9 Ways to Take Back the Reins

I’m at end of week two of working remotely. I find it remarkably incongruent. I love my home. I love my dog. I love my boyfriend. I am so comfortable here. It’s my safe little nest. Why in the world do I feel so lost? Why am I so tired? Why am I so hungry? Why am I so distracted? I feel like, regardless of where you are, even the most comfortable, warm, happy place; one still wants to be in control. Regardless of how wonderful my living situation is, this virus is on a rampage and I have absolutely, positively no control over the outcome. Yes, yes, much like voting or washing my hands, I can do my part but whether I wash my hands or wear a mask to Food Lion, it feels like I cannot move the needle on the amount of deaths in New York City.

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This leads me to taking back the reins on what I can control; on what I can do in my very small corner of the universe to feel sovereign over my trajectory. It’s like steering a boat in a raging sea or taking one small step up a steep mountain: I can take back the reins to my reality.

Here are 9 ways to take back the reins:

  1. Make your bed. How long does it take to make your bed? I’m not saying wash the sheets and all the bedding. I’m saying, straighten the covers, the sheets and pillows. I’m guessing this will take about 30 seconds to a minute. That one small step? It makes my day so much better. I’m not staring at a mess every time I’m in my bedroom. Odds are you are going to walk into the bedroom several times a day. You’ll be seeing that bed totally ready for you to slide into tonight. It’s neat, inviting and creates an environment of peace and stability.
  2. Buy an orchid plant. I got into the habit of buying orchids at the grocery store about four years ago. Orchids are incredibly resilient, and they will bloom for months. I used to buy cut flowers once a week (which is still a great idea to bring some color, beauty and scent into your life) but they fade and die after a week. Orchids? Their blossoms last for anywhere from 6 weeks to 4 months. Doing the cost benefit analysis of buying flowers weekly or an orchid once every two months, the orchid wins every time and I feel like I am taking care of myself with a beautiful blooming plant in my space.
  3. Clear the counters in your home. I read the book The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker a few months ago. It helped me identify many things that were cluttering my home. One of the main areas I decluttered was my kitchen counters. At one time I had a toaster oven, blender, utensil holder and cookbook holder on my counter at all times. Joshua suggested that it didn’t make sense to have something you use once a day or once a week, sitting on your counter taking up space and cluttering your line of sight. I moved everything off the counter and into a cupboard. It’s amazing how freeing space up makes room for new things to happen. I started baking and cooking more because there was a clean slate to work from.
  4. Turn off the news. You can get all your news on a device other than a television. It’s all so sensational now. It hijacks my amygdala which sends me into fight/flight/freeze mode. It’s exhausting. There may be a news conference from your governor, but they publish those advisories on your state’s website. The written word is not as cortisol-inducing as watching a highlight reel of the latest impacts of this pandemic. I feel in control of my news diet this way.
  5. Mindfulness. I’ve been meditating for ten years once a day for fifteen minutes. It really helps me get centered and present, which helps me feel in control of my day. There are other ways to be mindful like yoga or walking. Find what suits you and get back to the present moment.
  6. Be grateful. I’ve been writing a gratitude journal for over ten years. Currently, I write down five things I’m grateful for and one thing I’m grateful I did, like “completing a workout” or “hiking two miles.” It reminds me of all the things that are going right in my life, it helps me reflect on the good and what I am doing for myself (and what I’m in control of).
  7. Get outside. There is no greater cure for being cooped up in a house than getting outside. Most of the stay-at-home orders let you exercise. Our beaches and state parks are closed here in North Carolina but in the last week, my boyfriend Roy and I went kayaking on the Bogue Sound and hiking in the Croatan National Forest (all currently allowable). I have never felt better and more in control than paddling a kayak to where I want to go.
  8. Single tasking. I have found that one of the biggest issues I have with video conferencing is that I will pick up my phone and see if I have notifications, typically while someone else is talking in a large meeting. I end up missing half the conversation because of my habit of picking up my phone. Multitasking is draining and makes me feel out of control. Put the phone down, on airplane mode or in the other room and single task your next meeting. I promise you will feel more in control and present.
  9. Help someone out. Altruism is the cure for almost anything that ails you. Pick up your neighbor’s overturned garbage can, call your friend and see how they are doing, check in with your parent who is quarantined, sew face masks, make donations, see if that nurse you know needs her front yard mowed or offer to pick up a package of toilet paper if Target is restocked (you will be a hero). Looking outside of yourself helps you feel like you have forward motion on the path that you want to be on.

Taking the reins makes me feel like I’m in control. With so much uncertainty in the world, give yourself one small win. As James Clear wrote in Atomic Habits: “Every action you take is casting a vote for the kind of person you want to be.” Take action. One small step towards taking back the reins of your life is empowering during this time of chaos. What small step do you want to take to get the reins back under your control?

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