I know but one freedom, and that is the freedom of the mind. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
When the walls are closing in and you’re feeling an avalanche of emotions, you’ve simply got to do something to break the momentum your brain is building. I’m sure that health experts and psychologists could offer practical tips for disrupting an undesirable mental pattern, but I’m here to offer some offbeat advice that takes no training (and not a lot of time to do it!).
When I’m all amped up and feeling like I’m about to lose my mind, these are my go-to coping strategies:
1. Make Your Bed
Creating order out of chaos as soon as your feet hit the floor can give you a surprising sense of empowerment. If you’re someone who rolls out of bed in the morning and rolls back in 14 hours later without so much as fluffing your pillows, making your bed could set a totally different tone to your day.
“…People who make their bed every morning often tend to be more productive in general, and I started to see the truth in the adage that “the state of your bed is the state of your head.” The small act of making your bed probably won’t cause you to be more clear-thinking or productive or even happier, but it is a meaningful habit.” – Christine Carter
I make my bed every day anyway, but when I’m feeling super stressed, I put a little more effort into it – arranging the pillows just so, making hospital corners on the sheets. This simple act of self-care ensures that when I return, I’ll have a neat, clean, beautiful little cocoon to climb into to recover from the day. Plus, when I’ve got a million things on my to-do list, checking one off before I’ve even brushed my teeth feels pretty darn good!
2. Get Out of Breath!
If your heart is racing with stress, it may seem counterintuitive to make it race even more, but that’s exactly why this trick works; rather than resisting the physical sensation of being overwhelmed, you’re leaning into it. I like to take 30 seconds and do as many push-ups or jumping jacks as I can, as fast as I can. I’m out of breath and my pulse is pounding at the end of it, but knowing it’s because of something I chose to do, as opposed to something that snuck up on me, gives me a little bit of my power back. Turning stress on its head can help reclaim your swagger, and the rush of oxygen and endorphins will help set your brain back on the right path.
3. Find Your Anthem
I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music. – Billy Joel
Everyone has a song that makes them feel like they could go out and kick some butt in the world: find yours, and sing it loud!
Whether you’re cranking Katy Perry or belting out some heavy metal, singing will take your mind off of what’s bothering you and help regulate your breath. Sure, you could find a quiet place and practice some yoga breathing, but isn’t jamming to some T-Swift a little more fun?
When you can’t quiet your mind, drowning it out with some loud, lively music can be just the mental break you need. When I’m frayed at the edges, singing in the car always calms me.
4. Ring a Bell
That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. – Steve Jobs
I once asked an author I worked with how she got into “writing mode.” She told me that she had a small bell hanging by her desk, and when it was time to quiet her mind and bring her brain into focus, she’d close her eyes, ring the bell, and then concentrate on the sound for as long as it took to fade away (it takes longer than you’d think). When I need to interrupt the 8,000 things my mind is doing at any given moment and zero in on one task, this trick always works!
Creating stillness and training the brain to focus can be powerful tools when you’re weighed down with worry – and it helps you take that all-important first step toward tackling your to-do list.
5. Hang Upside Down
There are times when my anxiety over a situation is so persistent that I need to literally reframe my perspective. Before you laugh – try it! Lie on your back on your bed and dangle your torso off so that your heart is higher than your head. Take a few minutes to look at all of the familiar things around you, and notice how different they look from this new angle. Not only is this kind of fun (I mean, when was the last time you hung upside down?), but the silliness of what you’re doing can help you tap into your more relaxed, whimsical side – the one that can laugh and play and take life in stride. Activating that part of yourself can be a great reminder that the serious Sally with the furrowed brow is not who you are in your heart.
Stress and worry can zap all the fun out of living. Finding a way to take back your brain and tap into a little levity can keep life’s overwhelming moments from ruling the day!