Article and audio introduction by Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences
We like to feel as if we are always in control of our lives, especially during a crisis. Being in control provides us with feelings of confidence and strength, as if nothing could ever go wrong. However, sometimes we are not in control of our lives. Sometimes our emotions can run away with us and in times of confusion and uncertainty, those emotions can leave us feeling scared and anxious. Finding calm during these times is one of the keys to remaining resilient.
Right now, for many of us, our world has tilted a bit off its axis. We feel as if life is a little precarious, as if the control we value has been threatened. We want to protect ourselves and our families from something we may not fully understand, and this can leave us feeling a bit helpless. While this can be a scary way to feel, let me just say this: It is okay to feel this way, especially during times of challenge and uncertainty.
The key to keeping steady on rough emotional seas is to seek out feelings of calm. Seek out activities that can help distract from the anxious feelings, even for a few minutes. Soothing activities can vary depending on the person, so it is important to find which activities work best. Here are some good examples:
Reading. Books and stories can be a great escape, allowing us to get lost in a world where there are no problems or where, at the very least, the problems are not ours to worry about. When I am feeling anxious, I like to dive into a good mystery or thriller where my mind can become occupied with an intricate plot and I can break the cycle of worried thoughts swirling inside my head. Reading stories with children can help everyone take a break from stress as well.
Creating. Remember those adult coloring books we all bought years ago? Pull those out of the drawer and blow the dust off them. Those items were touted as good stress busters for a reason. Concentrating on coloring in a picture or a pattern can help calm the mind and alleviate stressful emotions. Other creative outlets work just as well, such as drawing, journaling, or playing the guitar. I enjoy practicing my hand lettering when I am feeling stressed.
Exercising. Moving our bodies infuses our muscles and brain with oxygen and releases those feel-good chemicals known as endorphins, which produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria. Exercise strengthens our bodies and boosts our emotions. The exercise does not have to be strenuous to be effective. Low-impact exercise such as yoga and tai chi can have as much of a positive effect on the mind and body as more intense exercise such as running and weightlifting.
Meditating. Meditation is often thought of as something only practiced by spiritual folks on mountaintops in Tibet. But this is an unfair stereotype. Meditation can be practiced by anyone, even children. At its most basic, it is simply a way to center and calm our mind by focusing on our breath as it moves in and out of our body. By doing this, we can simply acknowledge and quickly dismiss all extraneous thoughts, including anxious and stressful ones, thereby not allowing them to take hold. Effective meditation takes practice, but it does not have to take a long time. Even a short 5-minute meditation can help us find calm in a sea of chaos.
Finding ways to achieve calm during confusing times can help us feel more in control of our lives and can reduce feeling of stress and anxiety. For more information on strategies for reducing stress, please contact Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences agent, at 850.926.3931.
Coronavirus: Mental Health Coping Strategies (National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAMI)
How Mindfulness Can Help You Navigate the Coronavirus Panic (Mindful.org)
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