“When you’re weary; feeling small…”

These lyrics from one of my favourite songs of all time – Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel – might describe how many of us are feeling right now. Fear, anxiety, and a feeling of hopelessness result when faced with our own trauma or watching the current atrocities happening to others around the world.

What effect do these emotions have on us?

We know that anxiety and stress can impact our bodies – we may get a headache or chest pain, experience an upset stomach or sleep problems. The chemicals which result from stress are released into our brains and bodies, triggering the fight or flight response. Over time, this automatic physiological response takes a toll on our system. Our bodies feel the impact and our behaviours may take a turn for the worse – overeating, alcohol consumption, and too much lounging around in our cosies. 

Wait, isn’t that just Saturday?

In case you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or feeling you are over-doing your weekend relaxation technique; it is time to consciously take stock of your emotional state and take care of yourself.

At the risk of this sounding like a lecture, let me share some tried and true tactics for “when you’re down and out” (more song lyrics). We are all hard-wired for a certain happiness quotient – how well we handle stress and manage negative emotions is partly dictated by our genetic makeup. Taking this into consideration, and assuming your immediate environmental needs are taken care of, there are habits or practices which might just interrupt your mood and subsequent behaviours.

Here are some of my favourites:

  • Deep breathing – you know you haven’t been breathing deeply enough when you practice this because it feels almost painful, and you might feel lightheaded. All that oxygen!!
  • Go for a walk – this can combine getting out there and experiencing nature with a meditative silence. If you live in a somewhat concrete jungle or just a noisy neighbourhood, you can put your earbuds in and listen to a podcast, music, or the sounds of beluga whales mating. I actually don’t know if that’s a real thing – I just made it up. But it sounds relaxing.
  • Reach out and touch someone – either literally or figuratively. Hug, call, text, video call – just connect with a friend and share some laughs. When you connect with someone you are exchanging positive energy and it feels so darn good.
  • Listen to music and either sing along or dance along. Don’t try to do both unless you’re Jennifer Lopez – it’s exhausting. The right type of music (it’s different for everyone) is known for its ability to lift your mood and replace the stress chemicals with the happy chemicals.

You may have determined this already, but I’m not a doctor. I just know what works for me – some of it may work for you. I’d love to hear what tactics you have up your sleeves – I can always use a new bridge over troubled water.