March news + how to stay calm

How is your 2020 going so far? I’m loving the signs of spring down here in Brighton – my window box is looking pretty colourful right now!

Writing-wise, I am working on my second Eva Carter novel, but as a born worrier, I keep getting distracted by the news. It’s the downside of having a vivid imagination. Even as a teenager growing up in the 80s, I was convinced we were all about to face nuclear Armageddon.

If you’re anything like me, it can be hard to step away from online news and forums. But this month I am making an effort to do exactly that – so I thought I’d share my strategies for staying sane in scary times.

It’s something I’ve researched a lot, both personally and professionally. I’ve written about anxiety and depression, as well as experiencing both, so I hope this might be helpful for you, or maybe someone you know?

   1: Swap #breakingnews for #calmingfocus

News sites and social media can feed your anxieties. While it’s good to share concerns and know you’re not alone, I find that checking in too often is addictive and counter-productive, especially when things are out of our control.

My solution is finding activities that are calming and focused – it might be reading, or running, or crafting. Anything that means your mind and hands are kept busy so you can’t scroll constantly on your phone. Take some time now to work out which activities you like that can be the perfect antidote.

I have five activities that help me calm down: running, doing tapestry kits (easy ones!), playing VR games, following yoga videos on YouTube and reading.

Running helps me destress & focus on the here and now…

Once you’ve worked out what might help you, make sure you have what you need to hand – and if you find yourself scrolling or getting worried, reach out for your #calmingfocus activities.

 2. Start small – schedule 15+ minutes of calming activities into your day.

Scheduling short periods of calming activities will help. Take some deep breaths before you start and try to do whatever you’ve chosen in a thoughtful, calm way: read slowly, savouring the images and language. If you’re walking or running, focus on the sound and feeling of each step. If you’re crafting, enjoy the textures and the rhythm of each stitch.

At first, it can be really hard to switch off – but I find my ability to become absorbed in something creative, comforting or focused improves, the more often I do it.

Focusing on practical, enjoyable activities helps soothe the mind.

3. To stop stress taking control, try the ‘worry o’clock’ technique

This is a technique I suggest in my 5:2 Your Life book – it’s one I use myself and have found very useful, especially when concerns feel overwhelming and stop you focusing on other tasks or routines.

Basically, you decide to postpone any worries till a time you choose. Maybe ‘worry o’clock’ is 7pm for 15 minutes. if you find yourself worrying about anything – from global warming to COVID-19 – write it down and decide you won’t think about it till 7pm.

At 7pm, read through your list and work out what you can control – and what you can’t. Take action: for example, read the latest government advice, or research carbon off-setting. Make a conscious effort to set aside everything you can’t control.

At 7.15pm, your worrying is done for the day. 

Personally, I found this incredibly helpful. If anxieties surfaced, I’d add them to the list, knowing I would have time to problem-solve later.

If you’re a worrier too, I hope these ideas might help – or share this page with a friend.

It’s not a magic wand for anxiety – I still have a tendency to catastrophise at times. But returning to these techniques helps me calm down…

For some light relief, you could always read my novel, The Self-Preservation Society, which is loosely based on my own anxieties – the character, like me, is an expert worrier until life and love gets in the way…

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About Kate

I'm Kate Harrison - a novelist and non-fiction writer based by the sea in England. I also write thrillers as Kate Helm and epic love stories as Eva Carter. I also appear on TV and radio discussing healthy eating, diet, mental health and women's issues. View all posts by Kate →

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