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Finding peace in times of panic

The beginning of March typically signals thoughts of spring cleaning, vacations and resolving to make positive changes. Not so this year! March 2020 is certainly coming in like a metaphorical lion, with the threat of pandemics, financial meltdowns and overall uncertainty and fear.

There are a lot of things happening right now that are outside our control. If you're also dealing with stress in your own life, the fear created by global events adds to your stress and can be overwhelming. It triggers the fight/flight/freeze automatic response in your body and your emotions can be hijacked by your fear pattern.

While you can't do much about world events, you can take steps in your life to lessen the panic and feel more relaxed and peaceful.

Recognize when you're panicking

It's easy to get caught up in worldwide panic and you might not even realize that you're doing it. Take a moment at various times in the day. Do you have a headache, a tense neck, or a stomachache? Are you having worried, repetitive thoughts?

When you're feeling stressed, it's extremely important to take care of yourself and to notice when you're holding stress in your thoughts or body. Take a 15 minute walk at lunch to get some fresh air, to benefit from more sunlight at this time of year and to release tension. Make it a mindfulness walk, where you focus on your breathing and really pay attention to the sights and sounds around you, and the feelings in your body. If you can walk in a park, so much the better, as nature has a calming effect.

Be present and repeat to yourself "I am calm", "I am safe", "I am relaxed". It doesn't take much to reset your mind and body, it just takes awareness, action and practice.

Whenever I feel panicked, I visualize the cover of one of my favourite books, "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". In the book, 'Don't panic' is a key message to humanity, so when I think about the book, it makes me smile, lowers my panic and I can move forward to planning.

Choose information sources wisely

There is a lot of information, and misinformation, online right now. Remember that your brain and body are set up to watch out for threats and protect you at all times. This means that we're all more likely to respond and pay attention if we feel fearful. That's why 'clickbait' headlines and sensational journalism tends to catch people's attention. But a fear-based response doesn't help you think clearly or feel calm.

To lessen the impact of external events on your mind, body and spirit, try reading the news rather than watching and listening on a screen. Using fewer senses while processing information helps lessen the impact. Think about the difference between watching a scary movie and reading a scary book. When you're watching a movie in the dark, with tense music playing and a ghost pops out, you will jump and your fear response will be triggered. When you read about a ghost popping up, you don't have the same automatic response. You might feel scared but it's easier to reassure yourself that the book is not real and you don't have the same automatic fear response.

Also limit the amount of news you consume. You can find out what you need to know through a couple of reputable news sites or on government websites. The same goes for social media - make sure you're not giving in and having your fear response triggered by conspiracy theorists online.

Planning is preferable to panicking

Planning helps manage worry and stress. If it makes you feel better to stock up a little bit on canned goods, then go ahead. It's still winter here in Canada so that could be helpful in a snowstorm. Many government agencies say it's a good idea to have 72 hours' worth of supplies on hand and you could bump that up, based on their recommendations, if you wish.

Should you stand in a long lineup with 15 cases of water, surrounded by other anxious people? Doing that will simply add to your worry, not to mention the added clutter to your home, which is also a stressor.

If you're worried about the impact to your financial portfolio, you could talk to your financial advisor for advice on how best to weather the stock markets. Remember that, like everything, markets go up and down and will settle down at some point.

You can also do your part to stay healthy. It's important to rest, eat properly and get exercise during stressful times. You can find good information online on how to properly wash your hands and the importance of not touching your face.

This is also a good time to investigate options for working from home. Find out what your employer's policies are regarding working from home, and what they're open to, both now and in the future. Offer to help with contingency planning. If you're an employer, proactively review your policies and talk with your employees about their fears and what they might need from a remote working perspective.

Stressful global events can trigger fear patterns that we didn't know we had. By taking the steps listed above, I hope that these strategies can help you feel more calm and relaxed. If you need additional strategies to manage stress, or need help coming up with powerful remote working arrangements, please let me know. Contact me today to set up a 15 minute discovery call to find out how I can help you.

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