To say that these are trying times would be a gross understatement, but as someone who suffers from a great deal of anxiety on a normal day, these are particularly challenging times for my mental balance. Instead of allowing myself to spiral as I am wont to do, I decided to mindfully explore some of the things that have – and can – keep me calm and centred enough to deal with the current state of affairs. Here are a few things that have worked for me. I hope that you’re able to find your calm because even though it seems impossible, you may yet find your peace during these – say it with me – trying times.
We take breathing for granted. The truth is, if we pay attention to our breathing now, we may find it to be shallow, with our shoulders possibly high and tense. During moments of anxiety, challenge yourself to tune into how you’re breathing. Then try: exhaling to empty yourself of breath. In that emptiness, take in a deep, full breath through your nose; count to three; exhale through your nose. Rest on empty for two seconds and go again. Repeat this until you feel your shoulders and neck relax. It’s a simple reminder to centre yourself. You’re better equipped to find solutions with a calm mind.
2. Reduce your time on social media
In these trying times, social media has a way of being too overstimulating – even more so than on normal days. It’s important to allow yourself some respite from all the information that’s being thrown our way. Try better curating, reducing or altogether eliminating social media time. If you choose to curate, you can achieve this by muting pages and unfollowing people or brands that cause you anxiety or tension. I’ll include What’sApp in this. Mute (or block if you’re bold enough to) those relatives that forward every single bit of “information” that comes their way, they’re no good for you right now. A cleaner feed, allows for a cleaner mind. If you choose to reduce or eliminate instead, then try any of the activities I’ll share below, as a substitute for the time you’d have spent online. Or use that time to explore new or existing interests.
3. Solve puzzles
Solving crossword and jigsaw puzzles have surprisingly become two of my most favourite pastimes over the past year. In placing most of my focus on solving these puzzles, I have found a sense of calm and peace that lingers long after it has been solved. Not to mention the great sense of pride in being able to solve any kind of puzzle. You can get cheap 100-piece puzzles from Miniso, or better still, by ordering online. As for crosswords, there are a number of great apps for this. My two favourite at the moment are: the New York Times Crossword, 2048 (for numbers) and Wordscapes.
4.Get into Mindful Colouring
Stay with me on this. When we think about colouring, we likely and automatically think about young children in school using crayons and coloured pencils to adorn their drawings of families, the triangle and square houses and more, but even more than that, we think about how we use colouring books and art activities to keep kids still and quiet. Imagine how often we, as functional adults, need stillness and quietude and then understand the magic of colouring as a grown up. So why not tap into your inner Bob Enwonwu or Njideka Akunyili Crosby?! or There are adult colouring books available on Amazon and Jumia, but you can also get apps for this very activity. My favourite at the moment is: Colour By Number for Adults
5. Exercise (and by this I mean DANCE)
Have you ever just felt a surge of internal chaos that courses through your body and causes you to be incredibly restless? Have you ever tried to figure out a way to release these feelings and worries so you can come back to your centre? Whenever I feel the threat of that overwhelming feeling stirring, I put on some upbeat music and I dance as hard as I can and like no one’s watching (because no one is). We not only need that kind of active release, we deserve it. Dance as a form of exercise is far too underrated but the greatest beauty of this is that you can do it by yourself and get great results. It releases endorphins and allows you to purge yourself of those feelings. When you come back to your centre, you find that you are calmer. It forces you to breathe deep and mindfully. But any form of exercise that gets you up and moving is key!
Reading is a fundamentally powerful thing for so many reasons, but in this case, it’s a powerful tool for focus. Taking your mind off the many issues the world – and the country – is currently experiencing and getting lost in a good book, can give your mind a break from overthinking and overanalyising. Try it. Read a book, read short stories, read funny lists. At the moment, I’m re-reading the book, On the Road by Jack Kerouac and I plan to finally read My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.
With a calmer mind, you can better understand and therefore be a better person during this crisis. Remember to thoroughly wash your hands for 25-30 seconds, remember to keep your hands away from your face, remember to cough and sneeze into your elbow and remember to self-distance, maintaining about six feet between you and others. Additionally, be responsible and avoid large gatherings at this time. If you are experiencing any symptoms, please self-quarantine and get more information from trusted sources. Numbers below.
Stay safe and stay calm. Sending love to all.