Six dos and don'ts I learned this week to foster calm

This week, with a major change on the horizon and a few too many projects on my plate, I felt anxiety’s flames licking at my feet. My mind ran wild with worries, what ifs and worst-case scenarios. So, I started keeping track of what worked to calm me. This is what I discovered:

Vacuuming - It’s hard to believe but that repetitive, physical and focused work of sucking up dirt, dog hair, and dust bunnies calmed me down. And my house looked so much better afterward.

Cleaning green beans - The repetition of: pick up, cut off edge, put down, cut off other edge, pick up next one, was a soothing balm. Nothing to do but cut off the next bean.

Doing anything physical - Dancing, walking and yoga brought serenity.

Working in baby steps - Focusing on the next baby task of work and doing it, helped the most. To do this, I broke down my tasks into baby steps. For example, one big task was to write a magazine article, but the first step of that was just to print out the interviews I had done. Done! Second step was to find a highlighter, read the interviews and highlight the parts I wanted to put in my article. Done! Next step was to outline the beginning of the article. Done! (Notice how I never, ever worked on the whole article, just the baby steps.)

What didn’t work:

Writing - Although, I’m a writer and often use a journal, I discovered that writing about my worries did not help me feel calm. Writing became another form of thinking. And thinking led quickly to worries which only fueled anxiety’s flame.

Sitting there and doing nothing was the worst thing I could do even though I seemed convinced that taking a break would help.

So, this week, I committed to a daily morning meditation practice and to engaging with the work at hand by breaking it down into baby steps interspersed with vacuuming and yoga. What works for you when you need to find and keep your calm center?

Landscape with palm tree and blooming flowerbed, Oleksandr Bogomazov, c.1905, Place of Creation: Kiev, Ukraine.