If you feel yourself moving forward, it’s because you decided to move forward in simple small ways every day.
We are in uncharted territory in terms of what’s out there to worry about, if we choose to do so.
Choose is the operative word here.
In the last couple of years, we have become conditioned to react to all the possible threats, not just the juicy ones.
And when you’re reactive, you’re defensive, always looking for the next threat.
It becomes — has become — a way of life. That makes it hard to move forward with big stuff and little stuff, too.
But this is where we do have control.
This is still your mind, your family, your work and your life.
- What you listen to,
- Who you talk to,
- How you do things, and
- What exactly you want to do.
Maybe the last couple of years has you treading water, afraid to move ahead because you can’t see more than an inch in front of you. And that makes you super afraid.
How can you commit to anything if you don’t know what the world will look like even next month?
Well, the best way to move forward is to go right on ahead and take that inch.
Just…take it. I mean, it’s literally right there (insert Vanna-White-style hand motion here).
What’s great about an inch is it’s easy to measure and pretty simple.
Complexity can help you make some bangin’ task lists and multi-threaded project plans (speaking to my Type A folks), but simple steps will help you actually get some stuff done.
Here are four ways, in no particular order, to get yourself moving toward that inch and drown out some of that fear and anxiety.
1. Limit your time on social media
Social media does a great job of connecting people. But if you’re struggling with fear and anxiety, honestly, social media is not a healthy place for you.
I won’t bore you with studies showing how social media contributes to mental health issues. You can use the Google box for that one.
But it’s clear after 15 years of this technology, we have allowed it to rule us on every level.
The good news is you are in the driver’s seat on this one, should you choose to take the wheel (or let Jesus take it, I’m good with both).
I got off most social media right after the 2020 election.
I didn’t like knowing who was on this side or that side and it upset me to see some of the less than civil discourse. Besides, I still wanted to have coffee with some of these perfectly respectable folks.
I opted for the jugular response and deleted my accounts and all the data (theoretically).
No one even noticed. It was all very anticlimactic.
There was an initial vacuum of being outside all this information. But like a bad sunburn, it really got better after a couple of days and started to peel away.
How do I stay up with family, you ask? We do things like talking on the phone and texting. Sometimes we even see each other in person, a real bonus.
In place of all the mindless scrolling, I have more cognitive room for thinking about how I want my day to go, or what I may want to pursue today.
I don’t compare myself to others because I don’t have an up close and personal idea of what people outside my circle are doing, or trying to make it appear like they’re doing.
I feel less compelled to keep up because I’m competing against myself.
2. Stop consuming news in the morning.
Everything you do in the morning sets your tone for the whole day. That’s not me saying that, that’s every productivity guru who’s ever written a book.
Do you really want all those visuals and descriptions of murder, war, financial earthquakes and political theater in your head while you’re trying to focus on having a positive day?
News is straight up entertainment. In the same way you might decide what kind of movies or TV are appropriate for your family, you have to make that same decision about news.
It’s intentionally designed to get a reaction out of you. Don’t take that bait right out of today’s gate.
If you want to stay informed, fine. Go old school.
Consume news products in the afternoon when you’ve gotten your work done. Perhaps don your favorite sweater and comfy slippers and slink into your favorite spot on the couch, a la Ward Cleaver.
Knock yourself out! Read it, then put it away, turn it off and go have dinner with June and the boys.
You alone control the flow of information rolling in to your brain every day.
3. Take one small action today toward something you want.
It doesn’t have to be saturated with meaning and purpose. Don’t think too hard about it. Just pick something you’ve wanted to do, and take one small step towards it.
For example, today my commitment was to log in to my blog and re-familiarize myself with the new layout that happened since I was last here. That’s it. That was the total commitment.
I’ve written 700 words so far!
Pick some low-hanging fruit in your life, some small, easy things that you keep putting off.
And just do it.
Then don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back (or the shoulder, if you have rotator cuff issues like me).
4. Find some silence somewhere
The world is noisy. We are rarely in true silence anymore.
My big pet peeve is the news and entertainment marketing screen at the gas pump.
If I’m paying a king’s ransom to fill my tank, the least you can do is give me some silence to ponder my life. Besides, I can get all that same information on my phone.
Anyhoo, silence is where you let your mind process things that are important to you. Sometimes just having a quiet minute to understand what you’re feeling in a challenging moment can help you relax a little.
There’s a reason why our parents sent us to our room to think about what we had just done.
Multi-tasking is the great myth of our age. Your brain might be able to process multiple things okay, but when you close the channels off to just one thing, your brain will really work hard for you.
Find a spot somewhere and look around for all the noise that you can control: TV, Spotify, kids playing video games without headsets, barking dogs, open windows, etc.
Maybe you can’t find a complete lack of noise, but do your best to narrow the attention streams that your brain is desperately trying to keep up with.
Try it for 5-10 minutes and see how you feel. If you are feeling advanced, take some deep breaths from your diaphragm.
You may not feel amazing, necessarily, but you might feel a little calmer. You might find yourself starting to crave a little silence in every day. Go for it!
Start looking for opportunities to remove yourself from the chaos and catch your breath.
Now take that inch, and see if you can do that again tomorrow.
That’s all it takes to move forward.
Lori R. Miller is an author and licensed mental health counselor.
Check out her latest books, articles and videos at www.mymentalhealthmoment.com.
We live in crazy and unpredictable times. How do you handle challenges and find peace in the middle of so much uncertainty?
It’s safe to say that we currently live in a world where we don’t know what could happen next.
The last couple of years has certainly challenged our perception of what is safe, true and believable.
And I’m not just talking politics or viruses.
We now live in a world that moves so fast we don’t have time to figure out what’s happened before we’re faced with making monumental decisions for the future.
- You walk in on Friday and find out your department has been reorganized and you may lose your job.
- You go in for your regular annual checkup and your doctor orders a slew of immediate tests.
- Your spouse informs you that the relationship is over and they are moving out…today.
Some days can feel like those old Road Runner cartoons.
As soon as Wile E. Coyote thought he had defeated the Road Runner and turned to face the camera with a sly grin, a giant rock dropped on his head and pushed him in the ground.
Like Wile E. Coyote, you can squeeze out from under that rock and keep going for another day, albeit dazed and confused.
But how do you handle uncertainty without losing your peace?
First, take a deep breath and hold off on any decisions right now.
We are most vulnerable when events and circumstances are currently still swirling. You may want to react in several different ways, and I’m guessing they’re all pretty reactive.
Or you may get pressure from others to do something or else you might lose something.
If you make a reactive decision now, you may cut yourself off from a healthier decision from having more information.
It’s a terrible feeling to react to something based on strong emotions and find out later that a better answer was just ahead of you.
Slow yourself down and don’t commit to any decision in this moment.
Spend some time gathering data and facts so you can see all of your options. This has the advantage of cooling off your emotions a bit so you can make a decision that is both logical and from your heart.
Second, resist the urge to complain.
This is hard to do anymore because we are surrounded by so many forums that allow us to “speak our truth.” We can even tell total strangers of the evils that have befallen us and how we’ve been cheated.
Complaining, while having a great ventilation effect, mostly serves to maintain the uncertain feelings. Complaining isn’t about telling your story to find meaning and to investigate what you could have done differently in the situation.
Complaining puts you in the martyr seat, the victim of things you can’t control.
How does that put you on a path from uncertainty to peace?
Talk with a trusted friend (or a therapist, just sayin’) and process your uncertain events and challenges. This is what helps you discover your options.
But when it starts to get whiney, use your best self awareness skills to dial it back so your circumstances don’t steal your peace.
Third, take each day as it comes.
We modern westerners are terrible at just dealing with today. Challenges come and our immediate reaction is to play the movie all the way to its dramatic ending.
This is a great recipe for anxiety.
In all of your worry right now about politics, pandemics, or your own family challenges, are you aware that you are breathing without thinking about it at all?
That’s happening right now in this moment, and that’s amazing!
To find some peace in the most uncertain times, you have to focus on what’s literally right in front of you.
In the midst of a currently waging battle, you won’t find a military force thinking about the implications of this battle on future conflicts. Not right now. That’s a good way to get your butt kicked.
If you spent time gathering information and doing some healthy processing with someone else, then your next task is to focus on those things you can influence right now.
Not tomorrow, not next week or next month. Those time frames will get here whether you are thinking about them or not.
You get to make that decision to find peace in your uncertainty.
Peace is an active pursuit, not just something that happens to you.
- What can I do today with what I have right now?
- Who do I need to pull in to ask for help?
- What do I need to do to remind myself to make a decision for peace?
Lori R. Miller is an author and licensed mental health counselor.
Check out her latest books, blogs and videos at www.mymentalhealthmoment.com.
This post was originally posted on MillerMHS.com.