Carolyn Hax: How to cultivate calm during a stressful move

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Caroline: You once mentioned a friend of yours who managed to keep a calm gaze despite some really difficult things. They have found that this is an attitude to cultivate. Can’t agree more, but how? I’m annoyed about my moving stress. Can you tell something about what helped you? I am aware of my issues and I am seeking help, but are there steps I can take to calm down?

Emphasizes: If you are not calm then think of it as the place you want to be, a goal to achieve and keep in your mind.

So they are not calm about the move. (Don’t beat yourself up. Moving is awful.) All you can do now is take steps to somehow get you there; You can’t change the past.

What steps? As always, when you’re trying to move somewhere emotionally, reach for the low-hanging fruit. Forgive yourself for losing your cool. “I’m human and it’s tough and it’s overwhelmed me. I’m still fine.”

Then take bigger and bigger steps:

· Take breaks. Unless the van pulls into the driveway, you’ve got five minutes.

· Make lists. Breaking tasks into chunks and unloading them from your mind can help tame anxiety.

· Cross off the list of non-essentials. It’s okay to be ambitious in the beginning, but when an ambitious to-do list gets you spinning, get realistic.

· Find a reliable source of perspective. I think it’s hard to stay overwhelmed by the mundane when you’re looking at the sunset or the starry sky or the sea or the mountains. We are blips, all of us. This can be depressing or calming depending on your mood, but when you need reminders that it just doesn’t matter, whatever it is, nature has your back.

These are all specific, but if you squint as a group, they’re a blueprint for staying calm. Just recognize your bad time as a bad moment and know that it will pass. Look ahead instead of back, breathe, break spooky things down to size, and surrender what you can to the skies.

Re: stress I’ve developed a habit of wondering if it’s worth freaking out about THIS thing NOW. In the end, there just aren’t that many things worth freaking out about. But I don’t punish myself for fear either; sometimes I can talk my way out and sometimes I can’t. It takes practice, patience, and tolerance for imperfections.

Anonymous: This reminds me of something I do: when I get upset, I remind myself of a similar situation I’ve been in before, and then I remind myself how long it took for me to feel better. So I think about this bad moment I’m in right now like it’s about the same size/extent/pain level as X, then I remember myself with X after about three days or a month or whatever felt better. Then I’m like, “Yeah, I can do three days/a month/whatever” because I’ve done it before. There’s something incredibly calming about that.

The opinion of other readers:

· I find it helpful to look for ways to do the opposite of what is stressing me. When I feel stuck, I look for ways to move; When I’m in rags, I try to find a minute to sit in one place.

· What helps me is to ask, “Now what?” As in, “I wish I was calmer on this step, but I’m not, so what now?” This gets my brain going to do something to relieve my stress instead of letting it beat me up for not being calmer. Carolyn Hax: How to cultivate calm during a stressful move

Chris Estrada

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