FINDING CALM DURING CRISIS
When we are faced with a crisis or difficult situations, our bodies and minds tend to go into reactive mode preventing us from thinking clearly and effectively. It is important to learn to cultivate a calm, more thoughtful state of mind that will allow us to make better, smarter and safer decisions.
“Every man is the builder of a temple called his body.” – Henry Thoreau
You know it, I know it, life is chaotic, every day but much more so right now. On top of our “regular” chaos and stress, we now deal with uncertainty, anxiety, and fear of what’s to come, our finances, our health, our physical disconnection, just to name a few.
And even though we may be sheltered in place and not moving much, our brains are in overdrive and that’s why it is important to cultivate a calm and relaxed state of mind. That doesn’t mean not doing anything and drowning under our responsibilities. On the contrary, a calm mindset will bring us more focus, attention, energy, and creativity that will help us tackle issues we need to tackle.
A stressed mind moves into the fight, flight or freeze mode, activating the adrenal glands, releasing cortisol (the stress hormone) and triggering adrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. After the perceived threat is gone, it takes between 20 to 60 minutes for the body to return to calm!!!
Under stress our brains react without thinking, our focus narrows, preventing us from seeing the bigger picture or making good decisions, we can’t manage our energy and quickly burn out. A calm and clear mind helps us feel in control, prepared, creative and confident that we can tackle whatever comes our way, to the best of our abilities at the moment. And that’s why is important to find calm.
So, today I share 4 strategies to help calm our emotions during difficult times and achieve a calm, more thoughtful state of mind that will allow us to make better, smarter and safer decisions.
4 Strategies to Find Calm During Difficult times
1. Allow yourself to feel what you feel.
As I mentioned above, a stressed mind reacts without thinking, burns through energy, and quickly becomes exhausted, thus making poor decisions. A calm mind, on the other hand, is smart, creative, confident and resilient.
To achieve a state of calm in the midst of chaos, we first must understand what we feel and allow ourselves to feel the way we do. We don’t ignore it, we don’t shove it aside nor do we feel shame for what we feel. We listen to it because our emotions tell us what is important to us and why.
Here are the steps:
- Name the emotion: anger, frustration, sadness, happiness, exhilaration, annoyance, etc… YOu can find feelings list online and apps.
- Accept how you feel: “I’m feeling … anger, frustration, etc… and it’s ok. It’s just how I feel.” There is no shame in how we feel.
- Describe the physiological sensations the emotion causes in you: “When I feel anger, I notice … sweaty hands, butterflies in the stomach, heart racing…”
- Understand how and why you started feeling the emotion. What happened, who was involved, what were your thoughts right before you felt the emotion, and what did you keep thinking as you were feeling the emotions. The thought loop is very important here!
Our emotions are tellers of what is important to us and why. That information is vital to our happiness.
2. Facts v. Thoughts
When trying to achieve calm in the midst of chaos and crisis, it’s really important that we understand that our thoughts create our emotions.
Our thoughts are not necessarily the facts. Facts can be proven and are indisputable. Thoughts, however, are our opinions of the facts; our ideas, interpretations or beliefs of the facts.
Our life is a good representation of our thoughts: what we highly believe in, what we decide to focus our energy on, where we put our attention to – these are all thoughts. We choose our thoughts all the time. We can’t choose the facts, they either are or aren’t.
Facts can’t actually hurt us, however, our thoughts can. How we choose to interpret the facts (our thoughts), what we choose to believe about the facts (our thoughts) create the emotions we feel (anxiety, fear, anger, happiness) when we think of the facts. Those emotions can drive us to feel good or bad about the situation.
No one, no event, nothing can make us feel the way we do. We are the sole creators of our thoughts and feelings. Things happen and we decide what to think and how to feel. And that can make us feel empowered or get us stuck. There are many events that are completely out of our control. Certain events (death, destruction, loss) can cause an array of emotions. However, it’s still up to us to choose what we want to think of them, how we want to feel and what actions we want to take.
I understand that it is easier said than done, believe me, I’ve been there. But to feel better we need to think better. Better thinking leads to powerful actions. Negative thoughts, create negative emotions which make us feel debilitated, paralyzed. Positive thoughts, however, create positive emotions that motivate us to keep moving. It’s empowering.
How we choose to feel is totally up to us. So let’s do it with intention and purpose, separating facts from thoughts and aligning our emotions with how we want to feel.
3. To control or not to control
There are many circumstances in life that we cannot control: other people’s actions, thoughts, feelings, beliefs; health, diseases; government actions; the economy; mother nature. And there are many things we can control: our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, reactions, responses; where we put our attention and energy toward, how we show up.
We are always producing something, even when we are doing nothing were are still producing.
Being intentional means choosing, on your own, to do or not to do something. For instance, during this shelter in place, you may decide, intentionally, to rest, to take naps, to watch Netflix, to work out, to read, to be active, to be productive, etc. The decision is yours. There is no reason to shame and nobody has nothing to do with it. It’s your business, no one else’s.
On the other hand, you extend the same courtesy to others. No blaming and no shaming. Let people do their thing, and you do yours. This way you will achieve calm even when things are kinda crazy because you know you can control your thoughts and feelings and you can decide on your actions and outcome.
When we relinquish control of what we can’t control and become more intentional with what we can control, we achieve calm.
4. Gratitude and Mindfulness
In moments of crisis, we need to make sure that we are making the best decisions possible. Gratitude and mindfulness can help us do that!
Gratitude brings the brain, the heart, the nervous system, and our hormonal system together. Mindfulness practice changes the brain structure, benefits bodily functions allowing us to grow what we practice. To be grateful one has to be present at the moment to affirm, acknowledge, and savor the goods in life. Gratitude and mindfulness are always together.
The first step to calm down is to take slow, deep breaths. Breathing helps reduce stress and anxiety, calm our nervous system and helps us stay present.
As we find ourselves calmer, we can, with attention and intention, absorb what is happening around us. Take a moment to look round and see what’s happening. Listen to what’s happening. Smell, taste, and sense what’s happening. It’s life happening to you. I call it “Mindful Minute“.
In a quest to cultivate more positivity, we can ask ourselves questions. Asking questions helps us stay present, look for different perspectives, look for positives, and find solutions that are workable for us. Questions keep the brain engaged and our actions intentional. Some examples of intentional questions:
“What’s happening exactly?”
- “What am I thinking?”
- “What am I feeling?”
“What is working?”
“How is this benefiting me?”
“How can I make this easier?”
“How can I use my time well?”
“What am I learning from this?”
“What else could this be?”
“What am I grateful for today?”
When we stop, breathe, ask and listen, we will find answers.
I healthy dose of stress in life can be motivating, from time to time. However, prolonged stress can quickly turn into chaos, draining our energy, leaving us exhausted. A calm state of mind can help us live a healthier life, no matter what comes our way.
As we slowly adjust to the new normal, let’s listen to our thoughts, understand how we feel the way we do, control only what we can and try to see and accept different perspectives. As we do that for ourselves, we extend the same courtesy to everybody else. We are in this together, I know you’ve read this a lot lately, but is true. We are in this together! Stay safe, stay healthy and until next time.
With love and gratitude,
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