Calm Your Mind
It is easy to become overwhelmed today. With all our technology, life should be easier, but instead, the opposite seems to be true. There is so much to track on social media, apps to keep our lives organized, zoom calls to join. It never ends.
When I experience this turmoil, I know I must stop and take a moment to calm my mind.
Here are some ideas that have helped me. What works one day, may not be the solution the next time so try different approaches until you are able to feel a sense of calm.
During the most difficult time of my life, I found myself unable to breathe. My thoughts were swirling around my head, and I couldn’t think clearly. I was having an anxiety attack. So, I sat down, closed my eyes, and took long, deep breathes. In a matter of minutes, I was calm.
Focusing on your breath helps to clear your mind because breathing is what is happening in the present. It is hard to think about the past or future when you are counting your breaths. This process of counting (inhale, 1, exhale, 2, inhale, 3 …) grounds you to the present.
Meditation has become one of life’s simple pleasures for me. I give myself permission to sit comfortably, close my eyes, and let my thoughts go. It is a vacation for my mind. This small amount of time, usually 5-20 minutes in the morning, profoundly affects my day.
Meditation builds on breathing. It also opens up the opportunity to visualize. One exercise that is helpful is to imagine a place that makes you feel safe, secure and at peace. My “happy place” is a vision of me sitting on a cloud facing the sun. I feel warm and calm. When I close my eyes and picture this place in my mind, I immediately relax.
I resisted journaling because of my fear of being vulnerable. It is scary for me to write down my deepest thoughts and feelings. Then I took a journaling class. It forced me to write in my journal every day. After a few weeks, the power of journaling was evident. I could see my thoughts on paper, and it was life changing.
Writing things down helped me to gain a new perspective. An issue that felt enormous in my head, looked really minor on paper, almost relieving. When I feel turmoil and overwhelm, I start by getting my journaling and emptying my head. Sometimes I write about what is troubling me and sometimes I make a task list. Either way, it helps me to clear my head and look at my life from a new point of view.
Coloring has always been relaxing for me. Coloring keeps your mind and hands focused similarly to the way that counting your breaths keeps your mind in the present. This is a great alternative to journaling, if writing feels difficult. Maybe draw or doodle about what is overwhelming you. You can also print coloring pages. Let your creativity flow.
Allowing yourself the freedom to use color on a page helps to relax your thoughts. The creative side of our brain needs to play once in a while, and you will be amazed at how good you will feel after coloring.
Go outside, feel the sun, and walk. Take a five-minute walk if that is all the time you have, but longer will be even better. Regular walks give you a continuous dose of exercise and clearing your head. You can walk alone or with a friend. You can walk fast or slow, uphill or downhill. Just walk.
There is also a way to walk with more purpose. It is almost a meditative experience. Just begin by walking and taking in your surroundings. Notice your five senses. What do you see, hear, or smell? Do you hear your feet crunching on the ground? Do you see anything interesting? Do you smell flowers? By focusing on your senses, you are able to relax your mind from whatever is troubling you. Transition to your breathing and count your breaths. There is no right or wrong way to do these exercises so do what feels natural to you.
Put your hand in front of yourself as if to say, “Stop!” Notice your hand. Trace your hand on a piece of paper and on each finger write one of the five senses: see, hear, taste, smell and touch. Next to each sense, write down something that brings you calm. For example, “see” could be a burning candle, “hear” could be an ocean wave, “smell” could be a certain flower, etc. Memorize your five calming items. The next time you feel overwhelmed, put your hand out and say, “Stop!” Close your eyes and go through your calming list for each sense.
Grounding exercises such as this one help to pull us out of a state of stress, worry, or anxiety. They “ground” us to the present. By being present in the present, we can better handle the overwhelm and stay in a place of calm.
We all get overwhelmed. It is normal to feel life’s pressures. Do not feel like you are alone or weak if you experience anxiety. When I feel as though my mind is troubled, I do all these exercises too! Actually, I do most of them on a daily basis as a preventative measure to keep me grounded and calm. I hope you will find that they work for you too!
The image was taken by Ken Cheung and can be found on Unsplash.com here: