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Peaceful Practices : Choose Predictability and Harmony

If you happen to be feeling discombobulated in these times, you are not alone! A sense of disorganization or mini-trauma creeps in when we cannot do what we always do. One of the leading trauma experts, Bessel vanderKolk, defines trauma as being in a situation that we are helpless to change, and which seems endless (hmmm, that sounds familiar!). I have learned much from Bessel in terms of how to handle trauma, and have added some of his best “tips” in this piece.

But the good news is that we are rarely entirely helpless! We can control our own reactions to the situation, experiencing our own agency and efficacy. This article shares the keys to combating helplessness and beating back the trauma of the news, such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

1. Impose a structure on your day. Where there is external unpredictability, one can create for oneself an internal personal predictability, by creating a plan for one’s day. The regular rhythm of the plan is key, and it may involve some “good for the body” parts, as well as “good for the soul” parts. It might look like this:

  • Rise at the same time every day, get dressed, have set times for set activities.
  • 9:00 Morning walk or exercise.
  • 10:00 Check in with email or work.
  • 11:00 Read a chapter in a book, or write for an hour.
  • 12:00 Make a lunch and connect with a friend for an online lunch date.
  • 1:00 Phone one or two friends.
  • 2:00 Work on a new hobby.
  • 3:00 Do something physical - work in the garden, declutter a closet, iron clothes.
  • 6:00 Create a dinner and share it with your housemates, or friends online.


2. Move your body and work on strength. Both cardio training and strength training remind us that our bodies feel good when moved, and allow endorphins to flow, bringing calm. Increasing strength reminds us that we do have some control and efficacy.

3. Get good at something! Try that new hobby. Get out the cookbooks and try something new - then tell a friend what you enjoyed best. It is another way to experience “I can," combatting the helplessness. Never underestimate the feeling of accomplishment in looking at what your own hands have made! Factor the new pursuit into the structure of your day.

4. "Sing with your neighbours!" Our sense of safety as humans comes from being in tune with other people. There is a reason people in the devastated regions of Italy and Spain chose to sing to one another from their balconies - a sense of comfort and security comes when we are in sync with our neighbours - tracking with them, and they with us. So do things to remind yourself that you are in rhythmic harmony with others. It counts, even if you put the music on in the apartment and sing with your roommates, or if you bang pots and pans in sync with your neighbours every evening as a signal of honouring and cheering on our front line workers!

Finally, be gentle on yourself - and others you may be sharing space with. We have been through a difficult year, and are weary about enduring the ongoing impact of the pandemic. But self-care, sharing your feelings with others, and helping others when you can will go a long way.

Donna McIldoon

Donna McIldoon is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Psychotherapist, and a pastor in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Thank you, Donna, for sharing this informative and inspiring article with us! To contact Donna for personal counselling, please visit

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