Five Spiritual Tips To Keep You Calm Right Now
Illustration by Ms Ana Yael
As hard-wired as we might be to survive, the instincts bestowed on us by evolution are being tested like never before. A worldwide pandemic, ongoing climate crisis and contested elections unfolding in real time are all contributing to a mental health crisis, with medical practitioners reporting never-seen-before spikes in anxiety and depression.
Studies by the UK-based charity Mind show that more than half of adults and over two thirds of young people say their mental health has worsened during periods of lockdown, with boredom and loneliness among the major factors. How can we, as individuals, address this very real threat? Binge Netflix to distract from the chatter? Book an (increasingly optimistic) bucket-list trip? Or remain gripped by our newsfeed as doomscrolling cements its place in our lexicon – something psychologists view as an attempt to seek certainty in an uncertain world.
More likely, the answer lies away from our screen. To help us navigate these turbulent times, we asked five globally renowned authors and thought-leaders – spanning the worlds of spirituality, wellness and science – for coping mechanisms to help us foster a deeper connection with ourselves and keep us calm in the months ahead.
01. Author of Good Vibes, Good Life
Mr Vex King
Mr Vex King. Photograph courtesy of Mr Vex King
Create a daily routine to nourish mind, body and spirit
“I’ve tried not to be hard on myself for feeling bad in response to these uncertain times. None of us have lived through a period like this before, so I’ve found it very important to accept how I feel before working through my emotions so that I can feel better.
“This period has been perfect for people to start observing, listening, researching, self-educating and reflecting to really know themselves and reevaluate the way they live their life. Having a routine in place that nourishes mind, body and spirit has helped me keep afloat. This includes waking early, eating healthily, reading for at least 20 minutes a day, feeding my creativity – which could be making music or cooking a new recipe – and meditating for at least 45 minutes. I’ve carried on sticking to these practices, regardless of being in lockdown. Everyone’s self-care rituals will look different according to their needs and joys.”
Mr Vex King’s new book Healing Is The New High is out 13 April
02. Author of Chatter: The Voice In Our Head And How To Harness It
Mr Ethan Kross
Mr Ethan Kross. Photograph courtesy of Mr Ethan Kross
A change of perspective can break us free
“We’re seeing skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression right now and verbal rumination is a prevalent feature in both. Most of us are more on edge and this internal chatter has many negative effects, undermining our ability to think and perform and creating friction in social relationships.
“One tool to deal with this is temporal distancing or mental time travel – I try to picture how I’m going to feel once the pandemic ends, however many months away that might be. It stops me narrowly fixating on what I’m feeling at that moment and reminds me that, as awful as it is right now, it is temporary and should eventually end. I also travel back in time and consider the fact that we experienced a pandemic 100 years ago, yet persevered and made it through to today. These small perspective shifts can help break us out from the negativity surrounding our current situation.”
Chatter: The Voice In Our Head And How To Harness It by Mr Ethan Kross is out now
03. Author of Lives Of The Stoics
Mr Ryan Holiday
Mr Ryan Holiday. Photograph by Mr Jared Polin
Focus on what you can control
“The Stoic philosophers wanted to get to this place of ataraxia – where you’re not jerked around by externals or distractions. Mr Marcus Aurelius, who reigned during the Antonine Plague, talks about being like the rock that the waves crash around. These are insane, busy times. But we have to focus on what we control. We can’t be jerked around like a puppet, as Mr Aurelius warned. We have to concentrate like Romans.
“The Stoics wanted to be prepared for the blows of fate – what you don’t expect lands heaviest. They would advise Premeditatio malorum, or negative visualisation. We want to think positively. Some people even believe in the nonsense of the ‘Law of Attraction’ – that our thoughts attract what happens to us. In reality, some negative visualisation – thinking the unthinkable – would have helped us respond better not only medically to the pandemic, but it would have helped us as individuals be a bit more resilient. Life is no soft affair. It’s tough. It’s random. It doesn’t care about you. So be ready. Because it’s coming. And you better have a plan.”
Lives of the Stoics by Messrs Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman is out now
04. Author of The Artist’s Way
Ms Julia Cameron
Ms Julia Cameron. Photograph by Mr Robert Stivers
Channel chaotic energy into creativity
“The past 12 months have thrown people into enforced solitude and introspection, and many have felt a need to be more creative. We each contain an inner spark, which can be fanned into a steady flame. To get there, I would urge people to undertake The Morning Pages – three pages of daily, longhand writing each morning to create a path for self-knowledge and self-exploration.
“It should be a stream of consciousness – following the trail of words wherever it leads, from the petty to the profound. This is a place to vent, to dream and sometimes to plan, and we undertake them with no specific goal in mind. ‘I didn’t know I felt that way’ is a frequent comment as the practitioner is moved beyond the superficial into authenticity. As we clear away our mental debris our thinking deepens and becomes more clear sighted.”
Ms Julia Cameron’s new book The Listening Path is out now
05. Author of Think Like A Monk
Mr Jay Shetty
Mr Jay Shetty. Photograph by Mr Steve Erle
Take charge of choosing your mindset
“One of the great gifts of the monk mindset is the ability to stop being distracted by ‘what if’ and instead focus on ‘what is’. In the past year, we have had to give up our ideas about how we thought life would be, and many of us are suffering because we’re still clinging to this idea of ‘what if’. When we develop a spiritual foundation, we develop the ability to live an intentional and directed life, no matter what happens outside us.
“One of the reasons we feel so anxious is that we tend to live in a way that’s very reactionary. We wake up and right away we check our phones, looking at social media, the news or email, and that sets our thoughts and our minds spinning. You wouldn’t let some random person choose what you wear each day and yet we let others choose what we think. If we want a more positive, calm or focused attitude, we have to choose that mindset for ourselves each day. Just like we have a routine for putting on our clothes, we can have a routine for putting on our mindset.”
Think Like A Monk by Mr Jay Shetty is out now