One thing that I’ve learned from 2020 is that rules don’t seem to matter anymore. You can walk into a bank wearing a mask these days! We’ve heard that rules are made to be broken, but I bet we never saw this coming.

If only foresight was 2020, then maybe we could have better prepared for 2020. Perhaps we wouldn’t have spent Dec. 31, 2019, partying like it was 1999. Maybe 2019 would have been spent preparing for some sort of apocalyptic-like event. But foresight isn’t 2020. And who knows when this will all be behind us and we can use 2020 hindsight to look at the fear, um, I mean the year 2020. It’s physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing.

But there is a silver lining in this dark cloud. A place of comfort right between foresight and hindsight. It’s called insight. This is where our mental health journey begins.

“During these trying times.” “In these uncertain times.” “Flatten the curve.” I can’t wait to never hear these phrases again. But the truth of the matter is, until the COVID-19 curve is flattened, these will be trying and uncertain times. Couple that with the fact that 2020 has been on a large declivity ever since Netflix gave us the Tiger King. This year has been terrifying, infuriating, and incomprehensible to say the least.

Everywhere we turn there is another reminder of how important it is to protect our mental health. It is difficult to find peace in the midst of such chaos, but it isn’t impossible. There are a few obvious answers when it comes to activities that calm the mind. Exercise, yoga, meditation, and reading are all a go-to for many people when trying to quiet the noise of the brain. But I’d like to offer a list of not so obvious ideas that may help as well.

Play, or learn how to play chess

Chess is a thought provoking game of strategy and patience. It requires you to think and plan ahead. It is also an incredible mental exercise. When playing chess, you can become so engulfed in the game that you can completely escape your reality. This is also true for other games. Chess can be boring for some people, but I encourage you to play a game that causes you to both open and relax your mind.

Take a break from social media

The world of social media is a far more horrifying place than the real world. It is filled with delusions of grandeur, facades, and people chasing moments. The internet has lengthened what used to be 15 minutes of fame.

The problem with that is it has fallen into the hands of people who are irresponsible with their platforms. Too many people have become influential online, but lack the wisdom to be effective and proficient leaders. But even if you aren’t easily influenced by these people, posts from family members and friends could have just as much of a negative effect on your mental health.

When I was younger I remember wanting my super power to be mind-reading. Well, thanks to social media I am able to do just that. I really need to be more careful with what I ask. Sometimes it’s good to take a break from the Facebook Philosophers and their opinions.

Drink tea

Thanks to pop culture, sipping tea has become an expression used for gossip and drama. They even dragged poor Kermit the Frog in it and made him the “Sips Tea” spokesperson. I guess it ain’t easy being green. But this isn’t the type of tea I’m referring to. I mean actual herbal teas like chamomile and lavender. These are just two of the many types of teas that can relieve stress and anxiety. They are also a healthy alternative to drinking alcohol.

Many people look to beer, wine, and liquor to unwind and escape the stresses of the world. Any of these things in moderation is perfectly fine, but an overload of stress can lead to overconsumption of alcohol. It wouldn’t hurt to give your liver a break sometimes and instead consume something that nourishes your body while relieving your stress.

Watch a funny movie or television show

The best medicine is laughter. Sometimes we just need to hit our internal reset button. One of the best ways is by laughing. It seems so simple, which it is, but it is also very effective. Laughing releases endorphins. Endorphins are neurochemicals that increase our sense of well-being. A good laugh can relieve stress and sadness. Sometimes a funny TV show or movie is all the therapy we need.

Revisit your childhood

This one is a personal favorite. When things become too stressful, I like to recall memories from my early childhood. There are moments when I feel that I need to return to a time before I was introduced to stress. A time of innocence and naiveté. When my biggest issue was when I would get a chance to return to Disney World.

The innocence of a child is an incredible thing. They don’t know what it is to hate or be hated. They don’t know the pain from heartbreaks, or the rejection from failure. As a matter of fact, everything is success. They pick up Crayons and color. It doesn’t matter if they color between the lines. Those lines were created by adults as borders. But kids aren’t confined by borders. It’s their world, and the only rules are have fun and enjoy life. Maybe life would be less stressful for us adults if we learned to just color outside the lines.

I’m sure we all wish 2020 came with a skip add button. At this point, we don’t know what to expect. We could expect the unexpected, but even the unexpected that we expected would be so unexpected that it would leave us as confused as this sentence just did.

We will never be able to control the world around us. But what we can control is how we react to the world around us. We will always have the power to create peace in the midst of chaos by looking within ourselves. And in a strange way, it actually does give us a bit of control over the world. Not in a sense of making the world conform to us, but by creating our own world that makes the outside world more palatable. Sometimes, having control simply means not being controlled.

We have no idea what more 2020 has in store for us, but with the proper tools, we can handle it. Protect your peace. Protect your mental health. So play a game, log off of social media, sip some tea, find a reason to laugh, and color outside the lines.

Tyrell James, co-owner of Born Champions Boxing, is also the owner of Rellic Fitness, where he is a boxing coach, master herbalist and health coach. He is also an author, personal trainer and nutritionist.

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