Peace of Mind: Learning to Relax Your Mind
Welcome to 2021, everybody! And while we still may be dealing with a global pandemic, we’re getting a little closer to getting back to those days before we were stuck at home, wearing masks everytime we went out, and not being able to hang out with people like normal.
But while we’re still waiting for everyone to get their covid vaccine shot, there is another crisis happening around the world that is probably just as serious as the virus. It’s a silent pandemic that many people have been suffering with in silence and one that we fail to admit we have to ourselves. It’s a mental health crisis and far too many people have already lost the battle.
Stop and think for a minute. Think of all the millions of people in your neighborhood, city, state, and country who are dealing with the mental stress created by the virus. Millions of people are either unemployed or under-employed. Some have watched their businesses crumble from now fault of their own. They’re unable to pay bills, maybe for the first time in their lives. They’ve had to become teachers to their kids learning from home while trying to manage a family and life in general. Combine all of that with the stress of practicing social distancing and making sure you’re putting yourself at risk of the virus whenever you step outside, it’s easy to see why there’s as much a global mental health crisis as there is a pandemic.
There are some easy techniques to try for yourself to help you center yourself and find some mental peace and clarity for a while. Anyone who works in a high stress environment can tell you that no one is at their best when they’re stressed out and tired. Relaxing and dealing with stress will help keep you at the top of your game.
However, that doesn’t mean that everything discussed in his blog is the be-all end-all of suggestions. There is no substitute for professional help from a trained expert, especially if you’re dealing with suicidal thoughts. Check the end of this blog for important resources where you can find help.
Tips to Relax Your Mind
Remember: Worrying Doesn’t Solve Problems - One of the many words I would use to describe myself is worrywart. I used to worry over big and little things until they would eventually consume me to the point of making me depressed or anxious. But as I learned to deal with my stress, I realized worrying never solved any of my problems.
Yes, everyone has problems even when there isn’t a global pandemic. But stressing about them at all hours of the day never made them go away. Instead, teach yourself to accept that there are problems you need to solve and your mental time is better spent trying to solve them, not worry about them.
Give Yourself Breaks During the Day - You’re not a machine and no one is expecting you to act one. There’s being productive and then there’s working yourself to death. Remember to allot yourself some time to take a breath and recharge your batteries. Sit down in silence, have an iced tea or hot chocolate and take a few minutes to breathe deeply and have a moment of peace. Once you feel good, get back to your day.
Battle Loneliness as Best You Can - “Joey, that’s easier said than done!” Yes, I know. But take it from someone who has made a living working from home: you never realize how lonely you are until you need someone.
There are ways to combat loneliness such as calling up a friend, scheduling a Zoom chat with a group, writing letters, even looking for a pen pal. While social media has had some negative press lately, it still is the best way to keep in touch with friends and family outside of traditional forms of communication. Of course, you can always take a walk and say hello to your neighbors from a safe distance. Make taking a walk part of taking a break during the day and use it find some form of social interaction.
Productive Hobbies - When it comes to using your free time wisely, I’m all about finding things to be productive. Productivity doesn’t mean sitting in front of the TV all day binge watching Netflix or playing video games. I mean actually doing some self-improvement.
If you have extra time on your hands, find hobbies that either teach you something new, improve your skills, or make you more marketable if you’re in between jobs. For example, if you’ve always wanted to write a book, use your free time to tell the story you’ve always wanted to tell. If your computer skills aren’t all that great, taking a class or asking one of your kids to show you the basics and more is a great way to learn valuable office skills. And it’s always good to spend time updating your resume even if you have a job.
The point isn’t to just be busy. The point is to do something useful for you or for your family. Working on yourself is the best possible use of your time and will help you build confidence.
Help Others Safely When You Can - In many larger cities, the need for volunteers is high. Whether it’s donating blood or helping with a food drive, giving up your time to help others will feel great and you’ll be helping your community. Many organizations have strong procedures in place to make sure everyone stays safe while volunteering, so the risk is minimized. Still, always take precautions. But getting out and helping is a great opportunity to interact with people and fight off the loneliness you might be feeling. It’s also a great opportunity to meet new people, make connections and build your social circle. By simply taking the time to help others, you may ultimately be helping yourself too.
A Good Book Can be a Good Friend - According to a 2019 CNBC article, nearly a quarter of all Americans hadn’t read a book in the past year. Books have a great way of slowing life down and helping people to relax for a little while. It’s also why many people prefer to read at bedtime to relax.
Finding a good book can help pull your mind away from the stresses of life for a little while and help you get lost in a great story. Reading itself helps fight off depression, reduces stress, improves your brain connectivity, and prevents cognitive age decline among a host of other benefits.
The added benefits? Books don’t need wifi, charging, and there are no commercials.
If You Need to Worry, Give it a Time Limit - Worrying comes natural to humans as it’s the way we protect ourselves. With so much to worry about these days, it’s understandable if training yourself to not worry is just not an option. But if you must worry about the things going on around you, make sure it’s not an all day affair.
Dedicate a specific time of the day and an amount of time when you allow yourself to worry about things.Once that time is up, get back to doing the things to relax your mind or help you to be productive. Remember that while some worrying is good, excessive worrying never fixed problems. Therefore, if worrying about a problem will help you be productive enough to do something about it, take advantage of that productivity. If you’re just worrying for the sake of worrying, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Find the Words and Write Them Down - Next to reading, writing can be just as helpful in gathering your thoughts and relaxing your mind. I’ve known many people who were better at writing down what they were feeling and experiencing than they were at saying it outloud.
It doesn’t matter whether you write on some loose leaf paper, a notebook, or in a proper journal, the point is simply to take a few minutes at the end of each day to describe how you’re feeling. Additionally, part of your writing should include both things worrying you, positive moments in the day, or things you’re grateful for.
Laughing Really is the Best Medicine - Ask yourself: When was the last time you had a good laugh? If you can’t remember, it has probably been too long. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter is a great way to relieve stress and has a host of other benefits such as decreasing tension, stimulating your organs, lowers blood pressure, increases endorphins, burns calories, and simply helps you feel great.
Funny stories from friends, stand up comedy specials, humorous books, or even funny viral videos are great sources to get a good belly laugh. Laughing often can even help you have a better outlook on things and help you feel better about yourself. Cutting through the stress with a little laughter may help you deal with stresses and pressures a lot better.
Always Remember to Breathe - It might seem strange, but breathing exercises can have a powerful relaxing effect on the body. The simple act of breathing deeply and correctly can reduce stress and lower your blood pressure. Additionally, learning breathing techniques is fairly simple and can be used anytime you need to calm yourself down.
There are several techniques to learn such as belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, deep breathing, and many more that can be found online.
As mentioned previously, not all of these suggestions will work for everyone and they should all be taken as simple suggestions. They are no substitute for actual medical advice from trained professionals. As part of offering support to residents, many cities across the country are offering mental health support for people who need to speak with a professional. If you or anyone in your family is experiencing any mental health issues and needs help, please reach out to your city for help.
Mental Health and Coping during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Coping with Stress
Coping with Depression
Find Support Groups