by Barbara Salsberg Mathews
Taking time for regular self-care is crucial to a healthy mind, body and soul. Living through a pandemic adds additional concerns such as health, finances and safety. During times like this our minds can go into worrying overtime, but there are things you can do to improve your reaction to stress.
Best-selling author Laurie M. Martin is a certified trauma specialist and critical incident responder who believes worry can show itself in many ways. Martin has been involved with many high-profile disasters, including the Oklahoma City Bombing, the Walkerton Water Crisis, 9/11, and the hurricanes in 2018. To calm our thoughts Martin suggested using the analogy of a suitcase:
“Allow yourself to go into that suitcase and pull out some thoughts and feelings, think about them, then return them. If we did that daily, it would help us to understand and feel, instead of keeping it all locked up with the lid closed.”
Artwork by Barbara Salsberg Mathews
Martin continues: “If a person is feeling pain [and worry], own it, think about it, feel it, don’t handle it too long, put it back into the suitcase, and go on with your day.
“If [your pain or worries] comes rushing up again, even if it’s 15 minutes later, grab it, own it, feel it, think about it, and put it back in the suitcase. All of a sudden, time will go along and you will notice you’re not grabbing those thoughts and feelings as often. This is a good sign, as long as you know you have to do this work once in a while as part of your self-care.”
To help switch your mood try playing a morsel of music at the back of your mind. You can imagine listening to a calming melody or an upbeat tune. Scents can also impact your mood. Some find it helpful to use essential oils like lavender to relax or cedar to energize and sharpen their focus.
Sometimes it helps to act as if you are one of your heroes. For example, you may admire a character in a film or novel, or a role model you know personally. Try asking yourself how they would handle what you are going through, what would they say and do? Then model our own behaviour on these heroes. You can have many heroes who represent different qualities you choose to develop. One person may have three different heroes:
- One who suggests strength
- Another who represents warmth
- A third who implies creative and playful qualities.
Employing your tactile sense can help trigger a calm feeling in the face of stress. Some people find that touching a piece of jewelry, or a small item they carry in their pocket, helps to evoke feelings of confidence, calm and comfort.
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for good health. There are a lot of helpful tips online, in books and articles, to achieve this, including everything from reducing screen time to creating a calm environment.
Other strategies include:
- Keeping a journal to record thoughts and feelings
- Attending to your physical health through regular exercise and eating a well-balanced diet
- Spending time enjoying a hobby
- Surrounding yourself with nature
- Taking well-paced breaks from the news and social media
- Curling up with a good book, or watching comedy
- Looking for support from family and friends
- Seeking professional counselling
- Getting involved in your community and helping others
Doing this work is an important way to honour what you are living through and move towards leading a happier life.