Strategy #3: Have a zero day.

by Tim Denning

The knife was bigger than I expected when it was presented to my friend and me. We were headed home and ran into a group of teenage males. I was eating a paddle pop ice cream which wasn’t a sign of what was to come.

We were sixteen-year-olds on our way home. In a way, I got lucky. The weapon that was used on me was a baseball bat. My friend wasn’t so fortunate and got the knife.

His blood went everywhere as my head was hit with the baseball bat repeatedly. Watching him suffer, as a gang of youths attacked both of us, is something I will never forget. It’s the most graphic form of violence I have ever seen. The fact we are both alive is a miracle.

Time freezes when panic and fear set in. When you come face to face with death, nothing else matters. All your problems are forgotten.

All that matters is if your heartbeat will continue and whether you will live to see tomorrow.

After it’s all over, you think you will forget — but you never do. Those moments of fear are never forgotten, and they come to you during your darkest hours.

Right now is one of those times in human history. All of us are collectively facing our darkest hour as one. In a way, it makes it slightly easier to deal with. When it’s just you with a knife wedged in your stomach, it’s a lot harder to comprehend the future alone, like my friend.

So how do we make it through these dark times in one piece?

Keep Your Habits

During these difficult moments, it’s easy to give up the habits that have taken you years to cultivate.

Right now, I can’t go to the gym. As a workaround, my girlfriend and I are taking midday walks together so that we at least perform some form of exercise. The midday walk is a reminder that good times will return and so will our habits, like going to the gym.

Maybe your habits change shape — and that’s okay — but don’t let them drop off altogether. It’s the small habits you keep that get you through the dark times and remind you of better ones.

Write About It

Maybe this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. One of the best ways I’ve found to deal with dark times is to treat writing like therapy.

Write about what you’re experiencing with one aim: to find one small piece of inspiration for the reader.

Even if you’ve never written before, it doesn’t matter. There are plenty of places to write on the internet, including where you’re reading this blog post right now. Writing is a way to arrange your thinking about the current world events and gain meaning and educational lessons from the madness.

Things are bad, but what can you write about that might be useful?

Have a Zero Day

There have been a few days recently where I’ve felt like doing nothing. Too much chaos, panic and fear for breakfast has caused me to lose interest during the rest of my day. One thing that has helped me is to accept these zero days.

You don’t need to be winning and ticking off tasks from a to-do list to survive and eventually thrive again. You can have a zero day and still be okay.

Express How You Feel

These difficult times take us through a range of emotions we may not have experienced before. You may not have felt this level of fear before, or at least for a long time.

The antidote to too much fear is to express how you feel. Admit when you’re fearful — to yourself first and then to the ones you love.

It’s okay to be feeling a little off colour. Last year we were living our lives and attending events. This year we are locked in our homes and have taken up the sport of hoarding groceries for survival. The stark contrast is going to scare the crap out of any average person.

Permit yourself to express how you really feel.

Take Social Media Breaks

Social media is like a firehose of negativity in your face during times such as these. You don’t need it. Take a break. Step away from your Twitter Feed.

Talk to your family or play with the dog. The answer to the current crisis is not going to be found in your social media feed. The advice remains the same: don’t panic, stay home, relax, wash your hands, and stay kind.

Stay Close to Eachother

Isolation can screw with your brain.

The solution is to stay close to each other. Connect with your friends and family. Setup virtual meetings with your colleagues to check-in. Wave at your neighbour when you venture out into the brave, open world to get your mail from the letterbox.

The inspiration you need to deal with the current world events is found in feeling connected to something bigger than yourself.

Random Acts of Kindness

People are doing it worse than you.

The other day a complete stranger sent me a message on LinkedIn and offered me a free box of surgical masks. I didn’t take the masks, but what it did was give me an incredible level of hope.

Doing good deeds for others reminds people of what is possible and sets them an example to follow.

You can perform physical or virtual deeds — it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you go beyond yourself, to show yourself that everything is going to be okay. If you can do a good deed for somebody else, what does that tell you? Everything is going to be fine, and we will rise out of this situation bigger and better than before having learned many valuable lessons.

Reset Your Mind

Your mind takes a jackhammering in dark times.

It’s overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed, fearful and uncertain. There are many ways to reset your mind. Here are a few I’ve been using:

  • Read a book (I am currently reading Stillness Is The Key by Ryan Holiday, which I stumbled across accidentally around the time all of this madness started).
  • Practice stillness and silent reflection while sitting on the couch.
  • Go to bed earlier.
  • Sleep for one hour extra to give your mind extra rest.
  • Maintain your diet and eat plant-based food (that’ll help boost your immune system too!).
  • Drown your mind in a few Hollywood Movies.
  • Go through your old photos on your computer — see how far you’ve come.
  • Send out SMS messages to people in your life.

There are many ways to reset your mind during a crisis, and it’s a choice worth making when the world goes into a temporary meltdown.

All of us are living it tough right now, and the greatest strategy we have at our disposal is to find inspiration amidst what is transpiring. Be the light in somebody else’s day and take care of your mind in the process.

It’s okay to have a zero day or to be less than productive while isolating yourself at home. Keep up the human connection and don’t panic.

There is an incredible inspiration to be found in dark times — you just have to look a little harder than usual.

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Originally published by Tim Denning for Mind Cafe on


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