Ways to De-Stress for the New Year and Beyond
It is now five years later, since this hub was originally published. We have, as a nation, endured multiple shootings, both local and national, since that time. We have endured terrorist attacks, crazy crazy weather, and crazy crazy politics in Washington, D.C. (otherwise known in some circles as "the swamp"). It seems we're going backwards: mass murders, racial divides, hatred, bigotry, and endless fear, anxiety and paranoia. It's time to stop. It's time to breathe. It's time to get quiet, stop listening to the hatred, get realigned with our highest principals and purpose. One breath at a time, one moment at a time, one day at a time. One lifetime. My Christmas and November/ December 2017 holidays wish for you: Peace.
Renew and Refresh in a World Gone Mad
We live in a world gone mad. Unless you live in a tiny village somewhere without electricity, or cell phones, you likely have been following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Or the story of the young woman raped and ultimately murdered, in New Delhi, India. Or you've lived through something yourself; perhaps a relative has died, possibly violently, possibly recently.
I myself live in a large, gritty city. It is fast-paced. There is much contrast between beauty and harrowing ugliness. It can be disheartening; it can be disturbing. It is noisy all the time – whether it’s the hip-hop beats driving by in jacked up cars, or the birds chattering in summer (such busybodies) or the neighbors with their personal brands of noise disturbances (a lot of neighbors in a big city equals a lot of noise).
The Friday after the Sandy Hook murders took place, there was a triple shooting in the apartment building next door to mine. Ultimately one person was murdered, and two others were shot and taken to hospital. All three were young males in their late twenties/ early thirties. An eyewitness claimed three other males left the scene just before police arrived. This all happened inside the building, at about 10:30p.m. It was not the first shooting in that building. Need I say more?
In the face of both big violence and relatively small but deadly violence, I offer some thoughts, observations and hopefully workable tips to stay sane and take the stress levels down a notch in lieu of the bombardment of bad news this holiday season. I know it won't heal the world but it may keep me a little saner and perhaps inspire you to keep yourself just a little bit saner and healthier as well, when we all need it most - right now.
Turn the TV off. And the radio. And all the CD’s, earphones, Internet, text messaging, etc. Unplug. For just a little while. Sit in some silence, whatever silence you can find. Say a prayer for those you cannot help, whose lives are now turned upside down. Say a prayer for grieving parents everywhere – for they are all now connected through tragedy. They are even connected beyond geographic boundaries, to other families all over the world who have lost children to gun violence. This includes families in Northern Ireland and England, in Africa, in the Middle East, and right here in America. Then say a prayer for your own family and yourself.
Don’t worry; the television, Internet, and cell phones will all still be there when you do plug back in.
Full text of the Serenity Prayer
- The Serenity Prayer
Full text of the famous prayer.
Know the Difference Between What You Can and Cannot Do (or, Remember the Serenity Prayer)
I don’t always know this myself, but this one became very clear to me last week. I happened to look out my front window when I saw flashing lights go by. Then another set of lights. Then another. That made me pay attention; one police car flashing a light could be a traffic stop; five is generally a bit more.
There was virtually nothing I could do or offer in assistance in either the Connecticut or the local shootings. I am not a first responder, nor a medical professional. In the case of Sandy Hook Elementary, I could (and did) cry for the children and their families. In my local scene, I could and did go outside to inquire about the situation, as did other neighbors. In both cases I sent prayers out for all of us, since that was what I could do. And today I am writing about this. Sometimes that’s all you can do; you need to know the difference.
In remembering the Serenity Prayer (and I actually had to look it up), the heart of it goes like this: "Dear Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." I think that says it all. I'm including a link to the full text of the prayer.
Links for Organizations to Help Others
- The One Fund
Many who were injured in the Boston bombings of 2013 will continue to need lifelong medical care, which as many are aware, may or may not be covered under whatever benefits plan they may have. Please consider additional donations, don't stop now.
- Donate to the community of Sandy Hook, CT
What more need I say on this one? This is a clearing house link for making donations concerning residents of Sandy Hook, CT.
- Hurricane Sandy: How you can help - Rock Center with Brian Williams
Updated Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7:30pm Rock Center has received an outpouring of support from viewers looking to directly help the people profiled in our reports about Hurricane Sandy's impact. Phyllis Puglia's family has set up a website to help rebuild
- Take a Class | American Red Cross | CPR, First Aid, Swimming
Take a Class American Red Cross. We offer classes both in-person and online in cpr, cpr first aid and aquatics. Check it out!
- The Salvation Army - Home
The Salvation Army in the United States of America. One of the oldest charitable organizations in the United States, the Salvation Army helps provide food, clothing and shelter to those who need it most.
Cultivate Calm and Take Direct Action
In lieu of these tragedies, the concept of “de-stressing” seems like David throwing pebbles at Goliath. I will say this: calm in a crazy world is now more than ever, essential.
The kind of calm I mean cannot be bought or forced into being; it must be cultivated day by day, as an internal practice. It's not easy either. Many people have hectic work schedules (the word does not do it justice); still others are scrambling for work. However, cultivating an inner moment, and linking that to many more inner moments, will develop space from the bombardment of evil and negativity that assaults our senses and that co-exists alongside our ordinary lives.
In addition, there are some specific things you can do with whatever resources you may possess, be it extra cash, or extra time. For instance, for safer neighborhoods there are usually local neighborhood coalitions, community watch organizations, etc. For information concerning your area, you can check your local government website, or search the internet by city. To make donations to either the Newtown, CT or Hurricane Sandy communities (yes, donations are still needed for the hurricane), or to learn about becoming certified in CPR through the American Red Cross, click on any of the links above.
Practice Gratitude - Even When You Don't Feel Like It
If you are reading this then you are fortunate indeed to have access to the Internet. You are likely sitting somewhere safe, perhaps sipping a really good cup of coffee. Maybe you're at home, or maybe you are in your local library, and you only have 30 minutes to get your Internet business done; but still - you're in a relatively safe place for today and you have access to information. Remember, information is key and knowledge is powerful. Which is one more something to be grateful for.
Tools to Help You Cultivate Some Calm
So how does one actually do this? There are many tools. Some are physical (exercise), some are mental (prayer, meditation), and others are emotional (learn to actually feel your feelings). All involve progress, not perfection.
Physical activity - In my past life, one of my favorite ways to de-stress, unwind and renew was to practice Iyengar yoga. It gave me a sense of physical connection and capability (and more). Whatever your physical activity of choice, whether it's yoga, dance, running, walking, lifting weights, team sports, martial arts - you will benefit from improved strength, concentration, and stamina. The endorphins and oxygen released will circulate through your brain and body and make your emotions feel better too.
Even slow exercise like walking can refresh your senses. The feeling of air on the face, the sounds and sights outside refocus the attention. In my neighborhood I see Christmas lights, bare trees, and some roses still in bloom up around the corner by that church across from the coffee shop. If you only see urban spaces with no let up, then visit a flower shop and smell the freshness – stimulate your senses – and thus your brain – in a way that is both calming and engaging. Go somewhere you can smell the aroma of growing things. If your pockets are flush, bring some flowers or even a little plant home to remind you of life - that you are part of it.
Sometimes - Do Nothing
If you have trouble with physical mobility, then meditation can be a good way to get mobile in mind and spirit. However, there are times when even the process of “renewal” can become another chore, or another image to live up to (think superhuman, super bendy-flexy yoga practitioners half my age – which I admittedly once aspired to be). However, one can practice meditation while waiting in a doctor's office, while riding a bus, or even in the bathroom. If the thought of sitting around for 20, 30 minutes or more stresses you out - then don't. Try a five minute or even a one minute meditation! There are numerous books, CD's and DVD's on the subject. I have included links at the end of this article for some basic meditation information. Bottom line is, meditation can slow the turmoil of thoughts down, buying one some time to just breathe for a moment - or moment by moment - in a hectic day.
Beware of Sleep Aids Interaction/s with Prescription Drugs
NOTE: You will have to read the labels and check with your pharmacist or doctor, or go online, to find out if there are any known drug interactions between any OTC sleep aids and any prescription medications you may be taking.
Get a Good Night's Sleep
I think Dr. Mehmet Oz would agree. However, for some people getting a good night's sleep is tough. Develop good sleep habits, such as shutting off the caffeine-IV drip early in the day; shut off the electronic eyes of the world (TV, cell phone, computer, etc.) at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and sleep in a quiet, darkened room. However, if sleep is still elusive there are over the counter ("OTC") sleep aids that can help, including things like valerian root, chamomile tea, or melatonin (of the three, only melatonin has worked for me).
If OTC aids don't work, check with your healthcare provider regarding prescription sleep aids.
This may seem selfish, unallowable. However, the act of noticing and observing what is beautiful, can slow one’s jumping thoughts, which can provide relief for moments at a time, creating “space” inside one’s overcrowded brain. This may sound trite in the face of tragedy. I would understand if you say so. If you believe this is all la-la-new-agey stuff, I would relate. But I don’t want to live that way, stuck down in the uglies. So I look for beauty. I like the way the clear liquid of a strong, black cup of tea looks, smells and tastes. I like the mugs I have to put the tea in; they are eclectic. I like my kitchen table and notice the beauty of the morning light. Even oatmeal looks luminous in this light, around 9am on a winter’s morning. Now notice that.
Whatever it is, keep doing it -
These things, these practices that bring you balance, that help you...These things can keep you strong, more relaxed and better able to handle all the stresses...Instead you might find your own world has become more sane.
Cultivate a little optimism and faith
Which brings me to one more step on the yellow brick road – cultivate just a little optimism and faith in the face of all this crap we are confronted with every day. It’s hard – definitely. But when I am practicing just a little faith – like the little engine that could (remember “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”?), I feel a little better – across-the-board. Even at work.
It seems obvious, the renewing of one’s mind, body, and spirit is essential to survive 21st century living. For some, this will mean going to church regularly. For others it will mean cultivating good connections with good people on multiple levels, regularly. This can be done in a classroom, a reading group, or even a "stitch and b**ch" group. Still for others this will mean something more personal, perhaps going solo. Maybe a daily reading, writing or drawing practice keeps you steady. Whatever it is, keep doing it. These things, these practices that bring you balance, that help you process or let go of the need to process, for just a bit...these things can keep you strong, more relaxed and better able to handle all the stresses of a world gone mad. Instead you might find your own world has become more sane.
One Minute Meditation Tips
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