5 Ways To Help Manage Your Anxiety and Stress Right Now

Let’s Start with the Bonus Exercise – Look at this photo for one minute, or until you find the ant. If you can’t find it, answer at bottom.

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The Complete Breath

I’ll make an entire post about this soon, that goes into far more detail, but the short emergency version is this:

1. Gently blow out all of your air
2. Be empty for half a second
3. Gently, slightly slowly, fill your lungs with air
4. Be full for half a second

Continue doing that, feeling the process of filling and emptying the air, and being aware of the tiny pause when you change directions. Draw a tiny dot on the back of your hand or inside your wrist – every time you notice it, check your breathing. We breathe too shallowly when we’re stressed. Steady Breathing = Steady Mind.

IHaveASecret-SteadyBreathing.jpg

Stop Everything, Lie Down

Lie on the floor, flat on your back. (Bend your knees if you have a bad lower back). Be boneless. Be heavy. Melt into the ground. Perhaps don’t do this on the subway, but the second you can, do it. I’ve done this at a friend’s house and he instantly joined me on the floor to stretch his back. Never be afraid of being a little bit weird when you need to.

Make Plans

Message a friend right now to get together for a drink as soon as possible. Coffee, tea, wine (just one glass – it’s a depressant). Sharing time and really listening to each other is important for processing what is going on in your world, your mind. Get out of your own head and ask questions about their life. But in the meantime, having that plan, knowing you’ll be having some venting time soon is helpful.

Let Yourself Be Unwell

Treat your mental ailment like a physical illness, just this once. You’re feeling mentally miserable? Then treat yourself like you have the flu. Hot bath, fancy herbal teas, order in your favourite noodles and curl up with blankets and a great movie. Take a day or two off from the whole world. You have to be a fighter most of the time, but once in a while you’re allowed to baby yourself. Whether you can hibernate for an evening or a weekend, take that time to recharge, knowing that you’ll be stronger tomorrow.

Use Music

New age and trance music can block out the constant mental chatter and slow our minds down to a rational pace. Housework, subway treks, sometimes at work – there are likely several times a day you could be listening to something to chill yourself out. It’s an effective mental filter. Try it for a week and see how you feel.

Oh yeah – there’s no ant. But hopefully you stopped everything, stared into the pretty colours and zoned out for a moment.

3 Movies That Helped Me Analyze My Life

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Defending Your Life

Defending Your Life is a movie from the early 90s about arriving in the afterlife and discovering that you must now go on trial to see if you move onward, or are sent back to earth for another lifetime there. It turns out that the point of life here on earth, since we use so very little of our brains, is to get over fear. The trials look at several points in your life, and people are judged by how they handled fear, and if they overcame it.

Obviously, this is a giant correlation to my life. There was an enormous turning point when I was 25, and instead of taking the easy, the beige, the normal life, I moved to the city to live alone for the first time ever, and began to dedicate myself to becoming an artist.

Here is the *insert Twilight Zone music* part… For many years, whenever I was holding myself back due to fear, I would flip the television on and find this movie. It was a reminder, a beacon, and getting seriously creepy. About every year or so, click – there it was. Perhaps it was halfway through, but I had to drop everything and watch, and remind myself that this life is extremely short and I need to make forward progress at all times, not slow myself down because I’m afraid of something. (Except skydiving. Everyone should logically be afraid of that.)

Then, about 7 years ago, I started a band. And I haven’t seen the movie since. It hasn’t been in the listings, it hasn’t just popped onto the television, it was just gone. Freaky?

I mentioned this to my husband when I realized that my strange symbolic kick in the duff was just gone. So he rented the movie for me so that we could watch the whole thing.

I’m left feeling like I might never see it again, and that’s okay. I think I’ve learned everything I can from the flustered “everyman” character by Albert Brooks, and the always radiant and fearless Meryl Streep. (Rip Torn is also particularly charming.) This movie has given me a reference point to look at life’s challenging scenes from the outside, and question my decisions as if I were being judged by strangers.

Whip It

Whip It is the 2009 directorial debut by Drew Barrymore, starring Ellen Page as a small town Texas misfit with a small town life who suddenly finds herself in a bigger city doing something somewhat outrageous (roller derby), and finds her true self along the way. Well, boy howdy, is that ever me in a nutshell.

Bliss finds that she needs to be more aggressive, and take control while playing roller derby, then sees that she needs to take control of the rest of her life as well. For me, I needed to take my writing off the page and begin doing poetry readings to find my voice, and discover why I was writing in the first place. Then, I needed to turn up my vocal volume in every aspect of my life. I had already been working on this process well before the movie came out, but it conjured up many trains of thought that were helpful to explore.

In Whip It, the mother made Bliss compete in beauty pageants, and upheld her opinions on conservative womenhood. She was a bit of a nervous nellie, and seemed to defer to traditions and authority a little more than one would think for our time. She wasn’t completely out of touch, and just wanted the best for her daughters, but as Bliss was trying to find herself on the road from girl to woman, her mom was stifling.

This conjures up vague memories of my early years, when no matter what happened, my mother would take the side of authority or tradition over my ideas and opinions, completely invalidating anything I had to say about certain subjects. It is infuriating when you know someone wants the best for you, but they are going about it wrong, and they refuse to listen to you, or basic logic. Add teenage hormones to the mix, and you create an acidic vortex of rage.

I watch this movie about twice a year, and it has also reminded me of the importance of controlling your environment, and being kind to yourself. I cannot stand the hideous rat faced boyfriend in this movie, so I simply forward through the scenes with him in it. Ta-da! I don’t think one should bury their head in the sand and ignore the world if it disturbs them, but if you know something is going to angry up your blood, avoid it if possible. Know thyself.

Pretty in Pink

Although I didn’t see it until later, the 1986 classic Pretty in Pink was quintessential mid-80’s teenage angst. I, like Andie, was poor and had to rummage through thrift stores to develop some sort of style that allowed me to express myself. I always felt inferior and often creeped out by rich kids.

I had weird friends who dressed strangely, and were outcasts too. I had rich kids be rude and obscene to me. I didn’t wear a lot of pink, but layered jewelry and odd retro outfits gave me a sense of self that I used as armor for some of the horrific high school years.

I suppose this movie gave me validation, of a sort. Reassurance that I wasn’t the only one to have survived such ridiculous crap. It didn’t matter than I was poor and others were rich – it was that some of them were pricks and I was just trying to ignore them and endure high school.

A memory just surfaced… I actually did go to the prom in a pink dress. My date was a buddy of mine, and we ended up drinking in the basement of a bowling alley, after I was playing drums at a party with my silk glove encased fists. In small towns, these things happen.

Life Lessons / Questions:

  • If there are movies you watch repeatedly, stop and ask yourself why. Genuinely think about it.
  • When watching all movies, what characters do you most identify with? Who makes you angry / frightened / frustrated? Why?
  • If there is a scene that follows you around days later, think about what it meant to you. Perhaps it was just gorgeous filmwork, or maybe your mind is trying to tell you something, or conjure up a memory to you need to sort out.

 

PS: I didn’t have a photo of a movie theatre, so that’s a Weird Al concert featuring a neighbourhood kitty named Seamus trying to sneak into the house. 

Coffee Break Links

Every week or so I’ll be posting links I’ve enjoyed – mostly good news, fascinating or thought provoking ideas, and some amusement.

Every week or so I’ll be posting links I’ve enjoyed – mostly good news, fascinating or thought provoking ideas, and some amusement.

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Have you noticed all of the Green Roofs in Toronto?
Another nifty thing our city can be proud of:
torontoist.com

The Dirtiest Sounding Town in each US State:
(Bluit? Dry Prong? Wankers Corner… oh, come on!)
geekologie.com

The UN is asking the planet to eat less meat.
“When it comes to antibiotic resistance, the overuse of antimicrobials in agriculture—used both to fatten up animals and to prevent disease—is a major contributor to the development of resistant bacteria. In the US, between 70 and 80 percent of all antibiotics sold each year are sold to farmers.”
Actually, I’ve been trying to have a vegetarian meal occasionally – can we all try to cut back just a little?
motherboard.vice.com

Cute overload – tiny Noel with the most adorable accent identifying his toy dinosaurs:
(Bonus points – he says “thank you” every time Mom passes him another!)
youtube.com

We know the leaves change colour in the Fall, but why?
Ask the Weather Network:
theweathernetwork.com

Is the Mona Lisa overrated? How did it get that way? It’s just a gal, yet 80% of the visitors to the Louvre are there to see that little 30×21 inch painting.
hedonistica.com

Eyes Front, Keep Kicking.

Facing the fear of dark water.

I’ve always been afraid of the dark. Not because I think there are monsters under the bed, but I’m afraid of tripping, stumbling, just not knowing what might be there. (This applies to many aspects of my life, I’m not good with surprises.) Dark water, however, is a whole other terror. You’ve seen the movies, you’ve heard the scientists describe what a tiny part of the ocean they’ve explored and what a giant unknown lies beneath the surface.

I was a competitive swimmer from around 7 to 16 years old. I was surprisingly good – I broke pool records from Port Hope to Ottawa. Perhaps the back crawl and individual medley weren’t as flashy as freestyle, but I was fast, paid attention to perfect form, and really pushed myself to improve every practice. I was strangely driven to beat that timer, and beat anyone who dared swim beside me. It was one of the rare things I’ve been competitive and aggressive about. I’d always wanted to do something extreme, like swim across Lake Ontario, or some sort of marathon. But then I was a teenager, and these things get swept under the rug of friends and school and finding oneself.

Years later, I still love to swim, but with most pools being far too chlorinated for my lungs and skin, I don’t swim often. I miss it terribly. So when camping  at Sharbot Lake in mid-August , I jumped at the chance to swim a few lengths of the tidily marked off swimming area in a small, warm lake. I noticed the far shore really wasn’t that far. And there was canoeing, but no motor boats. “I think I could swim across this lake,” I told my friend. “I’ve always wanted to do that, and this one has a narrow section.”

Fast forward two days, and we’re canoeing across the lake, to where I would be jumping out, and he would be canoeing back beside me as I swim across, to keep an eye on me. As we glided across the fairly still water, many things ran through my mind. I’m even more out of shape than usual, due to a recent sprained ankle and 7 weeks using a cane. I haven’t swum this far in years. And the most important thing, that shot terror down my spine – I cannot see the bottom and I have no idea what is down there.

I had many second thoughts. I sincerely thought about finding any excuse to change my mind. However, a few hours before when I had been beginning to get nervous, I sent a text to a few friends, telling them what I was up to. Now I could not possibly chicken out without looking like a fool. Insurance policy, of a sort.

It turns out that the actual swim was pretty mellow, and only around 20 minutes. However, there was a point where temperature dropped a little in the centre of the lake. I was obviously at the deepest point. It was immensely crucial that I did not think about the depth of the water below me, and the remote murky unknown.

It was simply a matter of keeping my eyes on the shore, and not allowing myself to think about what was underneath me. I momentarily paused a few times to just float, gazing all of the way around the lake, at the trees, the hills on one side, the lovely greenery. I realized that focusing on what was directly in front of me and never paying attention to what was beneath me was a truly cliche life mantra, but for 20 minutes, it was absolutely true. It was also a timely reminder to keep on being competitive, but instead of the person in the next lane, I should be trying to outdo myself, daily.

This little mission was a great reminder that I must find something to legitimately challenge myself at least yearly. I have made great progress rewiring my brain and personality from timid to bold, but I have a long, long way to go. Eyes front, ignore what’s beneath me. Keep kicking. Oh, and wear sunscreen.

Life Lessons:
– Do not let fear stop you
– “Can’t Chicken Out Insurance” – once you’ve told somebody, you must do it
– Intensely focus on the goal, do not let the mind wander to the unknown
– If you see a good opportunity, jump at it

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