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Personal peace: 5 ways to accept the unexpected

I am a self-proclaimed (and boyfriend-confirmed) control freak.  I like to know what’s going on, who’s doing what and how it affects me personally.  This makes me an adept listener and a perceptive observer, but also an anxious, worried mess.  Despite all my strategic planning (oh yes, I am a Post-It, to-do list kind of girl) sometimes, situations go awry.  After years of mini freak-outs and phoning home to hear the wise, comforting words of my mother, I have learned a thing or two about acceptance.  If you are in need of some coping mechanisms to employ when life is well, life, then read on to relinquish control of the crazy, today.

1. Breathe

One of the simplest ways to lower stress levels and stop the fight or flight response of your body to anxiety is to breathe deeply.  Remember that strange throaty wheezing coming from the human pretzel in your yoga class?  That type of breathing (in through the nose, out through the mouth) increases oxygen intake, in turn lowering anxiety and balancing your mood.  Vanity aside, this simple practice will do wonders for your psyche in times of trouble.

2. Read “Zen And the Art of Happiness”

If stress and anxiety are recurring pitfalls for you, I recommend investing your time in a book by Chris Prentiss called, “Zen And the Art of Happiness.”  The book combines spirituality and science in one small (but effective) motivational package.  One of the key mantras that the book challenges the reader to adopt is that of acting as though whatever happens to you is the best possible thing that can happen to you.  The concepts are simple, but through a meditative and repetitive story structure, the author zeroes in on common tendencies of the worrywart and allows the reader to reflect on his or her behavior.  This isn’t your common self-help book.  But don’t take my word for it, get your copy here, or check the book out at the nearest library.



3. Talk it out

It is common knowledge that women are more likely to talk or “vent” about their problems than men.  While this is a great way to relieve stress and set your mind straight, you should proceed with caution when doing so.  Make sure that the person you are venting to (friend, parent, co-worker, etc.) knows that these words are being said in frustration and may not adequately reflect the reality of the situation.  We are humans, frequently hyperbolic and melodramatic – especially when emotions are at play – and many times, we do not actually mean what we say.  As long as your confidant understands you as an individual and helps you see the light without leading you astray into a tawdry session of badmouthing, the two-way communication should be enlightening. 



4. Know your peace

As a writer, I take comfort in words.  Uplifting and motivational quotes surround my desk and overtake my fridge in magnet form, to pull me from the depths of my own discouragement.  If quotes bring you comfort, find your favorites online, print them off, cut them out and plaster them wherever your eyes may wander.  It may sound silly, but words are incredibly powerful tools that can help or hinder mood.  If words just don’t do it for you, find something that does.  Anything that calms or (positively) distracts you should stand as your go-to stress management solution.



5. Think

The problem with obsessive personalities is that they leave little room for logic amidst all the emotional turmoil.  While it can be difficult, you must try to distance yourself from your own emotions when dealing with unexpected circumstances.  Instead of crying, yelling, or curling up into a tight ball on your bed, sit yourself down and submit to reason.  Ask yourself what the problem is, formulate possible solutions and set a timeframe for action.  If you train yourself to consciously problem-solve and “act” before you “react,” you will soon develop a mental muscle-of-sorts for keeping calm in difficult situations.

I hope my tips will help you on your path to peace and happiness.  Take these wise words as a parting gift:


I am in my senior year and last semester at the University of Iowa, majoring in journalism, minoring in English and pursuing a certificate in creative writing. My passions include writing (poetry, short fiction and anything my mind must expel onto the page), working out and spending time with my friends. I stand by the aphorism, "the pen is mightier than the sword" and hope to use my skills as a writer to positively impact as many people on this planet as I can.
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