How to Thrive in the Middle of Chaos
By Marilyn Tam
It hits you as soon as you wake up.
The world is in messy disorder and it’s seeping relentlessly into your daily life. Inflation, Supply shortages, War etc., are making you feel anxious and stressed. According to a survey by American Psychological Association this month, over 81–87% of Americans are worried, anxious, and fearful about these issues now.
How can you maintain some sense of equilibrium so that you can manage your work, personal life, and health without feeling overburdened by the parade of challenges?
Many years ago, I used to have occasional dreams where I was not prepared for a presentation. I would wake up with a start, sweating. Such dreams are an indication that a person is feeling less confident in handling some aspect of their lives. During our current tumultuous times, it is easy to feel insecure. I am happy to share the simple tools that have helped me manage my life and world view with self-assurance, equanimity, and faith.
Paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling, if you can keep your head while others are losing theirs, you’ll master the world and all that’s in it.
First of all, breathe.
Deep belly breaths to release the knots in your shoulders, tightness in your chest and to slow down the buzzing in your head. When you are tense, your breathing is shallow, and you may not realize that your shoulders are hunched up by your ears. Breathe deeply to release the tension. Repeat.
Smiling, even a fake smile triggers the neuropeptides (endorphins) to relieve stress, pain and help you relax. The old songwriter who penned the lyrics for the song, “Smile” knew before the confirming research:
“If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you”
Stretch, move your body.
US Dept of Health & Human Services has shown that movement reduces feelings of depression and stress, enhances your mood and overall emotional well-being, increases your energy level, and improves sleep. Another great benefit? It’s free. You can move any time you feel tight and anxious.
Meditate. Quiet your mind.
As hard as that may sound when you are feeling stressed, it’s possible. Do the above three steps first and then find a quiet place where you can be alone and feel more relaxed. Sit comfortably. Divert from your anxiety to focusing on your breath, or on a single point like a plant, a candle or some favorite object, and breathe deeply and regularly. When your mind wanders to other matters, bring it back gently and repeat the process. Start with a short period, say 5 minutes, build up from there. You will find that you feel more refreshed and calmer afterwards.
Meditating in nature gives you a double bonus of feel goodness.
Find support in nature. You are part of the natural world. When you are in nature, a park, lake, ocean, mountains or just a small patch of green in your neighborhood, it will improve your attention quality, lower stress, reduce risk of psychiatric disorders, increase empathy and cooperation. A double bonus is when you meditate in nature, you will reap the rewards of both!
You are not alone, there are people, organizations, and spiritual support to assist you. A friendly ear, a helping hand, a reassuring hug, a useful referral, a heartfelt prayer. There are many ways for help to come, ask for them. Be open to receiving them.
List the most challenging things you are dealing with.
Prioritize them. Place possible action steps next to each item. Realize that you can affect each situation in some way, even the ones that seem out of your apparent control. When you feel that you can influence the matter, you will feel more empowered. A phone call, making a decision, a small donation to the cause, a prayer and/or your positive intention can make a difference.
Find the good in the situation.
Your choice of how you perceive the issue changes how you feel. Viktor Frankel, the psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor 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.” ~ Viktor Frankel
It’s challenging to perceive good in grim circumstances. In Viktor Frankel’s case, and he suffered greatly in the concentration camps, he lost many friends and his entire beloved family in the holocaust. Being a psychiatrist, he did his best to support his fellow inmates, and he observed that the ones who survived were the ones who had a reason for living.
Viktor Franel’s will to live came from his determination to be reunited with his wife and to use what he was learning in the horrific conditions to help humanity. Fortunately, our problems generally are not as dire as Dr. Frankel’s, and we have more resources to support us. Use the above 8 tools to ease your path to a happier, calmer and more creative life.
The world may seem frightful, but you can be a light and support in shifting the trajectory in your own way, by living from a place of awareness positivity and calmness. I’m with you. Breathe. Smile. Stretch……..
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