10 MINUTES TO CALM: STRATEGIES TO CULTIVATE CALM DAILY
Even when things just don’t seem to lighten up, regular practice can help us get out of an overwhelmed and paralyzed mindset and find calm even in the midst of chaos and crisis.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment. Like in the breath.” – Amit Ray
I believed, back in March and April, when we all went into lockdown, that we had hit the highest levels of individual and collective anxiety we would ever hit. And that’s because we tend to get used to a situation and it becomes less stressful. Which it did.
Even though we are still in the thick of this pandemic, we are still sheltered, most kids are still studying from home, most of us are still working from home, now we have more information, and we are slightly more relaxed – not because things are better – but only because we now know better how to live and behave under the circumstances.
Well, that thought was last week. This is now.
Today is election day. And if you have been watching the news or are on social media you know how much anxiety is floating around right now. Anxiety levels are at its highest, ever.
I’m not gonna sugarcoat it for you, we’ve already got a glimpse of what’s to come. And no matter what results we get, the end of the election will not put an end to our anxiety.
Post after post on social media these past few days have been on how anxious and fearful people are of what is to come, after the election.
So how to deal with our already highly elevated anxiety, fears and worries? I can tell you this: we can’t continue at this pace. It is not sustainable to our mental, emotional or physical health. It is not sustainable to our nature. And we must control and change it. Now.
I feel that my life’s work has prepared me to this moment, right here. I too am worried for our future, and I can start feeling anxious at times, but I can assure you I’m not panicking.
It’s hard, I know, to feel calm during uncertain times, but it is possible to do it and I’ll share with you how I do it.
UNDERSTAND HOW YOUR MIND WORKS
In simple terms, our nervous system is comprised of sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic system stimulates the “fight or flight” response in our bodies.
The interesting thing about the sympathetic system is that it doesn’t differentiate real from imagined.
If you remember an upsetting past experience, you will be able to feel again all of the feelings you felt before and the body will start reacting to it just as it did before.
The same happens if you start thinking or imagining the worst things that can happen, and really get into it, your brain will give the alert “danger, danger” and get your body into fight or flight mode by increasing your heart rate, increasing your breathing, pumping blood to your limbs, getting you ready to fight or run.
As a result, you start pumping cortisol throughout your body. You start to burn your adrenals out, you stop digesting. Your immune system just can’t work at its primal levels if you’re living in that sympathetic state for extended periods of time.
Unfortunately, a lot of people are living in their sympathetic system most of the time. They are literally exhausting themselves.
On the other hand, the parasympathetic system is the “rest and relaxed” system. It inhibits the body from overworking and restores the body to a calm and relaxed state. It slows our heartbeat, reduces our blood pressure, increases our digestion, relaxes our muscles, and puts us in a general state of calm and ease. We are healthier because our physical bodies are functioning at their best.
I know it is not easy to ask you to calm down during all that is happening around you right now. Believe me, I understand. I come from a Portuguese family, I know what it means to be running high on your emotions all the time. And if I learned how to manage it, so can you!
When our mind is in a state of calm, our thinking process works at higher effectiveness levels. We become more creative, thus much better at problem-solving; we are more open and receptive to different perspectives, we find ourselves in the space of possibilities.
I also know it is much easier to do “thought and emotional work” when things are going well. But it is exactly when we get bad news or something tragic or really wrong happens that we must do this mindset work.
Believe me, I understand the dilemma. I go through it too. In fact, I just went through it the past couple of weeks. Something happened two weeks ago and then again something else this week, from night to day, literally, I woke up to really bad news. Several people were involved who totally lost control.
Thankfully, I have been doing this work on myself for years and knew I would be able to figure something out. And I did. In a matter of a few hours, all was resolved and finalized.
Here’s how I did it:
– First of, I took several deep breaths. The same breathing I teach you all: “Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I relax.” When my breathing had slowed down, and my body felt calmer, I went to work.
– I took stock of the situation, gathered all information I could gather.
– I asked everyone involved to stop calling or texting me and told them I would contact them back when I had some answers or give them updates from time to time.
– I consulted with an expert and together we identified everything I need to do and how to better do it.
– I asked for help, to get it done faster. And we all got to work.
Few hours later, we had solved and finalized the problem.
– All parties got notified. Everyone was happy.
– I was spent but satisfied with the solution.
– I made myself a priority for a couple of days after that. All about me and the things that make me happy, calm, relaxed, and at peace.
When I find myself in situations that can make me anxious, I immediately jump into parasympathetic work. Slow breathing is my number one tool. Daily meditation allows me to get into a state of calmness faster. I watch myself and how my body reacts to the situation. I take stock of what I can control and get to work.
I know I can control my thoughts and can manage my emotions so that I can take the right actions, so I do it.
Don’t fight your feelings. Allow them to communicate with you.
Your emotions can not hurt you, on the contrary, they are bringing you messages of what is important to you, they are telling you what you need to tend to. So listen to them. Know what they are and what they mean to you. Labeling your emotions is a very powerful tool.
When you start feeling your emotions rise, take a few deep breaths, and identify how you are feeling. Here is a “feelings wheel” that you can use any time to help you identify exactly how you are feeling, so you don’t get sidetracked.
“I’m feeling…” will immediately bring down the intensity of your emotion a notch because now you are engaging your rational brain and calming the emotional brain (it’s a trick!)
Our thoughts create and perpetuate our emotions. So to understand why we feel the way we do we need to identify the thoughts behind the feelings.
Our thoughts are not necessarily the facts, they can be but they are not always. In fact, our thoughts are our opinions, our personal view of the situations, an interpretation of life, which is colored by our experiences, beliefs, and opinions. They are not true or false, right or wrong, they are just thoughts.
And the most amazing thing is that we can change our thoughts and our thought patterns. Anytime.We can change our opinions, we can change our beliefs.
Another amazing thing is that no one can make us feel one way or another, we are the only ones who can. And we can and have total control over our thoughts.
Our thoughts create our feelings, and our feelings drive our actions.
To control my thoughts I ask myself questions that will guide me to take positive and effective actions.
To get out of fear and paralysis, we must take action. But here is the dilemma, because when we are dealing with anxiety and fear we don’t always know what to do or we don’t act fearful of what our actions will cause. So we don’t act at all. And that’s when we feel paralyzed.
If our thoughts and feelings drive our actions we must start there. For me, asking questions gets me moving because 1) questions engage the rational brain and calms down the emotional brain, and 2) questions have the ability to help us focus in an instant.
I don’t ask questions that will get me more freaked out or will get me stuck in fear. I ask questions that will help me move from paralyzed, fearful and anxious, to empowered and in control.
I ask questions that I actually want answers to. I ask questions that will guide me to effective and positive actions within my control because as soon as I ask myself questions, my mind will start looking for the answers.
What is my biggest fear right now?
How is that fear impacting my quality of life?
What do I actually have control over or can actually change?
How do I want to feel, right now?
What can I, within my control, do to help me feel that way? (thing of small actions)
What can I do within my control, to improve my thoughts and my surroundings so that I can feel better? (when I feel better I can take action)
How can I use this experience for my personal growth?
How can I use this experience to help take care of myself and my family?
What can I do, within my control, that will produce good results for me, my family, my community, the collective?
And take actions from those answers.
When I felt paralyzed and hopeless, I asked myself what I could do to make a difference in my community and in society in general. And I acted on that: not only I made several donations and volunteering opportunities, but I also joined two organization boards whose works were directed to diverse and underserved teens locally. I can see the work getting results already, and that makes me feel part of the solution. I feel empowered and in control.
I know I can’t change the world, not by myself at least, but I can take small actions that along with other people’s actions create a big ripple effect in our society.
OTHER WAYS TO CULTIVATE CALM AMIDST CHAOS
Practice self-care. Read uplifting books. Listen to songs that make you feel good. Take a bath. Take a nap. Take a break.
Unplug from the media if it is consuming your peace. Get the facts, because you need to know what’s going on, but don’t get caught up in the drama.
Go outside. There is something about fresh air that makes everything better. Go for a walk alone or with a friend.
Connect with people who will lift you up, not bring you down.
And add humor to your routine. Watch sitcoms or TV shows and movies that will make you laugh a bit. Laughter is strong medicine.
I also know that the mindset work I do is extremely powerful. It is what has helped me for many years and has prepared me for this year. Being able to understand my thoughts and emotions and being able to take actions that not only help get unstuck, and make me feel in control, but also allow me to create effects that change people’s lives.
These are trying times and, sadly enough, they are not over yet.
This is the time to understand your thoughts, to manage your emotions and to act on what you can control.
I would love to see you feeling empowered and in control of yourself.
And that’s why I’m inviting you to join me next week for “1o Minutes to Calm”, a FREE challenge, where I will teach you simple strategies to help you navigate these chaotic times that we’re in with more grace, more focus, more clarity, and yes, more calm, no matter what happens around you.
The time is now. You can’t keep on running on a low tank. You will burn out.
If you feel paralyzed. If you are always worried and fearful. Come join me next week.
Learn the strategies I’ve been using for years that allow me to calm my nervous system down and put me in the driver’s seat of my life. Come join me, it’s free. We can all benefit from supporting one another.
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With love and gratitude,
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