You can worry and still be happy

This wise goat knows it’s true — sometimes he worries, sometimes he’s happy, sometimes it’s both. Image source: AartiDaryanani photography

Have you recently been told you need to relax? I have, and it’s stressing me out.

Our lives today are fraught with anxiety for many reasons which I don’t need to go into — we replay them enough in our heads already. On top of the circumstances which make us tense, we feel guilty about all the worrying we do. When I feel stressed about being stressed I have to remind myself that for many of us, it’s almost a by-product of living in the twenty-first century.

Having said that, it’s not all doom and gloom — people do find ways to introduce moments of ease and joy into their days. I’m not here to tell you what exactly will work to reduce your stress levels or help you live better . But given I’ve had mixed success with the most commonly recommended remedies to modern-day stress, I’ve been experimenting with my own. It’s a worthwhile pursuit — you never know what will help you feel even slightly better, and your findings may surprise you.

Here are some ideas that have helped me.

Losing yourself in other peoples’s stories can be a valuable experience

On a recent Saturday I was feeling particularly sorry for myself.

Thankfully, I convinced myself to go to the movies — we’d bought the tickets beforehand and I knew I’d feel better if I went.

There’s a reason we love films. They allow us to try out alternative lives (or at least visit other people’s lives for a brief time) and immerse ourselves in them.

After watching ‘Gully Boy’ I was, at least for the rest of the night, uplifted and distracted from my previous thoughts.

Obviously you don’t have to go to the cinema, although obviously being in a theatre has a magic of its own, as well as getting you out of the house and around other people! But for every day purposes, Netflix works too.

If movies are your thing too, try some of these:

Our Idiot Brother

The Blind Side

English Vinglish

Patch Adams

Dead Poets’ Society

Rang de Basanti

Saving Mr. Banks

The Help

It Could Happen To You

While You Were Sleeping

The Way Way Back

Ruby Sparks

Some people prefer books (Alexander McCall Smith is great) or podcasts (I enjoy the Unmistakable Creative and the Armchair Expert) or conversations (middle of the night ones are best) as ways to dip into other people’s stories. Why not say yes to all of these?

I don’t think the point is to compare your story to others’, though that can help some. It can simply be helpful to take a break from thinking about yourself for a while.

Music is one of the other most readily available forms of magic we have at our disposal

I find music from movies, my childhood and memorable times in my life (as well as instrumental music) to be particularly soothing, especially on long drives. But a good old YouTube spiral can serve up unexpected gems, such as new covers of songs from years gone by.

Singing out loud is very cathartic at times

I think we greatly underestimate its power. Try singing while doing the dishes or in the shower or on a walk. You may want to make sure you’re alone, or you may be brave and not really care.

Admitting that things suck

This can sometimes can be helpful. There are occasions when I need, at least for a moment, to say out loud the thing that’s most annoying me or that I fear the most. Or write it down.

Sometimes things simply suck. There.

That’s not to say that wallowing in my misery for ages is helpful, or that I won’t find a way to resolve what’s troubling me at a later date.

Leaning into the very thing you find difficult

When I have trouble sleeping, instead of tossing and turning for ages and worrying, I now stay up and do something I find more entertaining or interesting or creative. I’ve found that late night can be a really peaceful time.

Eventually, I’d like to find a way to rest more deeply at night. But in the meantime, I can find a better way to spend the time before I go to sleep.

Remembering you are a social creature

It can be helpful for us to share our burdens. Doing so discerningly is an art, though. While few of us want to complain constantly to our loved ones, sometimes doing so helps us get closer to them as well as helping all of us to realise that it’s okay to be flawed.

On that note, simply connecting with others, being around other people, or being in nature, in whatever way you enjoy, can be therapeutic. Oh, and hugs have been proven to be good for you, as have massages (though we didn’t really need science to back that up).

Finding a different way to look at things

I’m not always be able to shift my perspective in the moment. Even when I can do it in hindsight (which is very valuable) I may not come up with a deeply nourishing insight from every difficult circumstance. Sometimes it’s enough to tell myself that I managed to get through a situation. Other times it’s simply the fact that someone’s gesture made me feel slightly better and grateful to them. I don’t have to be relentlessly positive about everything and neither do you. Strangely, admitting that may be the very thing that makes life a little lighter, even at times when it seems particularly heavy.