Choose a tactic from the list.
Whip out as needed.
1. Write Morning Pages, aka The Brain Vacuum
It's a simple concept: grab a notebook and write out 3 pages in the morning when you first wake up, longhand. Write anything that comes to mind. Do no more than 3 pages, no less. You'll be amazed at how releasing your own stream-of-consciousness clears your mind for the day. I recycle the notebooks once they're full.
2. Fix Disordered Eating.
I work out, so I eat to build muscle. Seeing direct results from eating means I will keep eating enough and eating right. It gives me control over something I can control (my body), which helps with anxiety.
At the bottom of this page I share one simple, healthy idea for each meal for to help with decision-making.
(This insightful article, by The New Yorker's Maria Konnikova, explains why I always simplify my decisions.)
3. Have a Conversation Outside of Your Comfort Zone
If you don't usually reveal much about how you're feeling, try sharing something. If you're an over-revealer, sit back and learn about somethingnew. If you talk to hide discomfort, try being quiet to see what happens. If you hate talking....you get the picture.
Get over the initial discomfort. Break the action down into something super small...one small comfort zone step at a time.
4. Try a Meditation App
By this point, there are hundreds of meditation apps. I keep it simple. I started subscribing to Headspace in Jan 2015 and have never looked back.
I picked up one more source for meditations along the way. Tara Brach is a wise teacher and guide. Her talks are available by subscribing to her podcast. Here is what she says about our itchy desire to figure out a solution for everything that might come up:
You have a unique body and mind, with a particular history and conditioning. No one can offer you a formula for navigating all situations and all states of mind. Only by listening inwardly in a fresh and open way will you discern at any given time what most serves your healing and freedom.
5. Remember that You're Not Alone through Art
Nearly every book about meditation, mindfulness, and anxiety says the same thing: Bear in mind that you're not alone. It's a hard thing to feel, though. Does reading these words on the page from me, or even knowing I've felt some of the things you have, really make you feel less alone?
This is where art like music, reading, or theater help me. In the past, I've pushed them down the priority list. Having this on the list is a way of saying: for me, art is key to turning down the volume knob on anxiety.
6. Make a Playlist
I find that getting immersed in a project helps switch my mind out of the overthinking mode and into a feeling of flow. My wish: that it were possible to attach cover art to the music I'm putting together to create a mood, the way we used to back in the 80s/90s. If that were easy to do on Spotify or Apple Music, I'd recommend that you create art on an app called LogoScopic. That's fun to do anyway, why not? It gets you creating.
If you don't feel like making a playlist, fear not. You could give this one a try. It's the OFFICIAL Beautiful Voyager playlist. I'm psyched about it.
7. Take a Walk
Easier said than done. But just getting up and going for a 10 minute walk can melt the snowball a bit.
The Human app helps you to be active for 30 minutes a day and tells you if you've hit that 10 min walk level with a pretty design. I find that having a small goal--just go to the library--can get me out of the house, and that's what it takes to start feeling better.
8. Give Online Yoga a Try
Ekhart yoga is an online yoga classes, so you can do it from home or on the go. You subscribe for access, but you can try it out for a month for just a $1. So that's cool.
9. Take a Bath. Listen to a Podcast.
Reminder: these are good things, both together or separately. If you're lucky enough to have the time, why not become this guy with his massive headphones & bubbles?
Also, books are always there, ready to change out your mind's broken record. Here's a novel recommendation if nothing's coming to mind: The Brothers Sisters by Patrick Dewitt. Man, was that a great book.
10. Try to Knit Something
Or, do one of those adult coloring books. Same thing.
From the recent NY Times piece by Jane Brody, The Health Benefits of Knitting:
Knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
The father of a prematurely born daughter reports that during the baby’s five weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, “learning how to knit preemie hats gave me a sense of purpose during a time that I felt very helpless. It’s a hobby that I’ve stuck with, and it continues to help me cope with stress at work, provide a sense of order in hectic days, and allows my brain time to solve problems.”
11. Allow Yourself to Get Bored
Try turning off devices and doing nothing until you're bored. Genuinely bored, in the way that little kids are when they don't know what to do with themselves. (The same boredom that usually hits in the period before they come up with some great activity idea like building an underwater tent in the living room. Don't step on the floor! The carpet is sharks!)
12. Last but Not Least: A Checkmark From Your "Should" List
I saved the least appealing for last. Why? Because I know you. Because I AM you. I wouldn't want to do anything from my should list either. You think I want to go over to that set of papers on the desk and look at summer camp options for my daughter (why are they only one week long? why so much planning? it's like a matrix of options over there). Or even worse, the pile of bills. But this is on the list for a reason. Doing just one thing on the list will make you feel better and could change the momentum of your day. It's not about doing everything. It's about doing one thing. And then, maybe, one more thing.
One Easy Day of Healthy Meals
- Boil 2 cups farro in 4 cups of salted water for 20 minutes.
- Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.
- Chop leaves of kale into small pieces and massage with olive oil to soften.
- Chop a cucumber into very small pieces.
- Combine farro, kale, and cucumber with some sunflower seeds and cranberries in large bowl. Coat with some olive oil.
- Make dressing by combining 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1 tbsp honey.
- Dress salad and season with salt as needed. Makes 6 servings.
We roast a lot of chickens in our house. That sounded violent. Let me say it another way.
Perhaps a nice roasted chicken with a side of veggies for dinner?
We do this often because it's actually really easy. It makes the house smell great, and you get really useful leftovers.
My approach, in sentence form: Put fennel, multi-colored carrots, broccoli, or other root vegetables under a dry chicken in a baking dish. Bake at 475 for around an hour. The veg act as a rack as well as making the whole thing a one-pan dish.