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5 Grounding Tips for a Strange Time

Activities to feel calmer, happier, and more at peace.

This year is the year that keeps on giving. Having contended with COVID, racial unrest, and economic uncertainty, we now have the election-which-will-not-end. My phone dings with constant updates—this state called for this candidate, this state’s results under dispute. Many of us are barely sleeping.

Anxiety zooms in our air, with so many things to worry about. There is the unending anxiety about our health and the health of our loved ones. Then there is the constant zig zag of the stock market. I haven’t peeked at my retirement savings recently. I’m hoping I still have some. All our plans seem to be up in the air. Vacation to Japan? Canceled. Dinner with friends? Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's? Canceled.

Will our kids stay in college? Will our companies close? Will we have jobs? Will we ever be able to retire? Who has been elected president? Will there be a peaceful transition of power?

 freestocks
Each of these activities makes me calmer, happier, and more at peace.
Source: freestocks

I have no answers for any of these questions. I feel the same crushing pressures as everyone else. Still, I feel some obligation, as a psychologist and author of this resilience blog, to offer helpful thoughts about how to manage this strange time. I will do my best. (I also know that anything I say today might seem dated or hopelessly naïve in a week’s time.) But, for this week, here is my best advice.

I have created a new home base for myself, with new daily rules. Every day, I try to do the same five things. Each of these activities makes me calmer, happier, and/or more at peace. For ease of remembering, think of the mnemonic M.E.C.C.A. (Mecca being both a holy city and a word that means “center.”) What is M.E.C.C.A.?

  1. Meditate: Start your day with a brief meditation. I listen to Headspace, which offers a 10-minute daily guided meditation. To be clear, every morning I wake up and think, “Oh let’s just skip meditating.” I always want to barrel ahead with my daily activities. But, when I engage in meditation, I feel much better: clear-headed, relaxed and refreshed. It is a wonderful way to start the morning.
  2. Exercise: Every day, I exercise. The gym is not an option, but I can walk the dog, or hop on our elliptical trainer, or lift hand weights. I’m not as active as I’d like to be, but it is better than nothing. And as with meditation, every time after I finish exercising, I think, “Oh, I feel so much better.”
  3. Create: Do you play an instrument? Do you write? Paint? Quilt? Perhaps you used to practice a creative art, years ago, when you had more time. Now your flute case lies dusty and untouched in the corner. Yes, I know you probably suck and you used to be so much better. But pick up that flute anyway. You have time to practice now, and your skills will come back faster than you think. Creativity is one of the best coping tools we have. By making music, or writing, we can take our feelings and transform them into something else: something beautiful or moving or cathartic.
  4. Connect: Reach out to your loved ones. In my house, we have dinner together every night and usually wind up playing a game or watching a movie afterwards. I’m also trying to call my friends and family more. I grant you, our conversations are not riveting. No one is doing anything, so there isn’t much to talk about other than COVID-19 and the election. Just the same, call your friends. Call your aunt. Call your grandparents.
  5. Accomplish: Every day, do something you have put off doing. You know those projects that you never have time for? My house was filled with those, but not anymore! I cleaned off and dusted my catastrophically messy desk. I filed old papers and shredded financial documents. Then I organized my closet, turning hangers in the opposite direction so I would have a system to know if I ever wear that shirt or if I should give it away. (This system is currently thwarted by the fact that I only wear sweatshirts now, but I’m hoping for the best). Then, I shined my silver earrings. Every day, I do something that I normally wouldn’t have time for.

No one knows how long we will drift in this odd limbo, hiding in our homes, hoping for better news. Jokes abound on the internet. My recent favorite was, “It’s 9 p.m. Time to take off your day pajamas and put on your night pajamas.” I hope you can make the best of this strange time, caring for yourself and keeping a healthy grounding routine. You can find me meditating and exercising (reluctantly), playing the piano with returning skill, and calling my friends. You can also find me in the back of my closet, throwing out metal hangers and replacing them with plastic ones.

I will return with more thoughts on resilience and getting through tough times. We will find our way back to normal, at some point. For now, notice that sunlight streaming through your window. Take care and chin up. Humanity has gotten through all kinds of difficult times, and we will too.

Be healthy, make art, stay connected, and keep busy.

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