Five things that help me keep my sanity

Chinese people have an unusual curse: “May you live in interesting times”

Even if I don’t know whether we are cursed by the Chinese or the aliens, we indeed live in interesting times. But wait a minute, when was the last time being on Earth was not interesting?

You see, it is all about perception.

Whoever I speak with these days — be it from Turkey or somewhere else, is ill at ease.

Some are grumbling about their countries’ current situation or the President, some desperately in search of an escape plan, some are so unhappy that they can’t move anywhere and so on…

Well, you may ask, how am I holding up?

I feel depressed too, of course, for several reasons.

However, according to my friends, I usually seem calm and more resilient. Maybe it is because, all my life, I somehow had to tackle with crises or adjust new conditions. But there is more to that I guess. After I had given a bit more thought, I realised there are a couple of things that I have been doing (maybe even unconsciously) for some time that help me keep my sanity. Here is my “five item-survival-kit”:

1- Release Yourself from Burdens

It is in the DNA of our family, collecting stuff and never being able to get rid of them.

For quite a time, we have this tradition with my girlfriends: Once we stop put on some of our clothes and accessories we first ask each other if they want to have them or not. If they don’t, we find some other people or organisation to give away.

Try digging your stuff. Let go of your inheritance. I am sure you will find some items you even forget that they still exist. Believe me, you can continue your life without all those possessions. For instance, I got rid of many of my stuff including books, clothes, souvenirs, etc.. And it made feel a bit lighter, and my place seems tidier.

A further step to could be avoiding shopping. What works for me, for instance, when I need something to buy, I immediately get rid of one of the items that I currently have so that I won’t get into the cycle of collecting stuff again. Moving forward is about tradeoffs.

Releasing yourself from your burdens could mean more than throwing your belongings away. Think about it in a broader sense. For instance, I also unsubscribed many of the newsletters that I don’t find relevant anymore. I recommend you the application named UnRollme to do it easily.

There is this cliche saying “Less is More”, but I like rephrasing it as “Less is Enough”.

2- Limit your social media activities

As a communications consultant, following the news both in the country and around the world is part of my daily job. Although I can’t escape it totally, I decided to limit the frequency of reading the news. It worked well for me. I use this application called Bundle to receive the news, and they send notifications when something huge comes up. Other than that I tend to check the news every 3–4 hours.

I also applied the same rule to other social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I am happy with the outcome.

3- Distance yourself from negative people and spend more time with the ones you like hanging out

We are always surrounded by negativity. But there are some people, who constantly criticise and complain about anything they have in their lives or around themselves. If you have one or two of these in your life, please try to distance yourself even if you love them so much.

And instead, surround yourself with the people you like hanging out and sharing.

Individuals with the same interests and problems are more likely to understand and help each other. But move beyond it and try to spend time with the ones you know from different backgrounds and with different problems. Diversity will help you enhance your point of view, enable you to think out of the box.

4- Learn new things and Challenge yourself

“Formal learning can teach you a great deal, but many of the essential skills in life are the ones you have to develop on your own.” ~ Lee Iacocca

It is never easy to find the time to solely focus on yourself. Especially when you live in chaotic cities like Istanbul.

But I know that if you sacrifice just an hour of sleep per day, and spend that hour for learning new stuff, you can nourish your mind and soul.

I am a huge fan of online courses, for instance. I usually take several at the same time and try to spend an hour daily.

Some courses that I enrolled are directly related to my profession; such as digital marketing, writing for different purposes, gender equality, etc. But some courses are entirely out of my field; such as Internet of Things, Science&Cooking. I take the ones that are out of my area because I am eager to learn and understand more. As my dearest, Neil DeGrasse Tyson puts it so well, “You don’t have to be good at something, you have to want to be good at something”. So I believe, not matter the outcome is, it is definitely worth challenging yourself.

Mainly, during these hard and dark times, I realised the more alien subjects I try to concentrate on, the better I feel, and the more I relaxed.

Here are some of the websites I like taking online courses:

Almost all topics are covered on these sites:

EDx

Future Learn

Open2Study

For human rights-related subjects:

Mooc Chile

For gender equality related subjects:

UNWomen Training Centre

“Blossoms and books, those solaces of sorrow”-Emily Dickinson

I can also recommend you doing some reading on science, technology, history and social anthropology. These topics will help you see the world in different perspective, showing you that your little world is not as important as you think it is and there is a huge universe beyond it. It was there in the past, same shit happened, and people somehow moved on. No big deal: )

Here are some books that I have read recently:

Yuval Noah Harari: Sapiens and Homo Deus

David Eagleman: Incognito and The Brain

Wade Davis: The Wayfinders

5- Keep Dreaming

Or call it plans. Even if it is not likely to make it come true in the short run, keep moving with little steps.

You want to get away from your city or country for some time, then the first thing to do is to decide what want to do next, right? Keep looking for your purpose, write your ideas, maybe start saving some money, or start getting rid of your possessions slowly …

Even if you can’t make it till the end, you will feel better just because you have worked on it.

“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.”- Franklin D. Roosevelt

I know, it is usually not easy to keep it together, especially when you always encounter new problems. I am not a robot or anything either. I do have stress or anxiety. But what I try to do is listen to myself and my needs. And once I realise what does me good, I hold onto it. These five tips worked well for me. I hope you benefit from one or two too.