Before I dive into today’s essay, I have news to share with you. In March, I’m teaching my online journaling course: Write to Flourish: A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling. Class begins on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. I hope you’ll join us! You can register here.
With that, let's dive into today's essay ...
Over the last few weeks, I’ve felt anxious because I’ve been worried about work, politics, and world events. The anxiety ball in the pit of my stomach led me down a road of self-doubt that soured my work, mood, and well-being. However, I didn’t ignore my feelings or the signals my body was giving me.
In my early twenties, I would have tried to numb my anxiety with alcohol or sugary treats. That isn’t how I cope anymore. Whenever I feel anxious or overly worried, I revisit my core mindfulness practices because I can’t let anxiety consume my personal life or work. If I do, I’ll get sick, and that won’t help me, my family, colleagues, or the causes I support.
Below are six steps I commonly use to reduce my anxiety. If you struggle with anxiety, I hope these ideas inspire you to take action.
Let’s get started!
1. Consume media mindfully. Before I simplified my life, I spent hours each day watching television. Back then, I ditched my television because I wasn’t using it mindfully and pursued other interests (like reading, swimming, hanging out with friends, and more). I don’t watch much television anymore; however, I spend a lot of time online. I work online, read the news online, hang out on Instagram, and more. I love the Internet, but like TV, spending too much time online isn’t good for my health.
Consuming media mindfully—whether it’s television or social media—continues to be an area that I revisit. Over the last few months, I’ve scaled back on social media. For example, I don’t use my personal Facebook account, and I’m only following one person on Twitter. Instagram is my favorite social media platform, and that’s where I spend my fun social media hours.
I’m also following Arianna Huffington’s advice and stepping out of “the cycle of outrage in a Trump world.” I’m taking care of myself first, so I can help others.
2. Cultivate strength. In February 2016, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and arthritis in my lower back. Both of these issues—along with disabling back pain—woke me up. I thought my self-care practices were good and that I was building strength, but my body was telling me a different story. Since my diagnosis, I’ve taken small action steps each day to regain my health.
One of those action steps included walking into CrossFit Northern Limits in mid-September 2016. At that time, I didn’t think I’d be able to do CrossFit because of my back issues. I was wrong. Today, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.
When I’m doing CrossFit, I'm fully engaged in the movements. My focus is on form and getting through the workout. I’m not thinking about my business, career transitions, relationships, or the many annoying and mundane worries that infiltrate my mind every day. I'm excited to see where CrossFit will take me this year. Building strength is extremely important to me because I see my body as a holistic system. I want to be strong, not skinny.
3. Cook real food. Y'all, I'm obsessed with cooking. Trying new recipes is a great way to unplug from the Internet. If this writing/photography thing doesn’t work out, maybe I’ll go to culinary school and become a kitchen ninja (kidding, not kidding). In all seriousness, since January 1, 2017, I've been creating a weekly meal plan and preparing food in advance. As a bonus, we’re saving money on groceries, and I’m not running to the store constantly.
I’ve cooked a lot of yummy meals this month, and here’s a list of my favorites:
- Quinoa Breakfast Bowl (with fruit, peanut butter, and a scoop of protein powder)
- Egg & Sweet Potato Breakfast Casserole
- Rice noodles, stir-fried vegetables, and Romano cheese
- Homemade chia pudding (recipe found in The Telomere Effect)
- Chicken, steamed broccoli, and coconut rice
The non-linked recipes above were given to me by my coach. If you’re interested in making one of the non-linked dishes above, Google the topic. You’ll probably discover a plethora of yummy recipes to try making. Moving forward, I’ll be cooking up vegan and paleo dishes in my kitchen.
I want to experiment with a variety of recipes because it’s fun and the type of food I put into my body has a huge impact on my daily routine. If I’m eating processed foods, I feel terrible. If I eat real food, I feel like a badass, mindful human.
4. Revisit your routines. My morning and evening routine are two rituals that are extremely important to me because they help me stay grounded. For example, over the past five years, my morning routine has been fairly consistent. I get up early, make coffee, sing to my cats, journal, take my daily photo, and then I start my workday.
After I read The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington I modified my evening routine to prioritize restful sleep. Currently, I end my work day at 4.30 or 5:00 p.m. and make a homemade dinner. Over dinner, Logan and I chat about our day, and what we learned. From there, I read a book, snuggle with the cats, listen to music, and sometimes take a bath.
5. Change your work routine. As a self-employed teacher, writer, and photographer, I tend to work too much and that needs to change. For the past few years, Logan has encouraged me to set firm work hours and not to work on the weekends. I finally decided to follow Logan’s advice. I’m not going to work on the weekends (even if it’s “just for a few hours”), and my phone is no longer following me into the bedroom at night. Powering down by 4.30 or 5:00 p.m. every day and making time to rest on the weekends is refreshing, and it has been sparking creative ideas.
6. Savor tiny pleasures. I started February oscillating between hope and despair because of politics. Instead of ruminating, I decided to take action, voice my views, and focus on creative projects. For example, I created a photography challenge called A Month of Tiny Pleasures. Throughout February, I’ve been capturing tiny pleasures every day with my camera. In addition, I’ve been journaling about the tiny pleasures I’ve experienced. It’s a simple, creative exercise that’s helped me focus on gratitude and mindfulness in my daily life.
Everything is interdependent and that’s why I come back to my mindfulness practices; especially when I feel anxious, worried, or stressed.