We live in an uncertain world plagued by extreme climate, the coronavirus pandemic, and its aftereffects – the economy. Many businesses are closing or have gone bust. The most advanced economies in the world are expected to go into a recession this year. While 26.4 million in the U.S. sought unemployment benefits in late April, the IMF has warned that we are facing the worst recession since the Great Depression. With jobs on the line and most of us facing stress and worry, there are 5 ways you can learn to stay calm amid an uncertain future.
1. Establish a routine
With countries under restrictive movement, anxiety about the future plus claustrophobia adds to the stress. Suddenly, the busy world we know has halted to such a slowdown we are not used to it. Friends and family are separated and dysfunctional couples have to stay in together. With nothing much to do except to think, it would be a good idea to establish a routine and to follow it. Keeping your mind occupied with daily activities, and accepting the situation as it is, is better than resistance and allowing your thoughts to run uncontrollably.
2. Place Attention on your body
If you think you have control over your thoughts, look closely. The truth is, our mind takes in information and runs on its own. It is also a habitual machine that likes familiarity. How many of us enjoy placing mental effort and attention to solving problems or learning new things while Netflix is an arm’s length away? Ingesting more information from social media and the news will not reduce mind wandering – proven to be a cause of unhappiness. Mindfulness anchors the mind in the present and has been proven to reduce fear in a Harvard study. To stay calm in an uncertain future is to anchor your mind in the present by placing your attention on your body. The mind wanders to the past and future but the body is always in the present. Train your mind to pay attention to the movement of your body as you go about your daily routines.
3. Learn to Pause
Insert two to three times a day of 5 minutes to pause with relaxed attention on your breath. You can do this simple exercise in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Sit on a chair with your spine straight but relaxed (to keep awake). Then all you have to do is pay relaxed attention to the breath sensations in your abdomen as air enters and leaves your body. Become curious about your breath – it is something which keeps you alive but yet little attention is given to it.
4. Make a habit to respond not react
Most of us react to our thoughts and to the people and situations we dislike. We are also reactive to people we like. The best way to manage our thoughts, which dictate our emotions, is to learn to pause. With ample mindfulness practice on our body and our breath in the present, pausing before reacting to circumstances becomes easier. However, it will be difficult at the start and it will take some will power to take a pause. Learning to respond as opposed to reacting is crucial especially in a time of stress.
5. Reward yourself to keep going
One effective and proven way to make a change in our habits is to reward ourselves. If you managed to keep to your routine, you can think of something you enjoy doing as a reward to help keep you going. Self-discipline is, after all, an important factor to learn self-care. Self-care is learning to be a master of our thoughts, and emotions so that we are always making decisions that help us experience well-being. After all, don’t we all live in the thoughts and narratives we create?
Learning to pause instead of worrying and planning about the future may have its unexpected outcome. You may come up with solutions you had never thought of when your mind was busy ruminating between the past and the future.