It’s not easy to step back and find peace when you’re in the thick of what’s driving you crazy or upsetting you, and that’s okay. But, when the thing that’s upsetting you lasts for days, it’s time to start turning your attention elsewhere to find peace.
Nobody, and I mean not a single person, can last very long when they’re upset. The longer you stay upset the harder it is to get out of it, and the harder it is to get out of it the more brash and volatile you’ll get. What started off as an upsetting event, has now turned into a chaotic nightmare of a week, month, year, however long it might have been. This is not a sustainable mindset.
Every single chaotic nightmare I’ve found myself in was of my own creation. Rather than finding a way to sustain my sanity and turn my attention to life giving things, I always chose to stare right at what was upsetting me and watch it fester into an entirely new beast.
Luckily, after some of the hardest seasons of my life, I found a couple ways in which I could break my gaze and turn my attention to better things. Through therapy and just walking through those seasons thinking, “I’d give anything not to feel this way right now,” I finally got sick of of feeling that way and set my sights on successful coping.
I’d like to share with you some of those coping mechanisms, and hopefully encourage you to look beyond your hard season too.
- Get Moving
This one is possibly the most universal tip because it works for any emotion. Exercise is the best way to renew the energy inside of you, or just expel it entirely.
I found that exercise is almost a cure all for any mental state I’m in. When I’m losing my mind in rage and anger, picking up a weight and busting out a couple hundred reps of squats, sit-ups and just about any other move allows me to release those emotions. When I’m upset, getting moving with some yoga or cardio turns my mood around. And when anxiety kicks in, turning on a fast paced workout video and following along takes my mind off of what had originally been occupying it.
It can be hard to get up initially and start moving, but in the middle and once it’s over you’ll feel so much better. Ask yourself, are you more willing to continue feeling the way you do than you are willing to try something new?
2. Get Out
I mean it, just go outside. Step your feet onto the pavement, the grass, the whatever surface is just outside your house. Fresh air is a game changer.
I feel like this tip might sound as mundane as the “drink water” tip you always see on those self care instagram pages, but honestly it has to be said. In my lowest moments, like when depression kicks in, the kind that makes you want to give up on showering for a few days and not get out of bed, willing myself to get outside is just beyond me. But I step just one foot outside, and all of a sudden I got the other one coming right along with it.
Getting that breathe of clean, fresh air in my lungs convicts my body to keep going. I mentally may not want to move or try anything to get out of my funk, but my lungs want the air, so outside we go. And if this seems like too much for you, just open the closest window and take a deep breath. A step can be small and still help, as long as it’s a step in the right direction.
3. Be Present
This can either be an addition to all of the other mechanisms listed here, or a step all on it’s own. I find that when anxiety sets in, usually because I’m already angry, upset, or depressed, grounding myself in the here and now is just about all I can do mentally to put my head back on my shoulders and move on.
In therapy when I was younger, I was taught to reign in my anxiety by using this fairly easy grounding technique, and I swear by it.
- Start by closing your eyes and placing both feet on the floor. (this usually works best if you’re sitting)
- Take three deep breaths
- Notice how your feet feel on the floor. Ask yourself: Where am I applying pressure on the soles of my feet? How does the material of the floor or my shoes/socks feel against my skin? And don’t judge yourself for any of your answers.
- Move on to other parts of your body: How does your butt feel in the chair? Is your posture slouched? Is the chair soft or rough? How does the room smell? Can you hear anything from where you’re sitting?
- Continue breathing through this until you feel calm enough to go back to the task at hand.
This technique has been a God send for me. When your heart or your mind races with things you’d rather not be focused on, focusing intently on the physical world around you can help you return to what is actually happening right in front of you. More or less, if your mental space is in the clouds, focusing on your physical space can pull you back to earth.
4. Be Quiet
If you need to scream or talk something out, that’s okay. Take your time and do those things (without hurting anyone if you can). But if you find yourself in a chaotic nightmare of your own creation and there’s not really anyone around to listen at the moment, start listening yourself.
Go sit outside, in your bedroom, in the kitchen, or at the park. Sit and listen to everything going on around you.
More or less, I’m suggesting that you meditate, but in a not super meditative kind of way. All I’m suggesting is that you allow the sounds you’re hearing to become the thoughts you’re having. Rather than letting your inner dialogue run rampant, let the sound of the fan in your room absorb your focus. Let the hum of the refrigerator working, the whoosh of the air conditioner blowing, or the chirp of a bird singing be your focus. Get lost in it.
This is similar to the grounding technique, but with a heavier focus on auditory stimulation.
5. Give Back
This is my favorite one. It’s a bit more challenging, and is more so a follow up to the aforementioned coping mechanisms.
Once you’ve gotten yourself up, gotten moving, and gotten outside, you can move on to putting some energy into making the world a better place. This tip makes me think of that one episode of Friends where Joey tells Phoebe that there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed. To a degree I think he’s right, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If people didn’t get a good feeling from helping others and helping the planet, then it’d be a lot harder to find someone willing to help with anything at all.
If you have taken your first simple steps to find peace, then your next step is to find joy, and the best way to find joy is by bringing joy to others and healing to the planet. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen or donation center, you can go through your closet and donate gently used clothes (particularly clothes that no longer make you happy), or use the pain you’ve been through to help others out of their own pain by relating to them on your shared experiences. You can also start a garden and enjoy watching the bees come buzzing around for nourishment, cook yourself and your friends a healthy meal, or take a walk and pick up litter along the way.
All of these activities are sure you boost your mood by boosting the moods of others. Shared joy is the best joy.
All of these coping mechanisms require action, and sometimes even the beginning actions can feel impossible. Beyond these tips, it is also always a good idea to contact professional help. I myself have been in therapy for years, and I couldn’t possibly recommend it more. If you find yourself in a rut or in a place where you just need more help than you could get from the above ideas, contacting a therapist is a great next step. A couple resources you can use to find a therapist are Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists) or BetterHelp (https://www.betterhelp.com).
Regardless of what you’re going through, you’ve got this. It might not feel like it, but you do, and I hope some of these tips have helped you. I was taught a while ago, “it’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way.”
Let me know: Have you tried any of these coping mechanisms in your own life? What helps you the most when you’re feeling low?