It seems as if every year, the holidays come crashing down quick and hard. Most of us remember celebrating the end of summer with our last barbeque, and then Christmas decorations suddenly appear in our local stores.
Whether it’s dealing with the holidays, facing a health challenge, or grieving the loss of a loved one, it’s important to have tools to cope with the chaos that can surround us.
Chaos is a state of disorder and/or massive confusion. In Greek mythology, chaos was thought of as the origin of everything. In other words, change or growth cannot occur before there is chaos. In the scientific realm, chaos is an unpredictable surprise or, for example, what might occur during natural disasters, such as hurricanes, mudslides, tornadoes, and tsunamis. Obviously, there are different degrees of chaos, and sometimes there’s no time to prepare, but having a “go-to” toolkit is helpful.
Chaos is the opposite of restoration or healing. When in the midst of chaos, we might imagine that things can’t get much worse, and we might even think that they’ll never get better. But once in a while, those encountering chaos can see the positive aspects of a particular experience. For example, a cousin of mine who went through a very difficult divorce survived by reminding herself that “from all bad comes good.”
Whatever our profession or life passion, establishing a sense of calm should be a vital part of our lives that we incorporate into our everyday routines. We all need to reach for activities that bring us personal calm, whether it's yoga, meditation, exercise, or reading.
Here are six methods to help you keep calm during periods of chaos:
Proper breathing techniques
Sometimes we forget that breath is essential for life. When we’re stressed, we often resort to shallow or rapid breathing, which deprives us of what we need. This type of breathing reduces the level of carbon dioxide in the blood, and when it drops too low, it can cause constriction of all the blood vessels in the body, consequently reducing oxygen to the brain.
When stressed, it’s good to practice power breaths. Begin by maintaining good posture. Take a deep breath in through your nostrils. Hold it for a second, then slowly breath out through open lips. Repeat this a few times. As you breathe out, you should feel a release of tension.
There are many forms of meditation, so we need to find what works best for us. One effective method to use during chaos is called the “Loving-Kindness Meditation,” a 2,500-year-old practice that uses repeated phrases of goodwill to evoke a feeling of friendliness and kindness toward ourselves and others.
Begin by saying the following, and repeat it as much as needed:
May I be filled with loving-kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.
May (a person I love) be filled with loving-kindness.
May (a person I love) be well.
Picking up a journal and writing down your feelings can be a powerful way to deal with stress and chaos. It can also be cathartic because it interrupts the pain we’re feeling inside. Writing is a deliberate act, a conscious undertaking that helps release the emotions brewing within us. Writing is also a way of letting go, and it offers us a way to process stressful events in our lives.
To begin writing, find a journal that appeals to you and a pen. Settle down in a quiet area where you won’t be interrupted for at least 20 minutes. Stream-of-consciousness writing is writing nonstop, which allows your thoughts to wander.
If this is difficult for you, here are some writing prompts that may help:
- Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a peaceful place. When you feel calm, write down what you imagined: what you saw, heard, smelled, and felt. Revisit that place in your mind during chaotic times.
- Write about a positive experience you had recently, and why it resonated with you.
- Write a thank-you note to someone who recently made a kind gesture.
- If you could change something about your day, what would it be? Write down your thoughts.
- Write about all the things you do that instill you with a sense of calm.
For many people, reading provides an escape and a way to calm them during troubling times. Consider reading a novel or poetry, which can distract you from the chaotic thoughts of the moment.
Nourishing your body
As nutritionist Adele Davis once said, “You are what you eat,” and this old adage continues to resonate. We nourish our bodies with what it needs to sustain us, but sometimes we’re in a rush or in the middle of chaotic times, and we forget to eat the correct foods.
Vitamins are essential for our physical and emotional health and play a huge role in how we manage stress. Some calming vitamins include vitamin B (found in beans, leafy vegetables, yogurt, cheese, meat, and fish); vitamin C (found in fruits and vegetables such as kiwi, brussels sprouts, strawberries, and oranges); magnesium (found in nuts, dark chocolate, spinach, avocados); and vitamin E (found in raw vegetables, eggs, and dairy products).
Thinking positively is something that we can train ourselves to do. For some people, this comes more naturally than for others. Start by observing your thoughts and accentuate all the ones that make you feel good. Consider surrounding yourself with positive individuals. Begin each day with gratitude journaling, which highlights all the positive aspects of your life. Also, take care of your body, mind, and spirit.
For more ideas on how to keep calm in the midst of chaos, consider picking up the book Instant Calm by Paul Wilson, which offers numerous strategies and ideas for bringing calm into your life. It consists of a collection of strategies to use during stressful times. It is a reference book to be kept on anyone’s shelf because it is packed with healing and calming techniques for every day. The book is divided into four sections: Stress Versus Calm, Instant Calm: The Techniques, Longer-Term Calm Solutions, and Crisis. The suggestions are mainly about how to control the crises in your life.
Some people might choose to skip around and read the book as needed, but it is such a fast read that my suggestion would be to read it from beginning to end because there is something to be gleaned from every page. The book is very well organized and has fabulous illustrations for each particular calming technique.
In summary, it’s a good idea to be aware of and practice your calming strategies before being bombarded with stress, because sometimes it’s more difficult to help ourselves when we’re feeling overwhelmed.
So be calm... and enjoy your life!