Staying Calm

Zen stones with frangipani in tranquil water

Image licensed from Depositphotos. Copyright: Dmitry Rukhlenko

With all the stress and uncertainty right now surrounding the elections in the U.S. and the potential for another round of COVID-19 lockdowns, I'm struggling to stay calm. Here are a few things that are helping me.

Deep breathing. I like to inhale for the count of four, trying to draw the breath deep into my belly. I hold it for a count of seven, then exhale for eight. Even doing this once or twice can steady me when I’m anxious.

Regular exercise outdoors. I try to talk a walk at least six times a week, even if I don't feel like it. Being out in the fresh air, even while wearing a mask, lifts my mood. Today I focused on the glimmer of sunshine on the canal water and how happy that made me. (Cue John Denver.) 

Listening to soothing music. My health insurance company offers a free one-year subscription to the Calm app. I've been listening to soothing music on there while I do the dishes. It keeps my thoughts from straying too far into the negative.

Staying off the news sites. I go news-free on the weekends unless there's something going on locally I need to keep updated on. I also limit how often I check the news sites during my workday. On election day, and until the presidential race has been formally declared, Ill be turning off all text notifications. I don't want to see angry or fearful texts based on preliminary vote counts.

Reading a good book. Because I need a story without a nail-biting plot this week, I’m reading The Harbors of the Sun by Martha Wells. It’s the latest book in her Raksura fantasy series. I get to reconnect with familiar characters and follow them on an adventure without having to worry that I’ll have to deal with brutal violence or favorite characters being killed off. Plus, it’s pure escapism into another realm.

All of these things are helping me to find a bit of calm, but the anxiety still laps at the edges of my awareness. I consider it a successful day if I don’t drown in worry.

How about you? How are you coping with today's stress?