Weekend Self Care: Tame Your Mind With A Crossword

IT’S JUNE! I love the start of the month. It’s like we have 12 opportunities every year to start completely afresh. Of course, it’s not like you have to wait for the first of the month (you can start any day you want!) but I tend to be very organized and I like a nice, clean 30-day window in which to make changes. Meditation is my focus this June.

I’ve been concentrating a lot more on mindfulness these days, but no matter how often I practice focusing on my breath or becoming aware of my surroundings, I haven’t quite managed to tame my anxiety yet. When anxious thoughts start to take over, the mind feels like a tornado and it can be quite paralyzing.

It’s in these moments when I reach for my crossword book.

Actually, I first got into crosswords for precisely this reason. Words have always piqued my interest (I am a linguist after all), and they seemed the perfect method to really suck me in and distract me from my anxious thinking.

It worked! I really, really sucked at them at first, but crosswords are the kind of thing that you start to get the hang of the more you do them. You’ll become familiar with the kinds of clues and the frequently used words that always seem to crop up. You’ll realize that if a clue ends in a question mark, the answer is probably going to be some kind of dad-joke pun and make you groan out loud. In fact, if you want to give yourself a leg up, you can even google the kinds of crosswords clues that are commonly used so that you know what to look for as you’re puzzling them out!

It wasn’t long before I was printing out crosswords to fill out during my breaks at work and while sitting in bed. I was living in Korea at the time, and my Grandma in Nebraska used to cut out the crossword from the Omaha World Herald every single day and then send them to me in a package (along with the answer keys) once every couple of months. She actually kept this up even after I moved back to Nebraska and lived next door to her again, and the crosswords still kept coming after I moved to Israel last year. I get books of crosswords for my birthday, and they’re my go-to waiting room activity.  My brother, Micah, times me to see how fast I’ve gotten. Sam laughs at me while I sit on the couch crosswording (that’s a word now) and talk to myself, getting heated over the particularly difficult clues.

I’m obsessed.

But, you don’t have to be obsessed with crosswords to reap their benefits. What started as a welcome distraction for me soon became something of a meditation in itself. It’s true! Consciously becoming aware of your mental state and the need for an energy shift is absolutely practicing mindfulness, and then making the decision to sit down and direct your mental focus to the crossword is a wonderful next step.

Seriously! Things in life tend to look a LOT less complicated after you’ve gotten your focus straightened out. You might even find (like me) that your anxious thoughts have subsided.

“But Emily,” you say. “What if I suck?”

So you suck. Who cares?! Like any skill, the more you practice, the better you get. My guess is, though, that you’ll be a lot better at it than you think. And anyway, how many answers you get right is not really the point.

So, pour a cup of hot coffee, sit your ass down in a chair, and grab a pencil. If you don’t have any crossword books or newspapers available, you can access some of my favorite online crosswords here, here, and here.

GO NUTS! And if you develop an obsession too, PLEASE let me know and we can be crossword buddies! ❤

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