With rising levels of stress over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, people are eager to learn some simple techniques to stay centred, positive and manage anxiety naturally.
Although there are many quick solutions to managing stress and anxiety, such as going for a walk, deep breathing or listening to some soothing music, they bring only temporary peace. The anxious thoughts, worries and agitations return soon after the practice is over.
There is an analogy that illustrates this beautifully. Imagine your worries and concerns to be wild birds, and the temporary solutions to bring in a sense of peace as a net to capture them. A hunter lays some seeds in the forest to lure the wild birds. As soon as they land and start to eat, the hunter throws his net over them. The frantic birds struggle to get out but soon become suppressed with fatigue. As soon as he lifts the net, the birds take off, flying about in every direction.
To find an enduring solution, you have to get to the source of the problem—the mind, where stress begins. Otherwise the stress comes right back. You have to look at re-educating and re-training the mind.
Stop bingeing on negative news
The popular saying, “You are what you eat” doesn’t only apply to the body but also the mind.
Feed the mind fear, and it will generate fearful thoughts. Feed it anxiety, and it will generate anxious thoughts.
You wouldn’t think of bringing stinking garbage into your home. But we are voluntarily polluting our own minds when we watch and listen to negative news on TV and social media.
Bingeing on the same disturbing news being rehashed over and over again every hour on the same, and on different news channels can’t be very good for our peace of mind. It’s important to reduce the amount of time spent in watching the news.
The news is alarming and so you’ll certainly feel the same as you think over what you watch and hear.
You have to feed the mind positive thoughts on a regular basis.
Spiritual reading and reflection
If a patient with a serious condition such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer wanted to reclaim her body’s health, she would be wise to begin by making some changes to her diet.
She could steadily cut back on junk foods, meat, alcohol and dairy, and gradually introduce healthier vegan options into her diet.
In the same way, to stay centred, positive and calm, you’ll need to decrease the time you spend watching, listening, and discussing negative news and slowly substitute it with a healthier diet of spiritual and inspirational literature, videos and audio recordings.
It would be good to add small doses of inspiration in the beginning. If you’re not used to this new practice, your mind will get bored or even turned off by an overload of spiritual and inspirational material.
The best and most important time for spiritual reading and reflection is early in the morning. The mind is easily programmable at this time. Let this be the first thing that you do. Don’t reach for your phone to check your notifications or emails when you wake up.
Take about 10-15 minutes to read and reflect on what you’ve read and build up to 30 minutes or more.
The next best time to calm and program the mind is just before bed. Make sure you stop watching TV, using your computer or device at least 30 minutes before bed.
Reading something spiritual before going to sleep imbeds the positive ideas in your subconscious even when you are asleep. For example, you may have noticed that the thoughts you entertain just before sleeping are the same ones you wake up with.
Anchor yourself in the divine
In the midst of uncertainty and sorrow, we all feel the need to hold on to something that brings us stability, security and peace of mind.
Picture yourself in a boat that is rising and falling over turbulent waves and weathering fierce storms. To remain stable and safe, you’ll need to anchor the boat into something immovable outside of your boat, i.e. the seabed. You certainly wouldn’t want to anchor in your own boat!
Nothing and no one is permanent and changeless. The only permanent presence is the Creator who created this world and manages it. You can call it the Universe, Divine, Nature, God…it doesn’t matter.
The point is you have to anchor into something larger and more powerful that can actually help you.
This principle is easy to demonstrate with an everyday example: If you have a problem in your community with finding affordable housing, a dangerous traffic intersection or a lack of efficient transport, there’s no use just discussing it with your family or neighbour. You have to reach out to your elected government officials – your local city councillor or Member of Parliament. They have the means and power to implement the changes.
In the same way, reaching out to the divine and anchoring in it will help you safely travel on the ocean of constant change and the stress that comes with it. There’s really no way to abiding peace without this inner connection.
We tend to get carried away by our anxious and fearful thoughts and blow things out of proportion or project the worst-case scenario.
Instead of focusing on what is not good or not working in your life, take a few minutes to remember your blessings and the silver lining in your situation. Being grateful and focusing on the positive helps to calm and balance your mind.
Make a conscious effort to bring the habit of being grateful into your life.
You have the power!
The mind is a tool that you use to interact with the world. It gets its power from your focus and attention.
No one can control your mind for you. It’s your mind, and so you alone have that power.
Stop feeding it negativity; empower it with spiritual thoughts, anchor it with faith in the divine, and practice gratitude.
When you implement these potent habits, you will empower yourself and be able to stay centred, positive, and manage your anxiety naturally.
For more tips, read How to be resilient in the face of adversity
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