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Take Care of Yourself in This Time of Freak Out

Take Care of Yourself in This Time of Freak Out

I have this friend, see, who can’t seem to be able to land a decent job to save her life.  It’s not for the lack of trying. For four solid years. I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as she is looking for a decent job where people treat her respectfully and allow her to express her full potential. I really feel very bad for her.

But this posting isn’t about her. This is about me.  I’m about to lose my mind. It’s not that I don’t care about her. I do. It’s not that I’m not sympathetic with her situation. I am. It’s not that I haven’t already spent hours listening to her unspool her latest frustrations again and again. I have. It’s that I have kept an emotional Open House going for months.  It’s closin’ time. I’m going nuts here.

Is it too controlling to draw a safety circle around myself and say, “This is a complaint-free zone”? I’m thinking not. And I’m thinking that if there is any value we can take away from these horrible, horrible times, it’s perhaps a skill set in taking care of our minds and, in fact, brains, when our lives are saturated with freak out! Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Stop thinking you’re so special. Why is it that our group is stunned that we’re in such deep trouble economically and politically? I can’t think of a single generation, region or nation that hasn’t endured some kind of major tragedy. So why should we be different?

Brighten the corner where you are. Here’s where you can exert some control of your life. There is still an elderly neighbor to help with groceries, a homeless pet to adopt, a bereft friend to sit with, a friend to listen to (within reason), a pleasant dinner party to throw Even if it’s only boiled potatoes, the conversation can be uplifting.

Fill your memory banks with stories of hope and golden moments.  Notice the beauty around you. Hang out with people who will talk with you about miracles and sunsets and snowfalls and bunnies and bluebirds. They’re all still there, regardless of what’s going on in the economy and politics.

Appreciate what you have. So we’ve been a nation of rampant acquisition. Now you’ve got your Ipod, your Iphone, your flat-screen TV, your KitchenAid mixer, your Beemer. Enjoy them. Might as well. Can't take them back.

Use up your stuff.  I get a weird sense of control and accomplishment when I pitch a completely empty container of anything.

Give away your extra stuff.  I'm shopping my bookcases this fall. Enjoying the feeling of putting yet another finished book into a bag for the local animal shelter thrift store. It feels good to know that my reading habit will transmogrify into Gravy Train and Little Friskies.

Take care of your brain.  Saturating your brain with anxiety-caused chemistry is not good for the meat between your ears. Stay away from anxiety-inducing messages, attitudes, movies, music, friends.

Laugh.  It just feels good.  Personally, I've been going through my collection of Bill Bryson books like a wood chipper lately.

Eat for your brain.  Read Daniel Amen’s book, Making a Good Brain Great. Salmon, berries, rainbow foods, the usual suspects. But somehow reading Amen's book made me feel smarter about those choices.

Get the sleep you need. Amen urges seven to eight hours, just so the brain has the chance to restore itself. Personally, I have a nasty habit of waking up at 3 am.  But, for me, it’s a great writing time.  So I take a nap in the afternoon. I don’t think Amen would approve. But hey, a girl has to do what a girl has to do.

Of course, exercise goes without saying. Really. Don’t say it.

Keep company with positive people who are nice to you, who keep their commitments with you, who share your values, who make you feel generally good about yourself and the world.

Take care of your mood.  And so now we circle back to what started this conversation in the first place. To the extent you can, draw a circle around your spirit, claiming your immediate-impact-area to be a no-complaint zone.

Research has shown repeatedly that an appreciative, positive approach to life and how we take care of our noodle make a huge difference in our abilities to prevail, thrive, and come up with innovative solutions. This is high-performance crunch time.  So we better start treating ourselves as emotional athletes. Start with that muscle upstairs.

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Martha I. Finney is the author of The Truth About Getting the Best From People, and a consultant specializing in employee engagement. For a free consultation on how you can build a vacation-friendly workplace culture, email Martha at

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