Coronavirus cases are (allegedly) decreasing across the US and mask mandates are being removed. Although the pandemic has not been declared over, some would argue that we are now entering a “new normal,” after 2 years of survival mode—especially with spring and warmer weather arriving. However, this does not imply that our thoughts are at ease.
Many people have been affected by the disease, economic hardship, the climate crisis, sorrow, and racial inequity. Add in inflation, supply chain concerns, and the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine, and you have three of the most stressful issues facing Americans right now, according to a new poll conducted by the American Psychological Association.
Experts suggest that springtime is a natural time to assess our mental health and reconnect with the things that give us meaning and joy, giving our brains a break when feasible. Making daily decisions about how we spend our time is the first step toward developing a clearer, more focused mind. Personal agency occurs when our decisions are consistent with our values, interests, and passions.
As we start a new season, here are 5 strategies to calm your thoughts and your anxious brain.
Being a human, particularly right now, is stressful. And, given how degenerative stress is and how detrimental it is to the body, we need something to help us buffer it. Mindfulness meditation, a technique for remembering to return to the present moment when distracted, has been demonstrated to lessen daily stress.
When people notice their minds racing or becoming concerned, they are usually thinking about something that happened in the past or will happen in the future. Start by recognizing the feelings in your body to refocus on the present moment. Can we feel the ground beneath our feet? It’s very natural for the mind to wander. If this happens, gently bring your attention back to your breathing and return to the present moment.
You’ll be more inclined to attempt it again if you’re gentle with yourself and approach the activity with curiosity, openness, and forgiveness. Use transitional moments throughout the day to practice mindfulness — for example, when you wake up, shortly before or after a meal, or when you change your physical location — to establish a routine.
According to studies, writing down thoughts in a diary can increase one’s well-being. The Bullet Journal Method is one method that has gained popularity in recent years. It is both an organizational system and a mindfulness exercise, in that it forces you to constantly re-evaluate how you spend your time and energy, and then decide whether those investments are worthwhile.
Sometimes, you may be incredibly productive focusing on the wrong things, bullet journaling helps with keeping you focused on your task while eliminating all other distractions.
Reduce the amount of information you receive
We’ve all been bombarded by a never-ending news cycle, a constant barrage of information in the form of breaking news alerts, social media posts, and email newsletters (among other things), which can make us feel frightened, furious, or helpless.
Digital minimalism is a new concept that could help us feel less overwhelmed. Pick just one or two trustworthy sources and read them at a set time each day. For example, when commuting, you can listen to a news roundup podcast or read a newspaper at breakfast.
Another suggestion is taking a 30-day break from any optional technology in your life. I tried this in August, and I completely broke my addiction to Instagram. Instead of mindlessly watching TikTok or scrolling through Instagram in your spare time, consider what you’d be doing if you weren’t on either platform. Do you want to read a book? Taking a relaxing walk in the woods? Listen to music or a podcast?
Clear out your space
During the pandemic, and especially during lockdown, many people began to declutter their homes, a tendency dubbed the “great decluttering” by The Washington Post. If you haven’t dealt with your clutter yet, now is an excellent time to start.
Cluttered places tend to inhibit clear cognitive processing. Clutter has a distorting influence that can affect other elements of a person’s life, including their emotions as well as their productivity.
Nothing like spring anyway to feel motivated to do some spring cleaning.
Connect with the people you care about
It seems that so many of us are feeling emotionally congested. It’s a particularly bad combination of information overload combined with social isolation or not having your social or emotional needs met. Don’t be bashful about getting in touch with people you care about who you lost touch with during the pandemic. Schedule time to engage in fun social activities with friends, acquaintances, or even colleagues!
We’ve all been going through it the past 2 years, but there are really so many ways we can try to calm our anxious brains and be happier.
In related news, hiding IG likes has improved my mental health, try it for yourself some time.
Photo via Manshen Lo