In my previous posts I spoke about the importance of feeling the feels – all of them – when they come to the surface, facing the dragons, and how strength can be found – even on the bad days. Today I’d like to place a spotlight on finding peace in the chaos.
I’m writing this post as a severe thunderstorm warning has been issued, with a tornado warning further south of us. This is during a time when a worldwide pandemic is happening, issuing everyone to ‘shelter in place’, stay at home to save lives. How do we find peace while all of this is happening?
Last night I spoke to my mom about all the emotions that have been swirling around in our homes; realizing it’s only been a month since we’ve been in quarantine (even though it feels like it’s been a lot longer). The relief came after realizing it’s only been a month, feeling like I should have been able to get a lot more done than I have been, with having to stay at home with less responsibility of having to be out of the house. We gave each other some much needed reassurance realizing that for the first two weeks we were all sitting in front of the news in shock, trying to comprehend what was happening in our world, and then two more weeks adjusting to our new reality. How can someone expect to get a lot done, and be productive, when we were just blindsided with news of our country in lockdown due to a pandemic? The comment of “the world can’t just stop” just all but came true. That’s traumatic news that the mind needs time to process.
I feel like we’re all finally accepting the circumstances we’re in and building a new sense of normalcy and home routines. With that in mind, I’d like to give 5 suggestions on how we can find peace in our new day to day lives at home:
When I get feeling anxious there are a few artists I immediately turn to to calm my mind and body. I’ll list their names and a sample song below, as well as a link to their Facebook Page & Amazon pages in case you’d like to follow them and purchase their music (would definitely help support them during this time of their life):
Instrumental Only: really helps when trying to focus while working, or needing to relax in an effort to meditate or fall asleep.
I really enjoy Lifescapes brand because they provide a wide variety of instrumental music from classical, to celtic, nature sounds, yoga, and several other types of music.
Mellow Voices: When you want the chill music but great lyrics to sing along to or find relatable messages, these are a few of my favorite bands. I like most genres of music, but I favor the Americana, Indie, and Folk a little more. 🙂
The Wailin’ Jennys
Alex G / Alex Blue
The Paper Kites
It’s tempting not to add more artists, but I’ll end there. What is your go-to music to chill and relax?
PyschCentral published an article in 2018 ‘The Power of Music to Reduce Stress‘, in it Jane Collingwood states:
“Listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies, especially slow, quiet classical music. This type of music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones. Music, in short, can act as a powerful stress management tool in our lives.
As music can absorb our attention, it acts as a distraction at the same time it helps to explore emotions. This means it can be a great aid to meditation, helping to prevent the mind wandering.”
I would recommend having some music playing in the house as often as possible to provide an ambience of peace and relaxation. Set a playlist on repeat, with a variety of relaxing tunes. Host a dance party for your kids to dance out their feelings (beneficial for you too).
You might also need a relaxing bubble bath while listening to music, daily. My therapist and I have established a routine for me when I get extra emotional – I take a shower or bath to symbolically ‘wash off’ the feelings, and it works every time. I cleanse my mind as I cleanse my body of all the build-up of emotions I’ve been carrying, but now they fall off of me into the ground and I am free of them. I do this as often as I need to, and it’s a great way to cleanse my mind and release the difficult emotions.
2) Creative Hobbies
“Doing a puzzle reinforces connections between brain cells, improves mental speed and is an especially effective way to improve short-term memory.”“7 surprising benefits of doing jigsaw puzzles“
“With painting by numbers kits, it is possible to let emotions flow and experience happiness, love, empathy and inner peace.”“Benefits of Paint by Numbers“
“…diamond painting as a hobby has many mental, emotional and intellectual health benefits. Diamond painting is a stress free activity that relaxes the amygdala — the fear center of the brain — and allows your mind to get the rest it needs.”“5 Reasons Why Diamond Painting Is Great For Your Health“
“Writing is a creative way to improve mental health. … Having up to 20 quiet minutes every day for mindful writing will help ease your anxiety, calm down your thoughts and emotions, and bring peace to your mind.”“How Writing Can Improve Your Mental Health“
“Art therapy can be used as a complement to traditional mental health treatment. The aim is to manage behaviors, process feelings, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase self-esteem. Self-discovery: Creating art can help you acknowledge and recognize feelings that have been lurking in your subconscious.”“Creativity and Recovery: The Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy“
“Adult coloring books can relieve stress similarly to the way that meditation can reduce stress levels. Being present is important as it allows the mind to forget future and past stressors, and since coloring is an in-the-moment activity, it helps with being present which can have mental health benefits for us.”“The Psychological Benefits To Adult Coloring“
There are so many ways to educate your mind and body that doesn’t involve high tuition to a University. You can learn almost anything, for free, on YouTube. By choosing to learn online, you can move at your own pace and set your own schedule. There are inexpensive courses you can take online on almost any subject matter, where you can be certified in a new profession in less than a year. Here are some links to sources of eLearning at a low cost or free:
A 2019 Psychology Today article by Dr. Rob Whitley, Ph.d, “Can Reading Books Improve Your Mental Health” says:
“A relatively unknown mental health intervention is “bibliotherapy” or “reading therapy.” This mainly refers to structured book-reading programs run by clinics, libraries, or schools aimed at promoting recovery in people with mental health difficulties…
Several studies have examined whether bibliotherapy can facilitate recovery from mental illness. One classic study found a decrease in depressive symptoms after a program of bibliotherapy, a finding repeated in more recent meta-analyses and systematic reviews…
…books are an invaluable but underutilized resource that can increase empathy, enhance recovery and inspire those with mental health difficulties. As such, reading should be encouraged for everybody, but particularly those with mental illness—whether through formal bibliotherapy groups or individual prompting from family, friends or clinicians.”
” …in a 2015 study, researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. They found that those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination — defined as repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions.“Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature” Harvard Health Publishing 2018
“When people are depressed or under high levels of stress, this part of the brain malfunctions, and people experience a continuous loop of negative thoughts,” says Dr. Strauss.
Digging a bit deeper, it appears that interacting with natural spaces offers other therapeutic benefits. For instance, calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response.
The visual aspects of nature can also have a soothing effect, according to Dr. Strauss. “Having something pleasant to focus on like trees and greenery helps distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry.”
Going for a walk has been my go-to for when I get really upset, it helps me to calm down and get back to level ground. Another connection to nature I have is gardening. It has been a great source of meditation for me and rewarding hobby.
Dr. Seth J. Gillihan said in a Psychology Today article about gardening:
“Gardening provides a connection not just to other people but to our world. Many people feel that connection in a visceral way when they eat food they’ve just harvested. “We all have an innate connection to the earth,” said Lamp’l, “and that connection manifests itself when we consume what came from the ground—which is where we came from and where we all end up.”
Having a garden really means having a relationship with the plot of ground you’re tending. Since I’ve gotten more into gardening I’ve had to be much more aware of the elements: the first and last frosts of the season, how much rain we’ve had, the temperature, where sunlight falls throughout the day. Gardening also connects us intimately with the cycle of the seasons.
And as Lamp’l described, it’s easy to feel “like a parent” to one’s growing plants. “You nurture the seedlings and do everything you can for them,” he said, “and then it’s like you’re putting your babies in the soil”—much as we might nurture a young child who eventually heads out to meet the world. “They don’t call it a ‘nursery’ for nothing!” Lamp’l continued. “I put a lot of care and emotion into the garden.” “
You can learn more about the health benefits of nature in this NAMI article here: “Mental Health Benefits of Nature“.
It’s more important than ever that we believe that being tired does not mean that you’re lazy. A desire to sleep, or sleeping too often does not mean that you’re not being productive. When your brain and body has been traumatized, it’s in need of repair, which may result in taking an extra nap in the day, or sleeping in a little longer.
“I view the process as similar to repairing a bridge, which is the brain in this scenario. To repair a bridge, you need to stop traffic or allow only essential traffic to go by, so the repair work can take place, so, too with the brain. And periodically you need to allow traffic to continue. This would be when dreams would occur. Like the bridge, the brain can be repaired when the traffic has stopped. You need to dream to allow the traffic to flow, yet shut down or slow down the traffic to repair the brain. This is true regardless of a brain injury. Since your brain has been injured, it is imperative that you get restorative sleep.“Restorative Sleep is Vital to Brain Health” – Dr. Diane Roberts Stoler
“…During sleep, the brain is able to repair and grow cells, tissue, and nerves that regenerate and boost the hormone and immune system. Along with good nutrition and stress reduction, restorative sleep is vital for your optimal physical, mental, and emotional health.
This pandemic has been a “too much too fast” trauma experience for our minds, so it’s imperative that we be gentle and patient with ourselves when we feel overwhelmed and tired. Perhaps that fatigue you’re feeling is your body’s way of saying “I am in need of repair!”. Learn to listen to your body. Give yourself permission to rest.
I hope that what I’ve shared above can be helpful as you look for ways in building your ‘new normal’ in your homes. If you have any additional ideas to share, please feel free to add in a comment below ways in which you’ve found peace during the chaos, and ways in which you have felt safe in your home.