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Find a Positive Feed

When we have some time to spare, or just need a distraction, we tend to mindlessly scroll down the news feed on our phones. This year, that has not been a positive experience.

Unless you take control, your device is going to serve you the content that most people have reacted to, and this year that has been coronavirus, fake news, wildfires, and disasters.

Instead of passively scrolling down your feed, actively choose a positive information source. You might look at an inspiring Instagram account, a Pinterest board, or surf Airbnb imagining where your next trip will go once the pandemic lockdowns are over. It’s your choice. Feed your brain something positive.

Listen to the Forest

Walking in nature and hearing the sounds of the leaves rustling and the birds singing is good for your health. It strengthens your immune system and decreases feelings of anxiety and depression.

If you don’t have a forest nearby, the next best thing is to take a walk wherever you are while listening to the sounds of the forest. Volunteers all over the world have recorded the sounds of their local forests, so even if you are walking in a mundane suburb, you can still have the sounds of the Sebangua Nature Park on Borneo in your ears. Walk, listen, and dream of the time when we can again roam the world.

See a world map full of woodland sounds here:

https://timberfestival.org.uk/soundsoftheforest-soundmap/

Cook Something This Christmas

Christmas comes with many food traditions – special cakes and cookies, and things you only make for Christmas dinner. You are probably not going to large family Christmas gatherings this year, so that’s an opportunity to cook or bake something yourself. You don’t need to roast a duck – just find an easy recipe for something that belongs to Christmas.

Cooking and baking is a place where you can safely accumulate successes, and success – any success – is the antidote to anxiety and low self-worth. Make something, learn, and feel good. Merry Christmas!

Brightening Days

It’s winter solstice on Monday – here in Copenhagen, the exact time is 11.02 AM. Humans have always looked for and celebrated watershed moments like this. Even though your life will not automatically change for the better when the days start getting longer again, you can make it so.

Make a list this weekend of old habits and behaviors that belong in 2020. You can’t quit coronavirus safety rules just yet, but there might be worries or fears you can put behind you. On Monday, crumble up the list of old ways and write a new one with new habits and behaviors you are going to implement in the brightening days that will be starting soon.

Preparation Beats Anxiety

Some of my American friends are bracing for an oncoming snowstorm while I am sitting in the rain in Denmark hoping for a bit of snow.

The weather affects us all, but for some people, it’s yet another thing to worry about. Many of my clients are victims of bullying and other trauma, and if you have that history, you are likely to feel more anxious about the future than most.

One technique that works well to combat anxiety about specific possible events, like power outages, is to think them through in advance. How will you get light if you don’t have electricity? You might stock up on candles, batteries, and flashlights. How will you heat your house? Maybe you have a gas heater and a filled tank. Maybe you can close off parts of the house and heat only that. Specific plans beat general anxiety.

Keep the Good Habits

The pandemic has forced a lot of changes upon us, and some of them have been positive. Working from home has freed up time you used to spend traveling to work, and has given you the flexibility to distribute your work time freely across the day. With less opportunity to go out, maybe you have been walking more, reading more, or spending more time with your partner or children.

Make a note of the positive changes you have experienced and you want to keep once all this is over. Put it on your desk, on a post-it note on your computer, or on your fridge as a reminder to stick with the positive new habits you have developed.

Improve Your Home Office

Even after everybody is vaccinated, a lot of people won’t be going back to the office full time. If you think you’ll continue to be working from home at least part of the week, make sure your work ergonomics are okay. If there is something you are missing – like a stand for your laptop, an extra keyboard, or a comfortable chair, put them on your Christmas wishlist.

Think Long-Term

We easily end up in crisis mode when faced with something that seems like it requires our immediate attention. The ability to focus on urgent threats has helped humans survive over the millennia, but today companies who want our attention has learned to feed us a constant diet of things we urgently need to read, watch or click on.

It is useful to step back and take a longer perspective. Author Vincent Ialenti talks about how the very long perspective can help you replenish your energy. He calls this concept “Deep Time” – thinking about what happened thousands or millions of years ago, and what will happen thousands of years into the future. It places you in relationship with your surroundings and brings a better understanding of your roles as the continuation of those who came before you, and your role as a guardian of our planet. Try to take the very long perspective. It is calming.

Follow the Rules

Even as the vaccines are starting to become available, the lockdown has tightened here in Denmark, in California, and in many other places. Some people criticize and resist the restrictions, but you should welcome them.

People suffering from anxiety, as bullying victims and other trauma sufferers often do, benefit from clear guidelines. Anxiety is worsened by unclear situations where you can worry about what the right response is. But in this case, you can simply find out what your local restrictions and rules are, and follow them. This allows you to tell yourself that you have done your part. When there is nothing more you can do, it is easier to let go of your personal worries about coronavirus.

In my book “Life after Bullying,” I describe an exercise using tapping to reduce anxiety. There is a guided meditation on the resource page for the book – look for “Chapter 10: Tapping for Anxiety” on https://www.lifeafterbullying.com/resources/

Your Health Needs Daylight

We’re down to a little over 7 hours of sunlight here in Denmark, so it’s dark when you leave for school or work, and dark when you return. Depression and anxiety is worse in the dark part of the year so it is important to get as much daylight as possible.

One positive effect of lockdown and working from home is that you are free to schedule your day. Take a long break at mid-day and go for a walk, a jog, or just sit outside with a warm beverage. You can make up for this time later in the afternoon. Most work doesn’t require daylight, but your health does.