4 Ways to Be Calm Now
Resilience is a state of mind.
Posted Sep 29, 2020
With so much uncertainty going on around us, it is natural to feel out of sorts, anxious, overwhelmed, or generally stressed out. Instead of letting this frazzled state of mind become your new normal, consider a resilient approach to the hardships you face.
There are ways to create a sense of internal peace, even when the world at large, people in your life, job, or family are upsetting or seem overwhelming to you. Acceptance doesn’t mean you like everything that is thrown your way, but it does mean you see things realistically, as they are. Acceptance of the stress in your life, and that the stress may endure for some time, means you can sit back and consider new approaches to managing your difficulties. There are ways to bounce back, maintain internal calm, feel fulfilled and loving toward others, even when life keeps throwing curveballs your way. Here are four ways to create a resilient state of mind right now.
1. Examine your thoughts: Our thoughts tend to play out on autopilot. Becoming aware of our thoughts means taking an observer approach. The next time you are overwhelmed, briefly consider what kind of thoughts are going through your mind. Instead of being one with your thoughts, observe them with a bit of distance. If you are overwhelmed and frazzled chances are you are engaging in distorted thinking. Examples of common distortions are “all or none” thinking-things are either all good or all bad. The minute something undesirable occurs you feel as if everything is bad, or ruined. Another common distortion is catastrophic thinking. When managing something uncertain or unpredictable you imagine worst-case scenarios. Being resilient means becoming aware of your thoughts and recognizing when you are engaging in distorted thinking that is making you feel more upset or overwhelmed. Instead stay in the moment, stick with the facts, and work to keep your thoughts focused on the here and now.
2. Bring down physiological arousal. When we become anxious, overwhelmed, upset, or panicked, a fight or flight process takes place in our bodies. This means our heart might start beating fast, we may feel sweaty, jittery or generally keyed up, breathing may become shorter, thoughts race. In order to effectively think through the stressful situation, it is important to first bring down this physiological arousal. When our bodies are keyed up, our instinct is to keep thinking as a way to problem solve ourselves out of the physical symptoms. This never works and in fact only makes the physical symptoms worse. Instead, recognize when your heart is beating fast and you feel internally tense. Take a break, visualize something relaxing or take 15 deep breaths in and out. Even bringing the physical symptoms from a 10 to a 7 in intensity will help you to more realistically assess the situation at hand.
3. Approach, don’t avoid. Of course when we are afraid of something or don’t want to face something undesirable we tend to want to avoid it entirely. The reality is avoidance only increases anxiety and stress. Each moment, day, week, or year that you avoid what you fear, your fear grows. You never get a chance to see that if you faced your fear you would cope and come out of it intact. If you are avoiding something upsetting to you consider if the avoidance is prolonging your misery. Similar to a child afraid there is a monster under their bed, sometimes you just have to take a peek and confront your fear so you can see that you really are going to be okay.
4. Create a mantra (and use it!). There is so much uncertainty going on at the moment and then on top of it people have their own personal struggles with jobs, kids, school, intimate relationships, bills... For many, it can feel like they are barely treading water. Each time a new challenge presents they think they are going to sink. Consider coming up with a few words of encouragement for yourself. Each time you hit another setback remind yourself that failures, setbacks, hard times, difficult emotions are part of the human condition. We don’t like this part of life, but we can’t avoid it. Instead of feeling as if you’ve failed again, give yourself some realistic encouragement. Here are a few examples: “This too, I can accept this too,” or “I don’t have to be perfect,” or “I can make room for this hardship without it meaning anything bad about me,” or “I am strong,” or “I deserve to be at peace even when life is hard.” For more strategies to reduce stress and anxiety, check out my book, Be Calm.