Calming ourselves in the face of the storm
Updated: Apr 20, 2020
You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass -Timber Hawkeye
In recent weeks, in the face of Covid 19, I have been noticing an impulse to find out more information about the disease, thinking through the many effects of this health and economic crisis, running through different possible future scenarios, gearing myself up to take on the challenge of the changes I will face. Whenever I do this, I end up feeling frazzled, disorientated and agitated.
If we are overwhelmed by events, our nervous system perceives a “threat” and turns on its fight/flight mode, with many interrelated effects on our bodies and minds.
How do we help ourselves in this situation? We do need to recognise what is going on, seeing our turmoil as a wise message from our body and mind. It reminds us to ask ourselves what we can best do for ourselves at this time. Is that impulse to control this uncontrollable situation helpful? Without calm reflection, our scramble to deal with it is not helping us. Instead, we need to cultivate feeling grounded, oriented and being calmly present. When we feel at peace, it makes us and those around us feel secure and comforted. We can concentrate on what we can control.
So at this time, the following suggestions are here to help you find calm in the storm. They all have a common theme which goes to the core of the definition of mindfulness, that when we choose to place our attention on something, with a certain compassionate attitude, we calm our minds. Our attention can ‘rest’ in this place and the mind settles like a shaken snow globe that is set quietly down.
Contact me to be sent a free short audio file of a grounding practice. Read on to learn grounding, calming options.
1. A real sense of connection with others - Giving our full attention to people is a gift for them and for us. It soothes us, calms us down.
2. Using all our senses in nature - Being in nature is a really restorative option at this time. It might be watching the sky, listening to birds, smelling autumn leaves, or feeling the wind on our faces. Nature can remind us of perspective when we are caught up in our problems.
3. Movement – All movement gives us opportunity to be present in our bodies. The slow movement taught in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is designed to guide us to become more aware of the felt sense of our bodies, and this quietens the busy mind.
4. Anchors - A great way to find a resting place for the agitated mind is using an ‘anchor’ that you know works for you. This can be brought into play at any time when you are feeling stressed or ungrounded.
Anchors are somewhere we place our attention to help support our mental stability. Below are several anchors commonly used in mindfulness. You probably know about using the breath. It is worthwhile experimenting with a variety of anchoring exercises to find out what makes you feel most ‘anchored.’ You could try it now, taking a couple of minutes.
In each of these exercises, gently bring your attention back to the ‘anchor’ each time your mind wanders. Not telling yourself off when your mind gets caught up in thoughts, but knowing that is just how minds work.
1: Body sensations: move your attention to a sensation you can feel in your body. It might be your bottom on the seat, your feet on the floor or your hands cupped together. Rest your attention there for a minute.
2: Awareness of sound: Place your attention on the experience of hearing, noticing sounds in your environment, maybe even inside your body. Rest your attention here for a minute.
3: Breath: Shift your attention to your breath. You might experience the breath as it comes in and out of the nostrils, or the expansion and contraction of your ribcage, or the movement of the abdomen. Rest your attention here for a minute.
Reflect on which anchor felt best for you. In the coming days you might like to experiment with using these anchors and noticing which feels best for you.
The breath holds our attention more easily because it is dynamic and tangible. However, at times of agitation the breath may only increase our feeling of instability, so it is good to have other anchoring options.
All of them are options for you to try to cultivate calmness. Feeling grounded gives us time and space to adjust to the changing world and a good foundation for flourishing in this new reality.
I wish you all the best, Eve