Someone asked me the other day how I manage to stay so calm all the time. I must be honest and say, I wish I felt as calm as what they perceive me to be! My wife likens me to a duck on the water – above the surface it looks quite easy-going and chilled but underneath there’s lot of furious paddling!
I suppose the essence of the question is how do we maintain some sense of order and common sense in a crazy world?
It wouldn’t take much of a Google search to support the argument that the world is crazy. Like, full-on-nutcase-schizo vibes. And most people would agree. News headlines agree. Your social media feed would agree. Your own brain and it’s way of processing would say: yup, the world out there has gone bonkers.
How about your own personal world? Is it a bit frenetic? Or super-crazy psycho?
The more I look around, the more I see everyone clammering for coping strategies. There’s a lot of information available for you to self-diagnose what you’re going through physically, emotionally, psychologically and even spiritually.
Take, for example, mindfulness. It’s gained a lot of popularity over the last decade. I tried it for a while with an app on my phone. I lasted three days. It helped about as much as beer does, which is to say: not much.
On that subject, alcohol is a thing in my country. Last year, according to the World Health Organisation’s data, South Africa’s drinking population consumed the fifth highest consumption rate in the world, below Namibia, Eswatini, Cook Islands and Tunisia. While there’s a big chunk of the country which abstains, the big problem is that the majority of South African alcohol consumers are also classified as heavy, or binge drinkers.
This is quite insightful, I think. It points to the fact that us South Africans don’t understand “moderation”. I remember talking politics years ago with some British tourists. One of them commented on how the kind of dialogue we have here is literally unseen and unheard of in his homeland. Everything is loud and open and raw.
Anyway, I’ve spoken about the need to surround yourself with good friends and helpful people to cope in this crazy world.
But the subject of this blog post is more on internal disciplines and mental goals. So I’ve resorted to some go-to methods for stress relief. I like the way this famous actor puts it:
“I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don’t exercise, eat nutritious foods, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material [and] surround yourself with support, then you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance.”
So here’s the elaborate answer to the question posed to me at the start of this blog: how do I stay calm?
Every hour or minute of the day, quietly or out loud, and as the situation demands.
I’ve become a lot more rigorous with exercise as I’ve got older, but the idea is to be consistent. I wake up early, and I go for a run. I then eat, and then I lift weights. Every day of the week.
I make sure I do something each day. First thing in the morning suits me best, because the family is still asleep and I feel like I’ve achieved a whole lot before the day has started.
A Mind Dump
This is one of those mind power techniques I find incredibly useful when I’m in the trenches or super busy. It’s a good way to unclog one’s thinking, and it’s quite simple: I spend twenty minutes or so, getting everything off my mind and onto paper. Simply doing this clears the clutter inside and puts on in front of me, and I can then prioritize from there.
Social Media Breaks
Every so often, I take a quiet break from social media. Instead, I try walk around the garden or throw a ball for my over-exuberant dog, or play garden cricket with the kids. It’s nice to keep up with friends and news, but being hit in the face from your news feed often catches me off guard and isn’t helpful if I’m in a busy stressful period. Which brings me to my next coping strategy…
Engage In Pleasant Distractions
There are some things that we often think of as time wasters. However, I’ve found spending some time during the day on fun, simple, pleasant distractions makes me more productive. Read a book or magazine. Sketch or doodle or colour in. Watch a movie. Yes, even during the day, when I have time.
The 3-Breath Hug
It’s exactly that. As a parent, I’ve found this to help tremendously. Juggling a busy work schedule and the constant demands of bills for the household means that sometimes, my kids get the worst of me when they really need me to connect with them. So before I freak out at the mess in the house or the unfinished chores, I call them and a three-breath hug has turned out to be the most beautiful way to ground ourselves and reconnect with each other. Instructions are followed with much less resistance thereafter.
That’s about it. Oh yes, and my wife. She helps me a lot.