How to maintain your equilibrium when the going gets tough.
As world events, war, shooting sprees and natural disasters continue to occur with unsettling frequency, it’s a challenge to stay grounded and centered. So, it’s not a surprise that precious few people know how to respond in a way that prevents both their minds and bodies from being permanently affected.
With no clear roadmap to navigate and help us maintain our equilibrium, I’ve heard many of my clients express the desire to pull the bedcovers over their heads and wait for the storm to pass so they won’t have to be exposed to a steady stream of bad news. Plus, they want to avoid difficult conversations that follow.
Just the other day I found myself caught in a heated conversation that quickly devolved into pointing fingers and placing blame. My feelings were triggered, and it was a stretch to maintain my equanimity so that my response wasn’t adversarial but instead, collegial.
Any kind of upheaval can push us to find a new — or safer- direction.
But sorting through contradictory information can make the process of recognizing which road to take quite a challenge.
Over the years I’ve seen how the willingness to look inward and examine our beliefs and our habitual responses is crucial. By doing so we have greater self awareness allows to gain fresh insight to inform our choices as we go forward.
If we ignore the psychology that’s driving us, we remain at the mercy of external circumstances with limited understanding of how and why we make the decisions we do.
My own experience has been that the more self awareness I have, the more I can recognize new opportunities. When that happens, I can make intelligent decisions and become part of the overall solution rather than part of the problem.
I’m reminded of Viktor Frankl, the Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, writer, and Holocaust survivor, who said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
I’ve found that choosing my attitude is not just an intellectual exercise. It has required a level of discernment within my inner landscape — my thoughts and feelings — as well the landscape of my physical body.
The body is an often neglected source of wisdom, but it’s important to include because the body reveals the consequences of difficult thoughts and feelings on the body.
I’ve experienced firsthand the cycles that the biochemicals of my emotions and the trauma of external events affects my physiology as well as my ability to think clearly and act intelligently. Once I’m clear on how I’ve been affected by what I’ve experienced, I’m able to make better decisions and make them more easily.
We don’t have to settle for our inner and outer worlds falling into disarray. As we turn our attention inward, we can become clear about what really matters to us that may have become obscured by all the challenges we’re facing.
It seems supremely important to recognize what really matters to us, not only as individuals but collectively as human beings. Knowing what really matters can help us create a blueprint for finding solutions.
We all have within us an intelligence that transcends the analytical function of the mind because that intelligence is deeper and wider than our logical minds.
And that‘ i’s where we need to place our attention: not just on our wildly fluctuating feelings but on what it is that we want to accomplish.
So when you drop into this kind of inner knowing, you’ll find you can respond with more ease and clarity and effectiveness. This has been my own experience over and over again.
I’d like to share with you five of the best ways I’ve found that can help us translate that wisdom into inspired action:
1) Turn Down the Volume
We’re constantly being bombarded by “expert” opinions about what we should believe and what we should do, to the extent that it becomes almost impossible to tune into our own wisdom.
So, even if it’s only for a short while, step away from all your electronic devices with their endless media feeds so you can discern to what’s really true for you and allows you to settle down and find rest.
2) Practice Self Compassion
Upheaval and change, whether gradual or abrupt, is painful. And that pain is not something you should sweep under the rug. It will still continue to trip you up until you acknowledge it. To name it is to bring it into the light, where it can be met with compassion and support.
There is nothing wrong with feeling the entire range of human emotions. We’re made to allow them to move through us, rather than making them the enemy.
3) Nurture Your Body
Being in a physical body takes a lot of energy. Think of all those fight or flight chemicals flooding your body when you’re stressed.
Make it a priority to take care of yourself — with nourishing food, rest, massage, exercise, meditation, soothing music or whatever else replenishes you.
4) Light Your Way
Set an intention every morning for how you want to show up in the world. This is not a to-do list but rather a feeling state you want to maintain, as best you can.
It doesn’t matter whether you know exactly what you want to do or how to do it, but if you know the kind of person you want to be, the how and the why will come to you.
5) Let Go of Expectations
It’s natural to feel disappointed or at a loss when things don’t match up or even contradict what we expect or want. But, often, what appears to be a tragedy at the outset turns out to a blessing in disguise.
Instead of insisting on a specific outcome, let go of what you assume is the right course of action, as best you can, so that a greater good can unfold and you can play your part in it.
There is a secret to living when circumstances are challenging. Contrary to what you might think, the energy of adversity can be actually be harnessed so that adversity becomes your ally for personal growth rather than your adversary.
If you look back on your life, you’ll probably be able to find moments when this was true for you. And it can be true for you again.
The unkind, defensive comments we read in the media do not come from bad people; they come from a lack of understanding of the underlying issues and how they’re being presented to the world. In fact, many of us are deeply caring but at our wits end.
What will help us navigate our changing world is an informed grasp of chaos-evoking events as well as a conscious understanding of what is required to stay grounded and maintain our clarity.