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We asked, you answered: Let's make a toast to the ways you keep calm and carry on

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Your breakfast toast is not just a carb. It can be an inspiration.

All it takes is "putting a happy face on my toast with squeeze jam," Debra Grabowski of New Smyrna Beach, Florida, tells us.

That was one of the lovely emails from readers when we asked them to share the ways and means they use to keep calm and carry on in the face of setbacks and gloom.

The impetus for this callout came from an article we published earlier this month. We asked some of the attendees at the Skoll World Forum, dedicated to "accelerat[ing] innovative solutions," what they do to "keep calm and carry on" when things get tough.

We are grateful to all who responded. Here's a sampling of their advice.

Look ahead ... way ahead

Toast decorator Debra Grabowski also recommends glancing into the future: "When things go offline and it's getting mentally hairy, I think: "Will this matter in five years?"

We should all be as smart as this 6th grader

"Hi Goats and Soda! I'm Natalie McGill, a 6th grader from Kansas City, Missouri, and this is how I keep calm and carry on. (Especially during our upcoming standardized testing season) I ask myself "What if this is getting me to where I need to be?"

"In my head I tell myself that this, this moment, right here, right now is getting me to where I need to be. I find it comforting to know that I am always getting closer to the moment I have been waiting for, or that I am already living in it.

With pen (or mobile phone) in hand

"Thank you for letting me chime in," writes Laura Klarman of Herriman, Utah.

[Editor's note: You're welcome.]

Klarman has a three-step plan:

"Here's how I keep calm:

  1. Handwritten thank you notes. My problems (and the world's) seem farther away when I have a grateful heart. It's even better when I can express my gratitude and recognize someone's awesomeness.
  2. Keeping a running list in my notes section on my phone of what makes me happy. I've titled it "Things I Love" and the latest additions are turning over a new month in the calendar (new beginnings!), discovering a new book series and reading them in order, listening to music loud and hay bales all in a row.
  3. Connecting with the people and places I love. Trying a new place to eat lunch with a friend I haven't seen in a while, going back to my parent's house to visit and checking out what's in their fridge (old habits die hard), traveling to a new place with my family or being at home with my husband on a rare day off when the kids are in school.

A grandmother's advice: 'Listen more, talk less'

Karen Lembo of Morristown, New Jersey, writes: "I try, very hard, to stay curious about people. It is not easy, and it is coming to me much too late in life, but I 'listen more, talk less.' My beloved grandmother, Nana Rete, would quote 'God gave you two ears but only one mouth for a good reason, Karen.' It took me years, but gosh I see how much more I learn daily by asking questions and then listening, REALLY listening."

Lembo adds, "I keep calm by staying close to my grandchildren — their wisdom, joy, humor, love and kindness knows no bounds."

Never underestimate laughter

With the cautionary note that "Sometimes it works and other times, of course it does not," Willow G. of Ohio recommends the healing power of laughter: "I grew up in a household where one parent was a nurse, and the other was a police officer, and we children were exposed to a great deal of dark humor.

"I learned at a young age to laugh, and when I laughed, made an interesting discovery: Laughter made me — and those around me — feel better."

Perspective, perspective, perspective!

A reader writes: "I'm 75 and have a world of health issues, common to people my age. My brain isn't as fast as it used to be. Neither is my stamina or my physical condition. My wife is a few years older than I am and has even more health issues than I do.

"It would be all too easy to dwell on our problems or issues. What keeps me optimistic, positive, forward-looking is perspective. It is vital to keep things in perspective. No matter how things are for me, I understand that many, many people have it much worse off than I do. Perspective keeps me going. Instead of feeling sorry for myself and accomplishing nothing from that, I concentrate on helping others. I make sure, when I go out, that I have a smile on my face. I say 'hello' to perfect strangers. I compliment people if I see them wearing something interesting. If I see people in need on the street, even though I am on a very low fixed income, I give them something significant, at least $5. I post positive articles on Facebook and send encouraging messages to people I know. I am also very grateful for being alive. Being grateful also helps keep things in perspective."

Finding a way to face pain

A reader writes: "I am an Alaska native from a small village of 300 people — very remote but amazing, My people and I have endured many types of losses mainly to suicide and hopelessness. In the last year I have lost 8 people in my life to various things and in a village of 300 these losses are felt.

"Two years ago I lost two nephews. Those losses broke our family. What I did to 'carry on' was to shore up the other things in my life that I could. Like increasing positive people around me, seeing my family when they came to town, calling people, returning to church and telling people I am struggling but not accepting pity. Just acknowledging that I was not okay gave me permission to not be okay."

Stop, ask, count!

Tom Dorner of Detroit, Michigan, sagely suggests taking stock: "You may not solve the problem that day. But you are moving forward.

"First STOP and take a deep breath. Then sit down. Maybe count to 10, then ask yourself what is the problem. Be realistic and do what you can do. Ask for help and advice if you can. You may not solve the problem that day. But you are moving forward toward that goal. We can all take time to look at the world in a better light."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.