In August 2020, I tentatively embarked on my first “pandemic road-trip”.  I drove from Lakeside, Montana to Monroe, Washington – the state. The 14-hour drive (with one hotel night in between) felt like an arduous week abroad. Mindful of my aging parents whom I was eager to see, I bought my first N-95 mask, quarantined for two weeks, and since it was still a “pre-vax” world and the new Covid-19 tests were a whopping $100, I donated blood instead, got an “all clear” two weeks later, and hit the road.

Fast forward to 2022, and as my friend Janyce likes to say, and this damn-pemic is nearing its second year as the unwelcome guest who won’t leave. We are beyond tired, the novelty has worn off, and it’s time to move on. Those of you who’ve made it to 2022 emotionally unscathed are either Jesus or you’re living with the Sentinelese. (Look that up; it’s fascinating!)

Two years in, our fears and confusion remain valid. Our stress and worry is real. The rampant hatred and despair that feels like its coming from all directions – is pretty tough to ignore.  Try as we might, it can eel pretty hopeless at times.

First know this: You’re not alone

If you’re still feeling a bit emotionally or mentally sideways lately, you are not alone. A Harris Poll called the Stress in America Survey, conducted for the American Psychological Association (APA) following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, found 84% of U.S. adults believe the country has “serious societal issues that we need to address. And 67% say the number of issues America is facing is overwhelming to them.

Although it has noticeably subsided over the past year – as more reliable information, more vaccinations and more frequent human interaction becomes available to us – those old feelings of fatigue, anxiety, irritability and uncertainty still rear their ugly head and rise up in me somewhat randomly and unexpectedly to this day. But through my coaching work I’ve been lucky to continue practicing as well as sharing with clients some simple habits to return to your center; your ideal state of calm. Here they are….

Return to your center of calm: 4 steps

STOP. Any time that feeling of anxiety or irritability or fear wells up to try and steal your sanity – simply say (to yourself if in a group; out loud if alone) “STOP”. You can use any word, really. It’s the sound that momentarily halts the unwelcome feelings and thoughts.

NOW BREATHE. Try it right now for fun. Take one deep breath through your nose as you count to four. Now hold the breath for four more. Now blow the air audibly – make a swooshing sound! – through your mouth for six or eight seconds. This I call the “sigh of relief”. You’re one step closer to calm.

MOVE. Wherever you are in this moment of angst – seated or standing, in a heated conversation or argument, whether in person or over the phone – excuse yourself (i.e. “Give me a few minutes, I’ll be right back.” Or “I need to take a short time out – let me call you back later.”)…. and simply MOVE. Walk to a different room, walk right out the front door, walk down the hall or across your front yard. Move for at least five minutes; apply the breathing technique while you’re walking!

PICK ONE THING. This is another mind-shift tool to restore calm. We choose one “thing” that’s good for us. My favorite categories are food, water, and/or motion. Let’s say I choose water – we all know it contributes to feeling good and healthy. So I write down “water” and draw 3-4 lines on a notepad. Then I go fill a 20-30-oz. bottle with water and check the first line complete when I drink it. I commit to checking all 3 lines that day, which means I break from whatever I’m doing three times that day to fill my water bottle, and drink it. I’ve done at least one thing to improve my health today!

This sounds – and IS – so simple! Yet the action of writing, and the action of DOING, is one step towards feeling better – both physically and emotionally. You might choose the breathing technique as your “thing”; or reading a favorite book, or listening to your favorite music. The key is we’re doing something simple and good for ourselves that will shift our minds and reset our calm.

This entire 4-step process takes about 15 minutes in all. You might resume your previous activity, or choose to pick one more “thing” – like a bike ride for example. Again you’re moving further away from the negative feelings – the fear, the doubt, the stress – and moving both physically and figuratively in the direction of BETTER. Better health, better mindset, greater calm.

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