Life is certainly turbulent right now! The magnitude of the challenges we face, and their impact on our lives, sometimes feels like a snowball gathering pace. I have been finding myself increasingly anxious about the world we live in. Not one to normally feel this way, it was a prompt for me to delve deeper into what was going on. Why should I suddenly be affected? What tools have I got to help alleviate the anxiety?
I thought it might be useful to share the things that have so far made a difference:
1. Shoot the messenger
It didn’t take long to establish that one of the main culprits for my malaise was the media. Recently, sitting down at 10pm to watch the news or scrolling through the headlines on my phone had become part of my ‘down time’. When I wanted to take a break from the pressures of work, it was a way to switch off. In fact, what I was doing was anything but.
I was taking in information that was in the main negative, often sensationalist, sometimes misleading and usually one-sided. And it was very definitely impacting on the way I was feeling without me even noticing.
I have written before about how the brain soaks up, and is influenced by, everything around us. This in turn massively affects outcomes. Usually it happens subconsciously which makes it even more dangerous. Time to take action.
For the last week, I have stopped looking at news on my phone and when I hear the chimes of 10pm, it’s still a signal to switch off but not in the company of Huw Edwards! I already feel lighter and less burdened. Blissful ignorance perhaps but it’s certainly helped my frame of mind.
2. Control the controllables
I realised that I was allowing myself to be impacted by things that are completely out of my control. I needed to identify what I could do that might make a difference and put the rest aside. I can’t solve the climate crisis but I can walk to the shops instead of taking the car. Covid will still be at large whatever but I can change my habits to keep myself and others around me as safe as possible. The government will continue to behave abominably however incredulous and shocked I feel but I can decide not to give it ‘air time’ and, when the time comes, I can certainly vote for change.
Taking positive action feels so much more productive than pointless worrying about something that I can never completely resolve.
3. Energy drains and energy drivers
Too often we go through life putting up with whatever comes our way rather than steering the ship proactively in our chosen direction. I always find this is a good exercise to turn to when life feels a little out of synch. Make a list of things that bring you pleasure, however simple, and compare it to those that sap your energy. What can you do to redress the balance between the two? How can you boost the energy drivers and actively eliminate as many of the drains as you can?
So far, among other things, I have identified the wonderful creative energy of working on new ideas with other people, walking on the common in the autumn sunshine with Monty, my new canine friend, the wonderful familiarity of catching up with old friends, and just last night, the joy of new sheets. As you can imagine, there’s a few things ear-marked for the chop on my list!!
4. Talk to a stranger
One of my favourite new pass-times! It’s so easy to become immersed in our own world, a prisoner of our thoughts. In fact you don’t have to look very far beyond it to find all sorts of joyful opportunities and spontaneous encounters. A few minutes of unexpected conversation can make a difference to the whole day.
The lovely Indian gentleman in Sainsbury’s Earlsfield who goes out his way to chat to customers lights me up every time I go there. The Spanish lady in Gail’s who used to hide behind her coffee machine now emerges with the biggest smile on her face every time I go in. I even followed her when she went to another branch, not just because she makes great coffee, but because she seems genuinely pleased to see me as I am her.
Connecting with other people makes each day so much more special. Give it a go, it’s so much fun.
5. Guard the moment
It is sad that so much of our existence is focused on ‘what next’. Society encourages us to look forward, always going after the next thing without ever really appreciating or making the best of the here and now. We humans have made so much progress in so many areas and yet we have failed to appreciate that the way we are living our lives is pushing us further and further away from the happiness we so desperately seek.
Thanks to Lorraine who happened to bring this poem to my attention just as I was gathering my thoughts for this blog. It is ironic that it was written so long ago and yet it is more relevant than ever:
Look to this day
Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of achievement
Are but experiences of time.
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!
Kalidasa, 4-5th century
My intention is to read it at the start of every day to remind me of the possibilities ahead.
The last week has been a very helpful exercise. It has reminded me that I need to stay tuned in to how I am feeling rather than living on autopilot ,and it encouraged me to do more of what I know will make a difference. Just a few small changes have really helped to alter my perspective and started to restore my mojo. I am feeling better already.
What techniques have you found to get you back on track? I’d love to hear about them.