Wow. The Western world looks pretty different to when we last met on these pages.
I know that everyone and their mother is posting advice on how to keep calm and live radically differently. I don’t want to add to the overwhelm.
So I’ll keep this brief and highlight some brand-new research on HOW to engage with all that good advice; to wit, you can combine just two strategies to deal with everyday stress;
- Make plans
- Stay in the present moment
Thinking ahead and making plans works for a few reasons;
One, it’s part of something called “proactive coping”; actively taking steps to handle a current or future situation.
Two, research shows that having a goal, coming up with ways to reach it, and believing that we can succeed, gives us a sense of hope.
Three, the vast majority of us are living very different lives right now, and we’ve lost our routines; making plans, however small, returns some structure.
(Here is a great piece on that, from someone I admire a great deal.)
And four, our brains are designed to seek control. The illusion that we had some has now been torn asunder. Plans may be useless when they encounter the sharp edge of reality, but the process of planning is still beneficial when it comes to that psychological need for control.
Stay in the present moment
It’s that “M” word again; mindfulness. Which simply means, “pay attention”.
It’s so easy to be caught up in our heads, in depression about the past or anxiety about the future. Taking a moment to tune into our bodies/how we’re feeling means that we can respond faster to what we need – whether it’s more water or rest, or a deep breath to soothe our nervous system – BEFORE we hit burn-out.
(Want to try meditation, to increase your mindfulness? Try the FREE Insight Timer app.)
. . .
That’s it. BUT it’s important to DO BOTH.
Too much plan making/proactive coping WITHOUT mindfulness means we react terribly to stress.
I suspect it’s because our “doing” brain gets caught trying to fix the unfixable, and goes into “driven-doing” mode.
And just mindfulness? It’s better, but you may not get an awful lot done.
. . .
Okay. That’s it. Keep safe, stay loved, and remember – we’re all safe relating, not social distancing.