Anxious. Restless. Nervous. Busy. Too busy. Overwhelmed. Many of us are all of these things most of the time. Our schedules are packed and we spend time worrying about our to-do list, our kids and our food. We’re much too busy to exercise. Many of us eat our meals at our desk at work or while multitasking with some electronic device. I notice that I sometimes don’t make eye contact with the person I’m speaking to, as I busy myself doing something else, while multitasking in conversation. Meditation, yoga and breathing exercises are all the rage, but what if we can’t find a minute for ourselves, let alone another five for a meditation app?
We’re back from the pandemic, baby. We are busy! We are socializing again and when we’re not doing that, we work! With the work-from-anywhere movement, remote jobs have become a blessing and a curse. No longer are bankers working 9 to 5. We’re all available anytime, anywhere. It is what’s expected of many of us at the expense of family time, "me" time and … our health!
My mom meditates. Sometimes. She goes through phases. She was trained in Transcendental Meditation years ago and is religious about meditating twice a day for 20 minutes when she is in one of her meditation periods. I remember her sitting in the car before we entered a restaurant, getting her second meditation in. She also meditated without shame in front of people. It was weird! I shriveled in embarrassment if she even uttered the word in front of friends.
Years later, I was living in New York as a confused and overwhelmed 25-year-old. She sponsored my Transcendental Meditation training. I have used it often and dedicated myself to periods of consistency, but never have I made it part of my life in the way in which it’s supposed to be.
As more scientific information comes out about meditation, it certainly becomes an interesting practice. In fact, meditating regularly helps decrease all-cause mortality by up to 23 percent. Um … something that decreases our chance of croaking from ALL things by up to a quarter? Sign me up!
Stay calm and carry on?
These sayings were all the rage and possibly still are: "Stay calm and eat chocolate." "Stay calm and pretend it's Friday." All great ideas in theory, yet not entirely realistic. Staying calm, no matter the suggestions on how to do it, is difficult! We are designed to be triggered to fight or flight. It’s instinct. If it’s life or death, as it was when we were cave people, we certainly couldn’t stay calm and carry on! So, how do we manage our everyday stress and anxiety? It’s no secret that stress causes disease and internalizing it can contribute to other physical ailments.
Of course it’s no secret that meditation helps us focus and calm down. I actually remember my mom yelling less when she meditated. (I wonder if I do the same!?) Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, aids sleep and contributes to increased positivity. Using meditation to prevent anxiety, rather than to repair it (as I use it) is much more effective. It’s also been shown to help avoid memory loss as we age. We needn’t sit down to meditate for 20 or even 10 minutes. Multiple meditation apps offer one to five-minute options.
Don’t play what-ifs
My daughter told me just the other day, “Mom, you’re playing the 'what-if game!'” It's true. I had made my way to worrying about things in July, most of which were beyond my control. Try to talk yourself down if you find yourself focusing on things that are either out of your control, or have time to figure themselves out.
Use a centering tool
A mantra is a great way to get yourself back to being centered even when you’re not meditating. An object can be used to focus and center yourself as well. Having spent some time in a second-grade classroom last week, I noticed how the teacher handed a silver heart to the student whose turn it was to speak. When others lost focus and interrupted, she pointed out that since they didn’t have the object, it was not their turn to speak. It may sound a bit elementary (pun intended,) but sometimes it’s better to take a step back (like back to second grade). Focus on the task at hand and take it one step at a time. It’s much less overwhelming that way.
Many articles suggesting ways in which to stay calm list things we might think of as ridiculous. Dancing it out? Writing it down? Breathing it out, chewing gum or squeezing a stress ball? While these may seem cliché or convoluted, they’re all stress relievers in their own way. One of my favorite things to do is to make a gratitude list. Writing down, or even thinking about, the things for which we are grateful (and we all have some) can be a great way of lifting our spirits and our anxiety.
The night before my wedding, a friend left a note that read, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all really pretty small.” It was the best advice and I often think of it when I am sweating the tiny, insurmountable, yet insignificant stuff! Make a list of the small stuff for which you’re grateful. Even if it’s the clothes on your back or the fact that you woke up today, that’s something that others may not have. Start small and the rest will follow.
About 18 percent of the population, or about 40,000 Americans, have diagnosed anxiety disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Many more of us feel anxious on a daily basis, so much so that it’s become a part of our everyday vernacular.
Eating well is key in aiding every aspect of health, but certain nutrients help us calm down and feel a little less riled up. It’s recommended that we keep our blood sugar from crashing, which simply compounds our anxiety with feeling hangry.
Magnesium is a key player in reducing anxiety-related behaviors, according to an article published by Harvard University. Foods high in magnesium include leafy greens, avocado, nuts and seeds, beans, and whole grains.
Zinc is a powerful mineral when it comes to enhancing mood. Beef liver, shellfish (especially oysters), egg yolks, beans, nuts and seeds are high in zinc.
Omega-3s are coveted essential fatty acids that are found in healthy fats like wild-caught salmon, olive oil and avocado. They can play a role in easing anxiety.
Antioxidants seem to be a blanket solution for everything these days, but it’s true that foods bright in color host lots of them. Since they tend to aid cellular repair and can delay cells’ demise, seek out brightly colored produce (no Cheetos please) to aid general health overall.
Fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha help the gut. What helps the gut, aids the mood.
Since pistachios contain a high level of melatonin, try this nut butter recipe to calm dooownnnn.
No-stir pistachio nut butter
2 cup pistachios
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Roast raw pistachios for 10 minutes, shaking the pan after the first five minutes.
Remove from oven, allowing to cool.
Place in food processor.
Puree until completely smooth.
Do the dip with apples, carrots, or use to replace peanut butter!