Creating a Calm Center

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The cyclone derives its powers from a calm center. So does a person. Quote by Norman Vincent Peale

I’m feeling frayed at the edges. Sometimes life gets so busy that I feel like a car in neutral careening down a hill. Not fully connected to the road, enjoying the wind whipping through my hair but fearing when I hit a bend in the road or hit a hill. I feel like life is flying by and I need to slow down, feel the ground, and see more than a blur of trees. Get into drive, and use the brake every so often.

Friday night I went to yoga for the first time in a couple weeks. With my schedule, I only get to yoga once a week, and every time I go I not only feel better, but my brain feels better. I come to some amazing realizations and think some of my best thoughts during class. And this class, I suddenly came to the thought, “Stop Outlander, start spirituality.”

On my commute to and from work, I have been listening to the Outlander series of books via Audible. I’m on A Breath of Snow and Ashes, the sixth book in the series. I’ve taken two breaks with other audiobooks and went through a stint where I was into podcasts about blogging and being an entrepreneur, but in general, it’s been the lives of Claire and Jamie for a year.

Claire and Jamie do not have relaxing lives. While the story is fascinating and fast paced, and I adore the historical references and all I am learning about the medicinal properties of plants, it’s pretty stressful to drive in the city while listening to descriptions of rapes, duels, illnesses, injuries, and war. I’m more than halfway through this book, but it’s time to stop, or at least take a long vacation from the Frasers.

The next day I had to run errands and on my drive I instead listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s new podcast, Magic Lessons. And this week I have continued with her podcast and can’t believe the difference in just a couple of days. I still feel as though I’m a bit disconnected, but it seems either my car is slowing down or I have at least been able to shift into drive.

It’s easy to unfollow your uncle who won’t stop ranting about politics on Facebook, or step away from the snarky gossip sites or message boards. But sometimes we absorb negativity, stress, a frantic feeling from seemingly benign sources. What we watch on TV, what we listen to on our work commute, what types of books we read, a gym buddy, Sunday brunch with mom, or just multitasking and not allowing the mind any time to calm down.

This simple switch made me more mindful of the anxiety, stress, and anger I may be absorbing by my supposedly relaxing pastimes. Life is short, and it can be hectic. There’s no point in adding undue stress to it!

What small ways do you de-stress and center your life?

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I’m a little late to this party — would it be ironic to say I’ve been run off my feet this summer? My solution to the mad crazies that took over my life this summer was pretty dramatic & certainly not for everyone but it’s not an exaggeration to say it’s saved my sanity: I turned off my SmartPhone. I put it in a drawer & have gone back to carrying an old dumb cell phone, using it only when I actually NEED to (which is not very often at all, it turns out). My stress level went down about 2000% in a day, while my attention span went up the same amount. I don’t know how we’ve gotten to the point where we think we have to be available to everyone & everything 24/7, but the non-stop input & stimulus were draining me dry. I also closed down all my social media accounts (yes, including Facebook) & feeds & unsubscribed to over 1/2 of all the blogs, newsletters & interest groups I used to belong to. I’ve reclaimed my life for myself & my family & real-world friends & activities & it’s wonderful. At this point I seriously have no idea if I’ll ever go back. Almost more interesting than my own reaction is how OTHER people react when I tell them this: the utter panic & thousand excuses on why it couldn’t *possible* work for *them* response of the true addict. Scary.

    1. I love this so much. I removed the Facebook app from my phone, but I still access it on the web. I justify it all by saying it’s part of my job as a blogger, but I really waste a ton of time and add stress by viewing it all. Yes, I need social media for the blog and when I am at live events I need to often live Tweet etc. but I can just re-add that app when I need it. Before finishing this comment I deleted Twitter, cleared my cache for Facebook, and deleted HootSuite. So thank you!

  2. I’m lucky enough to work in the suburbs of Connecticut, so my drive to and from work on back roads through scenic neighborhoods is relaxing and beautiful. But I still find myself disconnected and stressed and unable to feel centered. That’s when I usually realize I haven’t gone for a walk OUTSIDE in ages. So I go find a walking trail in the woods and walk. Stare at the leaves, listen to the birds and the wind and the squirrels, think about avoiding ticks (like it’s possible), and just revel in being physical out of doors. I also recently realized that I need to do more yoga in the evenings to focus my mind on relaxation and let go of the day. I’ve set up a little corner of my apartment between the living area and my bedroom door as a sort of transition space where I can do relaxing yoga in the semi-dark. An old Moroccan table holds a glass vase filled with stones and sea glass and a battery-powered twig with LED lights that twinkle. It’s something to focus on that’s restful and pretty. Also as someone else said, cleaning/tidying is therapeutic to the mind. Although that’s something I tend to do when I’m avoiding something else I should be doing.

  3. You really hit on exactly what I’ve been thinking about of late. I have a very full-on high-stress job and lately I’ve had a pretty full social calendar to boot. A few anxiety attacks and I have been questioning what I can do to feel more in control of my life.
    For me it’s been a) regular yoga, I enjoy the structure and it helps me empty my mind a little (I’m not zen enough to properly meditate, but going through the familiar poses is as close as I get!) and connect with my body;
    b) being careful about the tv I watch, especially last thing at night! I’ve been loving Orange is the New Black and old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy recently, but I think the high-stress environment in both has been contributing to feeling overwhelmed in my day-to-day life;
    c) making and reviewing schedules and to-do lists – sounds trivial but knowing where I have to be when, and what I need to get done, helps me feel in control of things when life is really busy. I find writing them down particularly helps so I’m not running them over and over in my head trying not to forget anything…
    d) making sure I GET ENOUGH SLEEP – so important. And trying to eat regularly and sensibly – typically the biggest stress-outs come right before I go “hang on, I haven’t had lunch yet..”. I crave chocolate when I’m stressing but it doesn’t help!

  4. Stop watching and listening to the news! At least reduce the frequency. Please don’t watch the 11:00 PM news. Do you want to carry all of that horror into your sleep state? When I suggest this to folks, the usual reaction is, “But I might miss out on something!” Exactly.

    If something huge happens that you need to respond to, the emergency/disaster people will be banging on your door.

    As for everything else, you can be sure that the same type of crimes, political intrigues, and wars are going on.

    The world will not stop rotating if you miss some news broadcasts.


    1. Yes, I get The Skimm newsletter ( ) and read that in the morning and feel I know enough. Anything else, I’ll likely overhear it in the office or as you say, someone will be banging on my door! This morning there was a helicopter hovering for an hour near my home and I went on Twitter, Facebook, and local news to figure out what was going on and got sucked in. So not worth it!

  5. I started doing guided meditations on my drive to work in the morning. Though I can’t close my eyes while driving (!), I find just focusing on spiritual goals or ways of stilling my mind helps ground me, and the slower breathing helps me calm down and clear my head as I transition from the chaos of the morning with the family to my time in the office. I now really look forward to those commutes – and even learned to look out the window and appreciate the trees and clouds when I’m at a stop light.

    1. LOVE THIS! This morning I listened to the audiobook of Brene Brown’s latest, Rising Strong and it was one of the nicest commutes I have experienced in a very long time, I opened the windows, noticed my surroundings, fabulous!

  6. This is a timely post. Sunday night “Fear the Walking Dead” was on and my husband wanted to watch it while we were at our family’s cabin. Normally, I would be all in but the cabin is my “happy place.” I told him I just couldn’t bring that kind of artificial stress into my happy place. Now we’re back home but I probably won’t start watching it until life calms down a bit. We just have too much going on and too many moving parts to track at the moment. My husband has recently gone on Facebook hiatus. I feel fortunate that we’re in a place in our lives where we can simplify and ease stress with such easy changes.

    1. I did this with the show unREAL, I had to stop watching it, it was too upsetting, stressful, and full of horrible people. I don’t need that kind of entertainment in my life, especially right now. Maybe later when things have calmed down! And my husband isn’t on ANY social media, I think it gives us balance and he’s so much more centered than I!

  7. Such a good
    reminder. I’m trying various short devotional
    podcasts in my car. Or sometimes even
    just silence. I’m finding that is
    scaring me (or is it “boring me”) more than it used to – and THAT scares

  8. Guilty as charged. I like my entertainment dramatic and dark, but that’s really not always beneficial when other areas of my life are in high gear. I have to remind myself to chill it out sometimes.

  9. I’ve turned back to my bicycle, lately. Personal life, as well as this time of year for work, is very very stress filled right now, and the quiet combined with the exercise is refreshing….that said, i find that I have such an enormous amount of stress, I am seriously turned off by much social media and simply choose not to look at it…at least for the time being. Quite music helps too!! “Magic Lessons” sounds wonderful!! I’ll be trying that soon!!

  10. I so agree! Yoga is truly a game changer. And bringing stillness and quiet into our lives whenever possible is so beneficial. Sometimes that means less activity, sometimes literally reducing or changing the “noise”. I am going to look up Elilzabeth Gilbert’s podcast!

  11. Well, it may sound strange, but tidying up is a great anti-stress trick. It seems like my mind becomes cleaner and clearer simultaneously with floors, shelves, dishes etc. And throwing away papers, boxes and packs I feel like I’m getting rid of unnecessary memories and thoughts. Generally, anything that helps you to concentrate and to be here and now is very relaxing and helps to find the answers (playing music, meditating, painting etc.)

    1. I always say “I have to touch my house once a week” – tidy up, do laundry, just generally calm it (and me) down!

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