Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions. ~Pema Chodron
Unexpected hard times such as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak can invoke fear and anxiety, especially with its uncertainty. We may feel overwhelmed, scared and out of control. Our own personal trials like a job loss or divorce can cause feelings of grief, sadness, and confusion. Staying calm can be difficult. But, it’s times like these, where we must work to alleviate negative emotions to take care of our emotional and physical health.
Here are five ways to help you in staying calm during the most challenging times of life:
1. Seek out the Good News
Recently, in response to the Coronavirus, a woman posted on her neighborhood’s Facebook group that she would go to the store for anyone who was fearful of going out. She provided her e-mail and ended the post by wishing everyone well. Now that is kindness in action.
In times of crisis, people show the best of themselves. They understand that we need each other. We are in this together. The stories are everywhere of people doing good things for others. If we can shift our focus from all that’s wrong to what is good and right in the world, we can stop the cycle of negativity. By doing this, we can think more clearly and possibly help others. Even if it’s simply just caring words to a neighbor or friend who is going through a tough time too, it’s these kindness gestures that will make everyone involved, the giver and the receiver, feel better.
2. Access Calming Tools
When we are in the midst of a disaster or personal crisis, anxiety and fear can take over, if we let it. As a result, we may react in ways that do not serve us best. Take the time you need to practice self-care. If you want to scream into a pillow or inside your car, go ahead. Cry a river if you need to. You’ll feel better. You can then do some breathing exercises to relax your nervous system. Often when we are anxious, we forget to breathe or breathe erratically, making us lightheaded and unwell. So paying attention to our breath is important when we feel stressed.
Another calming tool is to reserve a few minutes a day to visualize a peaceful scene. Imagine yourself lying on a beautiful beach with a soft breeze and warm sun enveloping you. Now feel the good feelings of that moment. This is key. Your mind cannot tell the difference between something imagined or reality, so find the scene that most relaxes you and go there often.
3. Enjoy Your Favorite Activities
Music can instantly boost happiness. Activities like listening to your favorite song can help you escape, immersing yourself in the present moment. Now you are not thinking about the past or the future, where worry and fear can live.
So make a list of 10 activities that make you happy. Maybe it’s a walk in nature, working on a difficult puzzle, drinking tea or wine while taking a bath, reading a good book, or watching your favorite movie or Netflix show. Choose an activity each day from your list that you can spend time doing. This will help you to get your mind off the stress you may be feeling.
4. Practice Gratitude
“We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations, which appear dark and frowning,” said American Theologian Albert Barnes.
Even in times of crisis, we can find something to feel grateful for in life. You may not be able to do this right away, understandably so, but in time, our gratefulness helps turn thoughts of despair into thoughts of goodness. We can view our worst situations with a grateful eye and know that this life event will make us stronger, more resilient, capable people. Here are ways to practice gratitude:
- Write in a gratitude journal – Write three things down in a journal that you are grateful for in the morning or at night before you go to bed. Making this a daily practice will increase feelings of abundance and boost your mood.
- Say grateful prayers – “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough,” said writer and teacher Meister Eckhart. Silently saying thank you when you get up in the morning for your life, the safety of your family, your job, pet and so much more will put you in a beneficial state of gratitude.
- Express gratitude towards others – Saying thank you or writing a thank you note to people is one of the kindest gifts you can give them. As you show your thankfulness to family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers, your heart expands and you lift others up. So make an effort to extend gratitude wherever you genuinely can and see the happy space you’ll create.
5. Stay Hopeful
“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today,” said Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Believing that tomorrow will be better, can help us get through the trials of today. When we react to our problems with hope and confidence, we can manage the situation better. We’ll look for solutions rather than dwell on our circumstances.
To remain optimistic and push forward can seem like an enormous undertaking, but with the help of one’s faith, family and friends, we can and will get through the tough times of our lives.
What helps you when you are going through a tough time?