough” postings. While I fully agree we need to take action, in some cases thoughts and prayers are exactly what is needed—not necessarily instead of other actions, but certainly simultaneously. Return to the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” When we cannot change things, prayers of acceptance, strength, perseverance and growth are exactly what is appropriate. When we can change things, prayers of wisdom, guidance, fortitude, intuition are useful. Often, prayer is as important for the prayer as the prayed for…maybe more so.
Rather than simply sighing heavily in the midst of turmoil, I invite you to breathe deeply and revel in a drama-free zone as often as you possibly can. Every step you take will serve your own peace of mind and your relationships.