Are you in a season of your life that feels stormy?
Maybe you are caring for an elderly parent, battling depression, ending your marriage, or experiencing a loss of health, faith, or financial security. Regardless of what it is, life shifts can cause suffering, various levels of discomfort, and a general sense of chaos. The following ideas will support you create a sense of calm within the chaos.
Return to Your Breath – Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Take a deep inhale and exhale... in through the nose and out through your nose... feel your chest and belly rise gently underneath your hands as your breathe. Repeat the practice until your thoughts soften, your jaw unclenches, and your mind gently slips back into the present moment.
When we are experiencing emotional or physical pain our thoughts are often busy digging around in the past or trying to frantically organize the future. When we return to our breath we invite our mind back to the only moment we truly have power and control over – the here and now. The sympathetic nervous system is calmed that allows our fight-or-flight response to soften. Returning to our breath and to the present moment is one of the quickest ways to both honor and reduce our suffering.
Create Stillness – Sometimes the last thing we want to do is sit with our suffering. We tend to be afraid of letting ourselves feel pain. So, we opt for numbing behavior that provides an immediate distraction. What behaviors do you gravitate towards when you want to numb? Do you start scrolling through social media, or pressing “next episode” over and over again, working longer hours, or creating a busy schedule to try and outrun the discomfort? Do you feed the chaos instead of quietly sitting in it?
In her book The Gifts of Imperfections: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brené Brown states: “We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” Therefore, we can not numb pain without also numbing hope, joy, and peace. Creating stillness in our lives provides us the opportunity to connect internally, acknowledge our suffering, and invite healing to occur.
How can you foster more stillness in your life to challenge the chaos? Consider the ways you like to be still and ask if it is realistic to set aside 1-15 minutes a day to simply breathe and check back in with your mind and body. Could you adopt a mindfulness practice such as meditation? Would utilizing a meditation app on your phone help you begin to foster stillness? What is one thing you could add or subtract in your daily routine that would cultivate more stillness? One tip is to combine the practice of stillness with something you already do. For example, I have added a few deeps breaths and a minute of reflection before checking my emails, something I do habitually throughout the day. Creating stillness is one of the healthiest ways to challenge the chaos you may be experiencing internally and externally.
While connecting to your breath and body is an important step in navigating suffering, connecting with others is also an important part of weathering personal storms. Suffering can be an incredibly isolating experience. Connecting with those worthy to share your experience with can alleviate some of the loneliness of the journey. As you explore ways to foster connection, the following options may be worth considering:
• join an in-person support group
• prioritize taking time to talk to close friends or trusted family members
• lean on the companionship of a spouse/partner
• utilize online support groups tailored to your specific need
If you are finding it hard to reach out and foster connection, dig deep and explore what is holding you back – is it fear?
One of the barriers we can face when fostering connection is we don’t feel ready to share the details of our trails or challenges with others, even with those close to us. To address this, we can set boundaries surrounding what we are willing to share, while still accepting support and connection. For example, would a loved one understand if you said “I’m not ready to share what I’m up against right now, but I could really use some quality time together” or “I’m struggling and not ready to talk about the details, but I would benefit from your love and support right now. I could really use a weekly phone call…”.
Often times when we need support we need to let our support team know how we feel cared for and comforted – after all, they can’t read our minds. As you reach out to others to foster connection in the chaos can you make an effort to specify what type of help and support you are looking for?
As humans, we are hardwired for connection and it is needed and important in seasons of distress. Connection with others has proven to reduce our physical and emotional suffering while prolonged loneliness can have catastrophic long-term health consequences. So, consider setting a connection goal daily and/or weekly in times of stress to help foster the additional support you may need.
As you foster and create calm in the chaos, set aside time to nurture a connection with others. I'd love to hear from you. What are some other ways you can think of that this might become a regular possibility in your life? What are some of the things holding you back? What has worked for you in connecting with others in times of stress that others reading this might find useful?
This blog post was all posted on Symmetry Solutions, LLC's blog. You can find the links here: