In the wake of the fears and worries that surround our world today, in my practice, I am often confronted with the question of, ‘how can I manage all this stress that is beyond my control?’ Colleagues, clients, friends and family we all fear the changes and the hostility around us.
I am noticing a number of different tenets that seem to be helpful and supportive during this challenging time.
- Mindfulness Empowers: watch the video above narrated by Sharon Salzberg (a meditation expert), who tells the tale of two wolves fighting in our hearts. The tale explains how mindfulness allows us to see our thoughts and feelings as they are, thereby freeing us from old, ineffective ways of thinking and being. One wolf represents fear, vengeance and deceit while the other wolf is compassionate and loving. Essentially when we feed the kind, loving wolf it will strengthen us, support us. If we were to combat or hate the fearful, vengeful wolf it will only get bigger and stronger. * The ultimate message is clear; we are empowered by that steady loving companion. Feed that compassionate, loving side inside you.
- Blame perhaps Disempowers Us: Brene Brown often speaks about the tendency in all of us to turn to blame in times of distress or fear. She says that ‘blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort.’ The anger boils inside and the natural response is sometimes to find blame. However, the concept of radical acceptance (Linehan, 1993) teaches us that one can become easily paralyzed in that anger/rage. Stuck in fighting the past. The meditation is, “Everything is,” on the inhale, and “as it Should be,” on the exhale, because it was caused. Blame does nothing to change what already has happened, it only leads to suffering. Therefore, refocus your attention on what you can do right now.
- Attitude Adjustment: There has been a great deal of research on resiliency these days. What makes an individual more resilient? The research has led to a very interesting concept/tool; view your stress as a challenge instead of a threat. This requires an adjustment in your attitude that is well worth the effort. According to Kelly McGonigal, psychologist and author, of “The Upside of Stress,” this shift in perspective could decrease the harmful effects of stress and even make you happier. She states the following, “The three most protective beliefs about stress are: 1) to view your body’s stress response as helpful, not debilitating – for example, to view stress as energy you can use; 2) to view yourself as able to handle, and even learn and grow from, the stress in your life; and 3) to view stress as something that everyone deals with, and not something that proves how uniquely screwed up you or your life is” (Stanford News, 2013).
- Promote Balance: As with any emotional imbalance, our task is the same. It is important to avoid falling into the extreme negative emotions by increasing the positive For example, we might flood our experiences with joyful or pleasurable moments. We might counteract every single negative impulse, thought or action with a positive thought or action. This tool will bring us back to our center as much as it will increase good feelings within us. Surround the country, surround the earth with a positive light that is filled with wellness, hope and positivity.
- Disempower the Negative: pay attention to those things that are toxic to you. Relationships, programs, TV, whatever it may be; remove or decrease that which is toxic. In addition, increase in your life that which is healthy, healing and supportive.
- Embrace Uncertainty: Perhaps what triggers the most fear in us is not knowing. Embracing uncertainty, as Deepak Chopra illuminates, is a way to relinquish control and affirm what is actually real. As Chopra so eloquently states, “when you are firm in the knowledge of your true self, then you can act as required without fear, secure in the understanding that a way forward will be there even if our limited mind does not necessarily know when, where or how it will happen.”
- Fear is the Messenger; Faith is the message: I am reminded of a story told by Dr. Joyce Mills, a play therapist that resides in Hawaii. In her book entitled, Reconnecting to the Magic of Life, Joyce retells the tale of being faced with sudden disaster in the form of a hurricane upon relocating to Hawaii. Among the spirited Hawaiian people was a focus on faith and spirit, not on panic and self-centeredness. The greatest medicine she says she was given for confronting her fears was faith… “and we all have what we need.” Joyce speaks of how we all live through hurricanes in one form or another. We seek safety from many different forms of shelter; “and the most powerful shelter of all is built within the human soul; it’s called faith.”