6 Ways to Keep Calm & Carry On in 2015
A.K.A. How to keep your shit together 101.
You don't need an inner dialogue that mirrors David Sedaris' to validate feelings of stress and anxiety. We mean, let's recap. It's 2015. There's the almost constant presence of ticking, or more accurately, vibrating time bombs (better known as the iPhone), likely located less than an arm's length away, pinging with iCal notifications, Hinge suitors and an inbox of people with a laundry list of very annoying questions to ask you. Maybe you're a freelancer juggling what feels like nine million deadlines and needy clients. Maybe you're a Stella-McCartney-pantsuit wearing paralegal who's quote-unquote "made it" but has the niggling sensation to drink midday beers on an island off Nicaragua. Oh, and chances are you still feel as though you're never quite doing enough and feel a tremendous amount of guilt when you actually do give yourself the space and time necessary to decompress from it all (cool move, society).
To cut to the chase (just writing this is stressful, K?!) and suss out our own route to relaxation, we asked Jesse Hanson & Carmen Littlejohn, Clinical Director and Psychotherapist (respectively) at Helix Healthcare Group for their tips on managing stress and anxiety (they also have a 21 day challenge for the especially keen). That Nicaragua trip might be closer than you think.
What are some of the best ways to manage and bust stress?
Of course it is not possible to eliminate all stress from life, but it is possible to change how we respond to it – whether it’s cold weather, a boss that we don’t get along with, or a lengthy to do list. Recent neuroscience studies have proven that we actually have control to change personal behaviours that have been entrenched for many years, and can create new patterns to battle stress.
We can regulate our own nervous systems more effectively with techniques like mindfulness practices, daily meditation, yoga, acupuncture and listening to calming music. For those who really want to understand the root cause of their stress, psychotherapy is a great place to start. Helix’s 21 Day Challenge video is a great introduction to those who are new to the world of meditation—an incredibly helpful tool for rewiring and retraining the brain.
What are some of the best ways to manage anxiety?
Most people are anxious because we are wired to worry about the future. This leads to processing thousands of possible scenarios, all of which will probably never happen. That sounds exhausting! Mindfulness is one of the best practices we can use to deal with anxiety because it is about staying in the present moment. Meeting with a psychotherapist, even just once a month, can help retrain us to focus on the present, not the future.
What is your advice for dealing with general burn-out?
Burnout happens when stress builds up. We should constantly revaluate our stress levels, and address the underlying causes, to stay ahead of it. Ultimately, by becoming more aware of how we deal with stress, we can anticipate it and be ready when we encounter it.
Any tips for dealing with 'FOMO' or social media-induced jealousy?
We see this in a lot of clients and it all stems from root issues of insecurity. Despite the social aspect of social media, which encourages us to connect with hundreds of people, it can actually make us feel very alone. When talking about Facebook, for example, various studies support the notion that social media can make us feel more alienated.
When we only see happy images of our friends, it might drive us to think “I’m not that happy, what’s wrong with my life?” It is important that we keep in mind that we are unconsciously filling in the blanks and not seeing the whole picture of what is going on in someone’s life. If too much time on social media is causing a feeling of insecurity in our clients, we recommend reducing the amount of time spent online, or designating a time each day to log off from all technology.
What are some suggestions you can share for managing seasonal depression?
Two words: treat yourself. Write down at least five activities that you truly enjoy and try doing them as often as possible! Engaging in these activities weekly builds our resilience to stress and boosts our energy to break the cycle of sad thoughts.
Take a mini vacation if possible, book appointments for self-care such as a massage or warm up with hot yoga. If you enjoy the outdoors, try to keep up your normal routine. Layer up and go for a run outside instead of on the treadmill, lace up your skates and head to your nearest rink, or try a winter sport like snowboarding. Make sure to soak up as much sun as possible!
What are the best ways to manage these high-strung emotions in the moment? Do you have any mindfulness techniques to share?
The next time you feel a flood of unwelcomed emotions, remember to breathe through it! A deep breath through the nose will activate a part of the brain that helps us to think rationally about why we are experiencing that emotion. Posture can also influence your mood. Keep your head up, shoulders back and core engaged while you work through the emotion.
If you often feel yourself feeling high-strung, consider treating yourself to psychotherapy. There is no shame in asking for support amidst the intensity of the pace of life.