WHEN LIFE STOPS GIVING YOU LEMONS

7 tips to help discover mental lemonade

Photo by Anthony S. Banasiak

Many years ago I was at the wrong place at the wrong time, which resulted in a mugging... my mugging. At the time, I came to near the rear of the building, not knowing what was really happening. I saw police cars and an ambulance with lights on. Caring first responders gently surrounded me as I walked over. I was confused by what was going on. I thought I was fine and tried to open the drivers’ side door of my late 90’s Pontiac Grand Am. It was here that I stumbled and leaned, walking a few steps and then it occurred to me that the blood on my white car was mine. Looking down I was covered in it. My hair was sticky and in knots. What the fuck happened to me?

This mugging resulted in 17 staples to the back of my head, two stitches above my left eye and one above my nose. My right forearm had a laceration, which I found out later was a torn tendon and was eventually reconnected with surgery.

Overall, I was in the ICU for four nights because of cerebral edema, also known as brain swelling. Out of the blue two years later, I experienced flashbacks from that night. They were vague, under the radar anomalies of what had happened. It could be a sound, or some scent, frankly it could be anything, and it left me frozen at times with anxiety. I was caught off guard and didn’t know what to do. My therapist said is was PTSD and I took action to treat it.

Long story short, I’ve found peace. I’ve learned to not let one event dictate how or who I am in the world. The PTSD ebbs and flows and I recognize my anxiety and take action to right my ship, if you will. There are simple things I use to help me recalibrate. Things that help me relax when life doesn’t offer lemons.

Today, as we stand together in isolation, there’s a chance for me to share things I’ve done to feel better, normal again. As I look at the landscape of what is going on in the world, our world, I think there’s an opportunity to share some positivity to find a dash of peace of mind mixed with some mental lemonade.

1.) Write down what’s crawling around — When I worry about something, I might even obsess over this something. And when I do. It festers and becomes bigger than it actually is. And if I don’t do much to gain control over it, it will squirm around, become distracting as it crawls in circles in my head.

Writing down what’s on your mind triggers your brain to experience the information differently because instead of just a daunting list of thingsyou’re actually organizing your thoughts. By placing them on a page to see and read, you activate a sequence of events where your mind begins to work through what it reads and sees.

CHALLENGE: Walk away from what you’ve written and come back to it later. You’ll be surprised how of different it all will seem.

2.) Surround yourself with fresh air — I know, common sense right? But getting outside to take a walk does wonders for the lovely chemicals in your beautiful mind. Sure we must stay indoors, or not congregate in groups, but if you have a chance to take on the path not yet explored, a walk allows endorphins to interact with receptors in the brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins trigger an overall sensation of happiness — which allows you to feel more at ease. So, walk around your block, but not with your friends or neighbors… yet.

3.) Shh, and be still for a few minutes — Some people might want to call this meditation and I’ve found that mediation comes with a lot of demands and boxes to check. Like make sure you’re sitting upright with your legs crossed or clear your mind of everything while just focusing on your breathing. Jeez! I think meditation needs to chillax.

What I mean by being still for a few minutes is simply finding a quiet place where you can let your guard down and not be interrupted. Like in your bedroom or on your back porch. There’s an opportunity to focus on one object. Whether it’s a mailbox, a tree or something in the distance — letting your mind unwind is key.

As you focus on this thing; think about the object you’re looking at. What is it made of? What color is it? How did it get there? How old is it? How was it made? Are there others like it? Does something live inside it? What does it smell like? Is it cool to the touch?

You might think this is pure shit. And to some extent you’re right. But what’s valuable is the concept of stillness in a time of heightened emotional tension. What’s powerful is discovering the calm within the noise, and it is here that you may likely connect to the relaxing stillness within your moment of pause.

4.) Let loose & play — Remember when you were much younger and before all the world’s rules shaped you into someone that used to love coloring, drawing and simply doing things with your hands. Well, good news, it’s still cool as hell to reconnect with the kid that lives inside you. Start a game of tag (with the people you’re isolated with). Fly a kite. Build a toy model. Lace up your sneakers and run around the block like your trying to get home before you get in trouble with mom or dad. Paint your face. The point is… let loose and have fun doing something that wakes your sense of wonder.

CHALLENGE: Be creative during your isolation, create a new game and share it with the world.

5.) Get sweaty & move your body — Now, no one is going to the gym. We simply can’t. So now what? Move your body in a dance class or some solo yoga. There are loads of videos online that offer exercises you can do alone or with the people with whom you’re quarantined. A 30-minute workout hits stress right where it counts by releasing dopamine and endorphins to give you all the magical feelings that come along with moving for your body. So, whether you watch a dance class with a friend or partner, or you get in a pose by yourself — you are crushing the anxiety that’s holding you back.

“Put down your phones, put away everything & feel your blood pulsing in you. Feel your creative impulse. Feel your own spirit, your heart, your mind. Feel the joy of being alive and free.” — Patti Smith

6.) Tuck away the tech — Listen, I get it. As soon as you read that your hands begin to sweat and you immediately think, “But I can’t live without my phone.” Sure you can. It’s really about taking a pause from technology all together — social media, online and local news outlets. Make the 30 minute or four hour pause all about doing something else that you enjoy and not about all the swirl in the world (It will always be there).

Taking a break from what’s going on in news media or your social feed is good for you in more ways than words can ever explain.

New York Magazine

6.) Awaken your gorgeous gut — Last summer my wife and I were in Vermont for work and we visited a local farmers market. It was there that I was turned on to something special: a health shot. Which was two ounces of perfectly blended ginger, lemon, turmeric, Apple Cider Vinegar and fresh fruit juice. It made me feel brighter, lighter and more awake.

The experience was wondrous and it got me thinking that I needed to make this at home. I used all fresh ingredients, the same as what we had and picked oranges to use as our juice. It only took a couple of minutes to remove the skin from the ginger and turmeric (oh yeah, be careful with this ingredient — it’s natural color can temporarily stain your fingers and working area so consider using a cutting board and gloves.)

No, this won’t make life perfect. It won’t take away your anger or frustration about what’s happening in the world. But it will help clean your gut. With 300 to 500 different species of bacteria in a digestive tract, this shot can be a powerful boost of antioxidants that aids in digestion and weight loss. This drink can help to combat indigestion, nausea and bloating. It’s shot of the good stuff.

7.) Talk to your people — Each day, I try to check in with my friends and family to see what number we’re at during this time of social distancing. I might wake at a 4 and later in the afternoon, I could be a 9. Everyone is different yet the same. One person’s attitude can or cannot influence another. So my 7 might help turn your 3 into a 8. There’s power in positivity.

Just like you, I have the power of change the way I feel. Sure it’s not always easy to navigate from a 2 and bring it up to a 7, but it’s worth trying. And by talking to the people that truly mean something to you, and seeing the face of someone you care about can do wonders for your spirit and theirs too.

At the end of the day, we are all we have so embrace it. Take the time to let someone know how you feel. Share music from that festival you met at years ago. Laugh about that one time you fell from the chair in the restaurant. Reflect on where you see yourselves in years to come.

Appreciate and be grateful for the relationship.

Nothing is more valuable than the people you share your life with. Let’s face it, life is too short to do it alone. Even if we must physically keep our distance right now, we have the ability to be authentic, to share empathy and to listen to what someone is saying or not saying. There is beauty in what we have, as humans. There is power and hope in our shared experiences.

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.” — Andrew Carnegie

One thing I’ve learned from my mugging is to be patient. Letting things unfold without worrying about what you cannot control is a good thing. Stress, often times, comes from things you want to manage as you see fit — but that’s not how this works. We’re in this together and we can choose to be positive, smart with our choices and mindful of the things we think about and talk about.

Stay home. Stay positive. Thank you.

Freelance Creative Director with a specialty in branding, strategy and writing. Anthony enjoys painting, coffee, music, and awkward conversation.