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8 Ways To Avoid Getting Lost

8 Ways To Avoid Getting Lost

When I think about getting lost, two particular instances stand out in my mind. One was when I was in my late teens and I drove out to a forest in the middle of nowhere with a group of friends. It was daytime, sunny, and perfect for a picnic. We found a lovely spot deep in the forest and enjoyed a selection of tasty food. Soon dusk arrived and it got a little cooler, so we built a fire. We stayed so long that complete darkness fell and the fire died down. We were cold and tired and ready to go home. Except… which way was that again?

We looked around us and all we could see were the trees directly in front of us. One of my friends has one of those mini torches on his key-ring, but that was about as useful as wearing flip flops in the snow. Just to clarify, this was also before every man, woman, child and baby owned a mobile phone, so if we wanted to find our way out of that forest, we had to find use more traditional methods. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely terrified.

Somehow, we managed to find our way out of there and I cannot begin to describe the relief I felt when we saw the car parked up on the roadside. It had taken us well over an hour to find our way out of that creepy black forest and it was a situation I never wanted to repeat.

Fast forward several years and we come to a more recent experience. I used to have a satnav, but when I got a smart phone I wondered why I bothered carrying several electronic devices when my phone was able to do everything. So I tapped in the address of my friend’s house, a friend I had never visited before. To be fair, I did know most of the way to her house, I was just a little unsure of the last few miles of the journey. I plonked my phone on the non-slip mat on my dashboard, turned up my tunes and set off.

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It was a beautiful day and the sun was hot on my face. Unfortunately, it was a little too warm for my phone, but I didn’t realise that until I got closer to the destination and needed that little extra guidance. I looked at my phone, expecting to see a map and an arrow but to my horror there was just a black screen with an error message reading ‘Temperature Too High’ or something like that. I pulled the car over to a safe place and pressed all buttons, but nothing happened. My phone had overheated in the sun.

Now not only was I unable to see the directions, I couldn’t phone my friend either in order to ask how to get there. I had been so reliant on my phone that I didn’t have her number written anywhere else and I couldn’t even remember the name of the street she lived on! I felt so stupid for putting my entire trust in this minicomputer that was now just bits of overheated plastic, metal and glass.

In the end, I had to wait until the phone had cooled down before I could start again on my journey.

I expect you have had experiences of getting hopelessly lost too, otherwise you wouldn’t be looking at my eight fantastic ways to avoid it! In an attempt to prevent others from experiencing the sheer panic that washes over you when you realise you’re lost and/or stuck, I have put together some tips and tricks on how to get yourself back on the right path – literally!

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1. Recognise the landmarks

I now make a point of paying particular attention to things that catch my eye when I’m out and about somewhere unfamiliar. You can either use your memory, a small notebook, or if you’re confident of the battery life of your camera or mobile phone, you can take pictures of where you have left your car and then several landmarks along the way. You can note down street names, pubs that you pass, memorable places such as cemeteries, churches, schools etc. It’s much easier to find your way if someone gives you directions such as “Keep going straight on until you see the giant doughnut on the left, and when you see that take the next right and look out for the pub covered in hanging baskets, when you see that, turn left.”

Getting directions like “Drive for half a mile, turn right and in a quarter of a mile turn left” can be confusing, so try to give people directions using landmarks too! They will thank you for it.

2. Follow the people

If you’re in a city and you’re not familiar with the language, you can follow the general flow of the people to find the most popular parts of town. Especially during rush hour. Using this method, you’re most likely to follow people to the train station or bus terminal and from there you will be able to get public transport to wherever you’re trying to get. Terminals and stations also often have an information desk which will hopefully have information in several languages.

3. Look at the roads

Find the biggest road you can if you’re lost. The wider the road, the more traffic it is designed to carry, which means it is a main route. Follow the road and you will find yourself in a town centre before you know it or you will see road signs along the way which should point you in the right direction.

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4. Learn to use a compass

You can either carry an actual compass, or if you have a smart phone, you can use a compass app. Learn to use the compass in places that you know well to get to grips with directions. You will notice that satellite dishes on houses all point towards south-west and churches and gravestones usually face east. When you arrive in an unfamiliar place, take a note of which direction you are facing. Keep checking your compass to see which direction you’re walking or driving. If you get lost, you will be able to go back in the opposite direction until you find familiar surroundings again.

5. Use nature

If it is night and the sky is clear, the North Star is always helpful in giving you a sense of which direction you are heading in. If you checked your position when you arrived, you will be able to use the North Star to tell you which way to go back.

If it is daylight, you can push a stick into the ground and mark the end of its shadow. Wait a little while and you will see the shadow move. The direction the shadow has moved in will be east to west. This should give you some idea which way to go if you are in the middle of nowhere.

6. Read maps

It seems like an obvious point, but take a map with you whenever you travel to somewhere new or make use of the map app on your smart phone. Actual physical maps are ideal to have in your pocket, especially if you find yourself in an area where you don’t have any signal.

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Study the map before you leave for your new destination so that you can get familiar with place names, landmarks such as big parks or lakes as well as train stations, rivers and visitor attractions. Have an idea of where you want to go and look at it on the map in relation to where you will be staying or parking. Once you’re there, the street names will feel familiar to you and you’ll have a good idea of where to go and how to get there.

7. Grab a GPS to go

Also known as a Global Positioning System or satnav, when you have a good connection to a satellite these pieces of kit are invaluable for someone who does a lot of travelling to strange places. You can use it whilst driving as it will sit on a special mount on your windscreen, or you can carry it when you’re on foot. You can even get a wristwatch with built in GPS  so you can easily find your way in unfamiliar territory.

8. Learn the basics

If you’re going to a foreign country, make sure you learn some simple phrases to ask for directions, and make sure you will be able to understand the answer. Also learn words that appear often on road or street signs so that you make sense of your surroundings once you arrive. If you’re really struggling with the language, go to or call a nearby hotel as they almost always have someone who can speak English and they will be able to help you.

Featured photo credit: Jessica via flickr.com

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Carles Sabarich

Carles aspires to encourage people to live actively and take charge of their lives.

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

Overwhelmed with work, family responsibilities, financial challenges and health issues are common culprits which catalyze stress and anxiety symptoms that show up differently in each and every one of us.

Whilst many of us are becoming much better at identifying what can trigger us to feel these, we’re not always that great at recognizing our individual thresholds; we don’t know exactly how to calm down when the mental, emotional storms erupt.

We can almost see you eye-rolling upon hearing commonly recommended stress antidotes such as taking a bath, lighting candles or going for a walk. Let’s face it. These simply aren’t practical things you can do when you’re on a red-eye flight at 5:30am to run a full day of training interstate and then fly back the same evening not to mention juggling a young family.

You want to know your triggers, predict the impact of them and have your own suite of tools up your sleeve to calm down that impact for the long-term.

Doing a little ground work to gain a strong self-awareness of your likely reactions puts you smack bang in the pilot seat to develop a robust mental and emotional toolkit that will work wonders for you.

A few simple but well-practiced techniques may be all you need to simmer down the cyclonic intensity of emotions, and disparaging thoughts pecking away at your self-esteem and confidence. However, it’s important you do this self-reflective groundwork first to gain maximum impact for long-term effect.

1. Strengthen Familiarity with What Triggers You

When you have arguments with your loved one, do you stop and look to see if there are certain things you fight about? Are there certain behaviors they display that drive you bananas?

Take your focus off them and ask yourself: “What is my usual response?”

Perhaps you feel the anger welling up inside your chest and you then spurt out that you’ve told him or her ten times before to not leave their underwear lying across the bedroom floor.

Think a little deeper. Ask yourself what values, standards and expectations you have that are not being met here. You’ll likely be attached to certain ways you believe things should play out. Are there assumptions and expectations as to how you believe people should conduct themselves and principles about how you feel you should be treated?

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Having a strong attachment to these for yourself is one thing. Expecting others to have the same attachment is often what can make the hot water start simmering.

It is often when people behave in ways inconsistent with our belief systems and events unfold in discord with what we expect and are prepared for that we feel the most stress and anxiety.

Make a list of the common circumstances in different areas of your life that cause you to become anxious and stressed. Against each of these, describe your stress response:

What happens? What do you feel?

Now think about the values, principles and expectations you have attached to these. You’ll see you have a few options:

  • Change my values and expectations
  • Try to change other’s values and expectations
  • Recognize and be in allowance of others having different values, standards and expectations

Reviewing how you react when you’re stressed and anxious, and identifying which of these three options above is going to best serve you, can greatly increase your ability to feel and be in control of calming your reaction.

You move closer to being able to choose how you want to respond as opposed to feeling helpless and the world is spiralling out of control.

2. Have Coping Statements on Hand

When you have a washing machine of chaotic thoughts churning in your mind, trying to implant thoughts that are the complete opposite of what you’re thinking and feeling can be pretty hard.

Not being able to do it can also add another layer of us feeling disappointment in ourselves. We feel we’re failing.

Having coping statements that you can literally latch on to to help you calm down in those stressful and anxious moments, can be particularly helpful.

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Look at creating palm cards and just have three to five of these you can have in your pocket or in your purse. Here are 6 examples:

  • Even though I am feeling this right now, I am going to be alright
  • What I am feeling right now is uncomfortable. I won’t feel this way forever. Soon the intensity of what I am feeling will pass.
  • I’ve survived these feelings before. I can do it again.
  • I feel this way because of my past experiences but right now, I am actually safe.
  • It’s ok for me to feel this way. My body and brain are trying to protect me but I am actually safe right now.
  • Ah, here you are again, anxiety. Thanks for showing up to protect me, but I don’t need you right now.

Choose words and dialogue that feel true and accurate for you. Read the statements out to yourself and test how fitting they are for you. What feels more assuring, calming and right for you?

Make these statements your own. The aim is of these statements is to de-escalate the intensity of what you feel when you’re anxious and stressed.

Remember, you want to refrain from having blunt statements which feel or sound like they’re self-reprimanding because they won’t be pacifying in a positive way.

If you are unsure as to how to come up with statements that fit for you, look to work with a psychologist or licensed therapist to give you a strong start.

3. Identify and Develop Physical Anchors

You actually have within you resources to provide some of the most effective ways to calm yourself down in heightened moments you feel stressed and anxious. Renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Peter Levine and expert in treating stress and trauma, teaches us how techniques which do this, such as Somatic Experiencing®[1] can significantly help us calm down.

By learning to be fully present and applying touch to certain areas of your body (e.g. forehead and heart space), you increase your capacity to self-regulate. You also learn how to attend to and release your unique symptoms that your body has been containing in a way you have not been able to before.

Here’s one technique example:

  1. Get in a comfortable position
  2. Have your eyes open or closed, whatever feels most comfortable for you
  3. Now place one hand on your forehead, palm side flat against the skin
  4. Place the other hand, palm down across your heart space above your sternum… the flat of your chest area.
  5. Gently turn your attention to what you feel physically in the area between your two hands. Observe and just take notice of what you physically feel. Is your chest pounding? How strong are its beat and the rhythm? Do you notice any other sensations anywhere else between your two hands?
  6. Don’t try to push or resist what you’re feeling. Try to just sit with it and remain this way with your hands in place until you feel a shift, a physical one. It might take a little longer, so try to be patient.

You might feel a change in energy flow, a change in temperature or different, less intense sensations. Just keep your hands in place until you feel some kind of shift, even if gradual.

It might take you even 5 to 10 minutes but, riding this wave will help you to process what discomfort your body is containing. It will greatly help to release it so you gradually become calmer.

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Purely cognitive exercises can be tough at the outset. Learning somatic experience techniques is particularly helpful because you’re engaging in exercises where you physically can feel the difference. Feeling the changes helps you increase confidence you can control and reduce the discomfort you’re feeling. You’ll be motivated to keep practicing and improving this skill you can take anywhere, anytime.

4. Move and Get Physical

If you’re not one to exercise, you’re robbing yourself of some very easy ways which help you calm down and reduce stress and anxiety responses. Many neuro chemical changes take place when you engage in exercise.

At certain levels of physical exertion, your brain’s pituitary gland releases neurotransmitter endorphins. When they bind with certain opiate receptors in your brain, signals are transmuted throughout your nervous system to reduce feelings of pain and trigger feelings of euphoria. You might have heard the term ‘runner’s high’.

For the last 20 years, University of Missouri-Columbia’s Professor Richard Cox has conducted research showing that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective at reducing anxiety and stress levels than other forms of aerobic exercise.[2] However, if you would rather slay dragons than turn up an F45 class, it’s essential you still find something that will physically shift you and alter your current mental and emotional state of mind, even just a fraction to start with. It’s 100% ok if this is not your cup of tea.

So in a day full of back of back-to-back meetings, what can you do?

If you’re sitting, stand. Change your posture and open your body up. Have a suite of discrete stretches you can do regularly as you deepen and engage in diaphragmatic breathing.

If you’re looking down at your desk at work and feeling increasingly stressed, look up and change what you’re looking at. Give yourself more than a few moments to decompress.

The main thing is to change your disposition from the one you’re in when you are experiencing anxiety and stress symptoms. You’re shaking it up to calm it down.

5. Transform Your Unhelpful Inner Dialogue and Its Energy

Learning cognitive restructuring techniques can truly work wonders in helping you recognize and re-frame unhelpful dialogue and negative critical thinking patterns. This involves a little preparation being transparent with yourself about what exaggerated perspectives you might ascribe to what’s happening when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.

When you open your email inbox and see a flood of requests which require more time and energy you have for that day, dread starts to settle in and the following comes to mind: “This is impossible. How can they expect me to be able to do all this? It’s completely unreasonable!”

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Instantly, many other thoughts that reinforce this line of thinking as well as the emotional energy of your first conscious thought start unravelling. A 4-step process you can engage to calm the eruption is:

  1. Catch and notice that first thought you had. What was it? What did you think and/or say to yourself?
  2. Recognize that what you’re feeling and be in allowance of the initial intensity of whatever those emotions are.
  3. Breath deliberately a little more deeply and slowly for a few seconds.
  4. State to yourself: “Right now (in this moment) I’m feeling overwhelmed by this, however maybe I can look at what I can make good progress and headway with as a start from here on.”

Notice the language in step 4 is tentative, supportive, soft and not resistant nor defiant of what your original thought was. You accept your original thought, but gradually you become stronger at pivoting it.[3] You’re expanding your growth mindset language.

It’s definitely worth working with a coach or trained therapist to learn how to tailor re-framing statements which can truly help you calm down.

Final Thoughts

We know, in our minds what we should do. When we’re in the thick of experiencing mental and emotional turmoil, it’s actually harder to implement what we know. In those moments, you’re unlikely to have capacity to think about what you need to do, let alone do it effectively to help you feel calmer.

The key is to practice so that when the storm is brewing, your toolkit and supplies are in easy access. You already know your safety drill well.

Knowing you have strategies and prepared processes up your sleeves helps you not only become better at calming yourself in amongst currently stressful situations. You have more confidence now to face more anxiety-provoking stressors because you have developed the resources to handle it.

How you invest time and energy into getting to know your triggers and thresholds will influence how effective these strategies will work for you. We’re not denying relaxing baths or regular massages are helpful, however these band-aid-like solutions don’t really confront the root causes.

If you truly want to turn your experience of your stress and anxiety symptoms around, dig deeper, do the groundwork and that which rattled your cage will quickly become a thing of the past.

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Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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