12 Ways to Keep Your Peace

I have some annoying neighbors who play an outdoor radio seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset, at full volume. I can hear it through my bedroom walls. My daughter hears it through her noise-cancelling headphones while she tries to do homework. We’ve started to avoid using the sunroom or front porch. After a year of this shocking disregard for others, it has become a daily challenge to keep my home the haven of calm and peace that I have tried to cultivate. It produces a kind of constant tension – much like recent national events.

It seems that everyone is in a turmoil. The volume has been turned up and left on. The political climate and recent events have everyone on an adrenaline roller coaster, with many of us feeling jittery and wishing for a quiet space to collect ourselves. Frankly, I’m exhausted. I don’t care where you stand on current events, you have got to be feeling distressed about some part of it. I’m not here to debate for a particular side – in fact, I’m politically neutral – but the air that has permeated our culture affects us all.

I’ve been wondering why I continue to feel this way, and how I can return to a calmer version of myself.

There are numerous reasons for our current state, but here’s one that seems especially applicable. David Brooks, political pundit and author of THE ROAD TO CHARACTER, recently stated in an interview that he believes the media has made politics into a team sport, with citizens rooting for “my” side vs. the “other” side. Yet, government is not a sports league with winners and losers and scorecards (although the media presents it as such). He posits that society has become more interested in seeing their team “win” than in problem solving.

He also believes that for most people, politics have replaced morality. If a thing is politically acceptable, then it no longer matters if it is morally or ethically right. This means that no person can truly feel 100% affiliation with a party or person, because no one can admit that all political choices are also morally and ethically correct. This creates contradiction within the individual, which results in anger, resentment, fear, depression, and a host of other emotions. Which makes them act out, or be defensive, or hide, or whatever. I believe this helps me, at least, to put the world’s (and some acquaintances’) behaviors and point of view into perspective. We are seeing internal conflict projected outwardly.

For the person (like myself) who maintains Christian neutrality, I came across these interesting questions that I leave here purely for reflection:

  •   As a citizen of God’s kingdom, if I am not upset by the politics in Spain or Greece or Indonesia, why would I be invested in the politics of this country?
  •  If the end has already been determined, then God is not wringing his hands in anxiety over the affairs of the world. Why should I?

I also remembered a favorite quote attributed to just about everybody, but featured to good effect in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:

Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, then it is not the end.

But until the end, how do we maintain a sense of peace, hope, and happiness while the neighbors are blasting their stereo at full volume? Here’s 12 Ways to Keep Your Peace that I am going to implement today:

12 Ways to Keep Your Peace

  1. Avoid news outlets and social media. These are a source of anxiety. When you want to catch up on world events, choose an appropriate method.
  2. When researching, consider only trusted, unbiased, and whenever possible, primary sources for information. If the source proclaims to be trustworthy and unbiased, you should triple-check this claim.
  3. Focus on positive, spiritual, nature-centered, and local/family truths. Also, being mindful of which things you have control over (and which you do not) can be helpful.
  4. Pursue a calm spirit.
  5. Spend more time in today than you do in the future or the past. You can only be in today. The past is gone, and the future unknowable.
  6. Return to (or increase time in) something you enjoy, a hobby, or art.
  7. Go to bed early. Your brain needs a break.
  8. Get some exercise. Your body needs to release some tension.
  9. Make a list. It relieves the pressure of carrying things in your head.
  10. Say no. You need more time to reflect and re-center. Accepting more noise and busy-ness in your life is counter-productive to the goal of regaining your peace.
  11. Be still. Take a nap, go for a walk in nature with no headphones, meditate, breathe.
  12. Break out of the negative emotional loop of others by countering with the opposite emotion. The opposite of hate is love. The opposite of anger is compassion. The opposite of despair is hope. Identify the negativity you encounter and consciously exercise its opposite.

Here’s a more attractive reminder I made for myself below.  I hope you can keep your peace, and if you have another method I haven’t listed here, please share it!

12-ways-to-keep-your-peace

Why You’re Wasting 92% of Your Time

I stumbled across this shocking breakdown of Things We Worry About.  (Sorry, it was casual reading and I didn’t record the source, but I copied the details faithfully and turned them into this nifty pie chart.)

graph

As you can see, all but 8% of the things we spend our harried days and sleepless nights worrying about are things we cannot change or that will never happen.

I find this profoundly liberating.  Try it.  Look back on those times in the past when you were nearly out of your mind with worry, fairly trembling with anxiety.  Did you make a list of all the things weighing on your mind?  It might have looked something like this…

I (He/She) am going to lose my job.

We’ll lose the house.

We’ll have to live in the car.

The car will get repossessed.

This ulcer is really a tumor.

My kids are failing Math/English/Science/Drama/Wiffle Ball.

My kids will not be able to graduate.

My kids will live with me forever.

My husband will leave me.

My husband will stay.

No one will read my blog.

My blog will go viral.

My mother-in-law will want to come live with us.

My father-in-law will let her.

And on and on…

If you are anything like me, you are actually capable of manufacturing items to obsess over.  To know that 40% of the things we fear will never happen – 40% – means that nearly half my time is wasted in fantasy.

A further 30% consists of items in the past, which I have not yet invented a time machine to go back and change, but if I did then I’d be plagued with worry about the Butterfly Effect and whether my kids would still exist when I got back to the present.  But, I digress.

Worried!

The 12% devoted to other people’s criticism and opinions can be tough.  After all, we either have to develop the impermeability of a duck’s back or go stone deaf to avoid being affected by harsh words.  But, here again is an area about which we can do nothing.  As one author quipped, “What other people think about me is none of my business.”  Given that the criticism is mostly untrue anyway, why bother giving it a second thought?

Worry

(Photo credit: StormKatt)

I admit, health problems aren’t going to go away just because we stop thinking about them.  BUT, worrying about them most certainly will not erase them, and in pretty much every case will just make you feel worse.  You can’t alter the state of your health (by any miraculous means) anymore than you can your shoe size.  So here is an opportunity to acknowledge, accept, and let it go.

And now we’re down to just 8%.  Choose carefully.  Out of all the possibilities for you to worry about, make sure you pick some fun ones.  And that 8% should correspond to a similar chunk of time out of a 24-hour period.  I suggest you set an alarm for 3 or 4am and schedule your worry time appropriately.  That way it doesn’t interfere with your working day, and you can give it your full attention in the wee hours of the night.  (Sadly, I have found that this method results in my caring less about my scheduled worries than my interrupted sleep.  Call it perspective.)

So there you have it.  A handy chart for separating your anxieties and relegating them to the place they belong – out of your head!

Friday Flash – “Panic Attack”

Panic Attack or Anxiety PTSD

She couldn’t get up from the chair any easier than if she had been tied to it.  Fear pressed on her chest and pinned her to the backrest.  What had begun as a faint rushing sound of water had become a roaring in her ears, surely just outside the door.  She pushed a thick tongue over the cracks of her lips.

It was coming.

Gasping now, she forced her eyes to stare at the ordinary items littering the table.  Butter dish.  Keys.  A smear of honey with a dried thumbprint, frozen like an ancient fly in amber.  Eyes screaming, she blinked just once, quickly, but it was there, her fear.  And what shape it would take when it stepped from the train was anyone’s guess.

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