There are common expressions among us all that resurface from time to time when we’ve reached that max level of tolerance of what we can mentally and emotionally manage:
- “The world is so loud…”
- “The world feels so heavy…”
- “When will the arguing stop?”
- “I’m tired of it all…the same conversation, the debate, politics – everything…”
- “When will we be united and find peace again?”
- “I just want everything to go back to how it was…”
- “When will people stop freaking out, stop being so afraid or gullible – chill out!”
You may have some expressions to add to the list above, but let me share how I’ve been able to find peace throughout this pandemic. A lot of fear and anger roots from a feeling of not having control, or a sense of normalcy that feels comfortable and ‘doable’. This world pandemic is filled with so much uncertainty, it lacks a feeling of sufficient concrete evidence, and not enough reassurance of when we can live in a ‘normal’ world again.
If you were to tell me “it’s so weird, it all feels too much to handle” I would 100% agree! I’ve had to make my world smaller, and included in my smaller world is what I can do something about and what I can have control over. I can make my own ‘new normal’ that works for me.
Contention, anger, fear, it’s all a plea for help. It’s an expression from our brain that’s crying out: “I don’t know the answer! I feel like I have no control, I need something to hold on to, I need reassurance! This is painful!” When we make our world smaller and focus only on what we can do something about, we discover that control, and we find the peace that our mind is pleading for.Becky Cooper
Below is a list of 5 ways I’ve been able to cope with the new world we live in today. When I find myself feeling overwhelmed, these are my go-to action steps!
Before I share the list, it’s important to learn how to recognize severe anxiety in yourself, or your loved ones around you, so that you can help them make their world smaller and more of a ‘controlled normal’ that’s easier to manage:
This list can be found on Dr. Amen’s website:
Types of Anxiety Disorders
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Persistent and excessive worry about everyday life.
- Panic Disorder: Recurring panic attacks.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Intense fear and avoidance of social situations.
- Phobias (such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia): Irrational fear and avoidance of places or situations that may cause powerful reactions of panic.
- Separation Anxiety Disorder: In children or adults, an intense anxiety about being separated from the important people in your life.
- Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder: Excessive anxiety related to using or abusing drugs or medications or involving withdrawal from substances.
- Selective Mutism: Generally seen in children, a failure to speak in public even though they can do so at home with family.
Untreated anxiety can steal your life. It increases your risk of depression and puts you at greater risk of suicide. People with intense fears and panic are prone to substance abuse as they may use alcohol or other substances to self-medicate their feelings. And having anxiety also makes you more vulnerable to physical ailments, such as common colds and flu bugs.– Dr. Daniel Amen “Anxiety & Panic Attacks“
5 Actions Steps To Make Your World Smaller & Discover Healthy Control and Normalcy Again
1) STOP and breathe…
– Close your eyes and sit straight up – or – if you’re near a wall, lay on your back with your legs up against the wall and your hands on your belly…
– Take 5 counts in…. 5 counts breathe out. Do this at least 3 times to start to settle down your heart rate and clear your mind.
Another go to method of reducing your heart rate, when I experience panic attacks, or feeling like it’s difficult to breathe, I grab an ice pack and place it directly on my skin. The intense cold helps alert my mind to pay attention to the cold feeling and my heart almost immediately calms down.
“Use ice cubes. This technique can help you divert your attention away from a panic attack, especially if you’re in the throes of a particularly intense attack. Take out an ice cube and hold it to your hand for as long as you can (you can put the cube in a paper towel). Then, place the ice cube on your other hand. This focuses your mind on the discomfort, de-escalating your symptoms.”Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. “How to Halt and Minimize Panic Attacks“
2) Write down your thoughts in a journal or notebook, ask yourself the following questions:
- What in my life do I have control over?
- What in my life do I find most important to me? What is my passion?
- What 3 things can I do today that will help me feel like I’m moving forward and making progress?
- What small steps can I take today that will help me feel successful?
- What would I like to do today to help me feel rested and at peace – how can I give myself self-care today?
Include in your journal SIMPLE action steps, goals, that are so easy that you can almost guarantee a success. You NEED wins! Help yourself succeed by making your daily goals easy tasks.
Journaling helps control your symptoms and improve your mood by:University of Rochester Medical Center ‘ Journaling for Mental Health‘
– Helping you prioritize problems, fears, and concerns.
– Tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them.
– Providing an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors.
3) Identify your life goals and stay focused…
Standard Goal Setting Approach:
- Identify your goal.
- Choose a starting point.
- Identify the steps required to achieve the goal.
- Take that first step and get started.
It’s important to keep it realistic – and specific! Instead of having a goal of “losing 10 lbs”, write out your goal like this: “I am going to lose 10 lbs by converting to a reduced sugar diet, exercising once a day for 20min, and building a healthier sleep pattern”. The hardest part is choosing what goals you feel you can realistically make, write down the action steps, and then get started. I’ve read a few books that really have changed my life and how I can appropriately set life goals and have healthy, and loving, expectations of myself:
- One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer Ph.D.
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
- You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
Setting goals helps trigger new behaviors, helps guide your focus and helps you sustain that momentum in life.Leslie Riopel, Professor of Psychology – “The Importance, Benefits, and Value of Goal Setting”
Goals also help align your focus and promote a sense of self-mastery. In the end, you can’t manage what you don’t measure and you can’t improve upon something that you don’t properly manage.
Another helpful guide when writing out your goals is to keep in mind:
- SPECIFIC – What do I want to accomplish?
- MEASURABLE – How will I know when it is accomplished?
- ACHIEVABLE – How can the goal be accomplished?
- RELEVANT – Does this seem worthwhile?
- TIME BOUND – When can I accomplish this goal?
4) Carve out time in every day to do something of your passion!
Don’t make this entire life all about what you have to do or need to do. Make sure every day includes an activity, hobby, or passion of yours – something that truly ‘lights you up’ and makes you feel happy.
Do you love to read?
Are you an artist?
Do you love to write?
Do you love to cook?
Do you love to play games?
Do you love nature?
When you schedule your day, make sure one of the first things you list is related to something of your passion. Reserve for yourself some ‘me time’ in each day.
That reminds me of a quote that I read recently that really impacted how I view ‘being busy’:
“If you don’t have time to pray and read the scriptures, you are busier than God ever intended you to be.”Matthew Kelly
Sometimes the perfectionist in us feels like if we’re not busy doing something for others, or busy doing something ‘productive’, focusing on ourselves would mean we’re just being lazy. That’s not true. The world needs you at your best, and sometimes you need to focus on what brings you peace, clarity, and rejuvenate your spirits!
5) Build a morning routine that works for you…
Last year in 2019 my body started to reject the medication I was taking for my mental health condition – Bipolar 1 disorder. These two medicines were working great for me for 5 years, but I started to develop some allergic reactions. It’s rare, not common, but for some people their body builds an intolerance to medication. So I had to research and find a working solution for me to manage all the big swings of emotions, the ups and downs, and thankfully I still had (and still do today) had one part of the half of the full solution that everyone who has a mental health condition should have as their ‘bread and butter’ approach to better health: Talk Therapy + Medication.
One consistent, and proven reliable, solution I have found to be a solid help for me is a morning routine. I wrote an article that goes over everything that I pieced together and how it has physically and mentally helped me heal. Every day, no matter where I am or how busy my schedule is, just as I diligently took my medication, I diligently do my morning routine. Here is my article on my morning routine that I would encourage you to scan through and consider how your own morning routine could help you through this pandemic: How to Get Stuff Done.
A big help for me discovering what my morning routine would look like was inspired by reading these two books:
- How to Be an Imperfectionist: The New Way to Self-Acceptance, Fearless Living, and Freedom from Perfectionism by Stephen Guise
- The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life by Hal Elrod
I hope that what I’ve shared in this article helps give you an idea of how you can find a sense of control and reassurance in your life, while living in this new world of ours that can be overwhelming at times, mentally and emotionally. When we feel like we have control, when we feel like we can still move forward – and we’re not caged or trapped like we feel we are sometimes, having a daily routine and go-to action steps helps bring a much needed feeling of confidence, empowerment, and peace. Those 5 action steps I listed above have been my life preserver during this crazy storm. I’m confident that if you feel you can implement any of those steps into your life, you’ll find they can be beneficial for you as well. 💚
Please feel free to share this article with your friends and family if you feel they might find it helpful as well. 🙂