In a world where—nuclear war is a red button under a dictator’s whimsical pinky, a world just about recovering from a pandemic yet still looking over the shoulder for new variants- it can be easy to lose your mind from time to time. And if like me, you are an overthinker, then the joy ride is even more manic than ever.
When the pandemic forced us to remain indoors and limit our interactions, it felt like a bizarre ask, an almost surreal assumption that the world as we knew was over.
The tragic events during that time gave rise to collective morbidity, a feeling of helplessness, fear and panic. As I battled my demons during the tough lockdowns, I realized that I had lost my sense of self. I felt the need to keep entered and find ways to cope with the stress. Constantly scrolling through social media, tuning in to news channels and being bombarded with bad news was taking a far greater toll on my mental health than I was willing to accept.
Grounding myself amidst the chaos is the one thing that keeps me from having a meltdown. I needed to be centered.
Once you embark on a journey of centering yourself, there is no looking back. I found various techniques that helped me gain perspective on what was going on, reigning in any emotions that may not be helping and giving me more emotional strength to take on specific tasks and deal with my situation.
Here are a few tried-and-tested methods you can use to keep yourself centered in moments of high stress.
The first and most obvious choice, meditation really helps in grounding all the negative emotions and putting a lid on thoughts that are running fast and furious in your mind.
A few deep breaths, some time by yourself, reflecting on your body and being ‘in the moment’ – can work wonders. I consider mediation a form of prayer, a way to acknowledge that you do not have control over what’s happening around you and that there is a powerful presence within you that can calm the storm blowing around you.
It is a willful acceptance of circumstances, removing yourself from the situation, and moving your thoughts to a place that is calm and free from the baggage of the day.
Try to dedicate 30 minutes per day to this practice.
What meditation is to the mind, exercise is to the body.
It cleanses the toxins from your mind, giving you a clearer perspective and very often, the best ideas come after an intense workout. A daily exercise routine will add meaning (and years) to your life like no other. The ‘happy hormone hit’ that you get from a good sweat is enough to zap the negativity for that day.
The feeling of elation followed by deep sleep is exactly what your body needs to cope with the mental stress of the day.
I believe that breathing is an unsung hero that merits much more credit than we give it.
Deep mindful breathing helps you connect with yourself like no other. Combine it with yoga and see how beautifully your body responds to it. Breathing creates a sense of calm, a stillness where you are deeply aware of the life force within you. It creates a cosmic connection between mind and body in such a way that you are bound to feel a sense of gratitude for being alive and in the moment.
I’ve often felt an intangible spiritual interconnection with the cosmos when I exercise conscious breathing.
4. A hobby
Picking up a hobby such as gardening, painting or knitting can help you find your bearings when things are tough.
We live in a fast-paced hyper-connected world where taking time off from recreation is still a chore that involves screen time. So, ditch the phone, switch off your devices and pick up a creative pursuit. Give yourself the time to heal through creating something new, mastering an old passion and learning a new skill. Challenges that are in your control, that bring you joy, that allow you to grow at your own pace are wonderful ways to bring peace and a sense of grounding.
5. Writing a journal
My therapist recommended that I start keeping a journal when I was at a particularly low point in life. I started out doing a few lines every day and gradually, it came to about three pages. I realized that putting my thoughts down at the end of the day is a beautiful way to pour my feelings out.
I call it purging on paper.
The idea of venting to myself about myself is extremely liberating, I have an audience that knows me well enough to not judge and the reflection oftentimes leads to a resolution. If this is the first time you are writing a journal, then I would suggest skipping the urge to switch on your computer and typing it out. Just pick up a journal and write in long form, let words flow on paper and see how it goes. It is a great way to track your personal progress as well.
Keeping yourself centered when things go manic around you may not be easy at first, but once you get the hang of it you will find that the problems that keep you up at night don’t weigh so heavy anymore.
Being grounded, centered, adds a whole new dimension to tackling crisis situations, there is more clarity and the actions you take to address the problems will be more intentional rather than a whiplash of unbridled emotions. So, give it try, choose what you are most comfortable with and slowly, intentionally, make space for yourself to find its grounding.
What keeps you centered in periods of high stress?