Marcia Eckerd Ph.D.
Living Through Highly Emotional Times
Finding inner balance is challenging but attainable.
Posted Feb 21, 2017
Many people are upset and angry these days by events around them. We turn to FaceBook or our favorite media sources and are outraged by something. That’s understandable, but being flooded by anger so it’s a constant part of our lives is different. Anger has a devastating impact on us emotionally, spiritually and physically. A quote is attributed to the Buddha — roughly, he who holds onto anger is like someone drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Being flooded with anger only poisons ourselves.
Other than the mental stress of obsessing constantly about outrages, there's the toll of being exhausted. Physically, our bodies produce a stress hormone, cortisol, that lowers our immune system and has an impact on every body system. It does everything from make us sick to shorten our fuses to make us age faster.
We need to balance anger or frustration with a calm place inside. It's critical now to take time for something that replenishes and nourishes us, whatever that might be. Read a book. Take a regular walk. Call a friend to catch up on something other than politics. Focus on family activities that are fun.
Now — the obvious. Find some way to take action, but put limits on it. We can’t fight every battle. Take breaks from the nonstop news. Unplug. Don't look at Facebook for a weekend. All this helps, but it doesn’t necessarily get our bodies and minds back to neutral.
For getting back to a more normal baseline, meditation works. There are apps for guided meditation, like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer, which has both a timer with background accompaniment and guided meditations. Many activities can be meditative, not just sitting. Walking, knitting, yoga, or qigong all work. The emphasis is take a regular time of day to practice, even for a few minutes.
Think of three steps: Let it be — be aware of feelings and thoughts without having to change them. Let it go — our thoughts and feelings are not what centers us. Let it in — take time to appreciate the good in life, whether it's a sunny day or a positive feeling. Savor it. Research shows it actually helps to keep a gratitude journal.
I just flew back from AZ, and the usual steward demo reminded me of what we know — we have to put on our oxygen masks before we help anyone else. We can’t juggle our lives, give emotionally to family and friends or be effective in our work if we’re in a state of agitation and running on empty. Learn how to let it be and how to really absorb the good parts of life. They’re still there.