Some days can be so bad you want to pull the covers up over your head and stay in bed. There’s something about a crisis that pulls together all the ingredients needed for an emotional meltdown.
The crisis could be a pandemic lockdown, a divorce, a loss of our job, or a million other reasons that point to the end of the world as we know it. A crisis can disrupt every aspect of how we live and work.
A crisis by definition is a collapse of the old world order that ushers in a period of instability. Sure, it feels like a tsunami at the time, but it does no good to hide in a corner and hope the adults in the room figure a way out of it. You are now the adult, as well as the best advocate for yourself and your situation.
Stress can paralyze us. We find ourselves buried under the avalanche of uncertainty that nips away at our need to move on from the disaster that’s planted its big butt in the middle of our life.
Because evolution has created humans to be acutely aware of danger and negative events, our first reaction to any disruption is “How do I survive?” Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory is a logical evolutionary response to a crisis. We move to a greater place of safety. I mean, who wants to be the last one on the beach looking for their flip-flops when the first wave of a tsunami crashes ashore?
We need to learn how to respond with dignity and appreciation when reality doesn’t match our expectations, instead of our default reaction of fear and frustration. Here are tips on how to beat stress in a crisis:
1. Move It!
Darwin’s theory is appropriate on many different levels. He’d be the first to suggest we run from a saber-toothed tiger and not waste time wallowing in fear or anxiety. Movement is smart, so why do so many people laden with stress turn into depressed slobs who watch YouTube videos all day? If we live like a slob, life can be its own special hell.
It doesn’t take rocket science to understand how forging new paths, both literally and figuratively, can be a deeply meaningful activity:
Literally, when we exercise we pump up the production of endorphins, our brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. The result is the same, whether it’s a game of tennis or a walk through the woods.
Figuratively, it’s important to move in a way that feeds our soul. Movement can be meditation in motion because it’s an opportunity to forget the day’s irritations and focus on the movements of our body.
How To Make It Work For You: Resist the endless streaming of movies and social media. Instead, stop and appreciate the magic and wonder of the world around you. Challenge yourself to appreciate the beauty in this moment, right now.
2. Strip Away What’s Not Needed
Balance is key; while we need to keep on the move and not get bogged down by inertia, we also need to pause at frequent intervals to give ourselves time to discover the parts of life that hold value and meaning for us. Or rediscover them if our insane pursuit of shiny objects has taken priority.
Approach your life as Marie Kondo would—touch everything but hold on only to those things that bring you joy and contentment. Everything else gets the boot because when you strip away what is not needed and move into your essential nature, you’ll find that you need very little to be grateful and contented.
Times of stress are ideal times to separate the things that matter from those that will pass away in time; what is necessary from what is not. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to slow down and spend more time in personal reflection.
Never waste the opportunity presented by a crisis in your life because stress and hard times shake us out of our routine and encourage us to find true purpose and meaning.
How To Make It Work For You: Take the time to ask yourself this question: “What is a good life?” The answer can be difficult because so much time, attention, and energy is spent in the pursuit of everything that money can buy. Once you ponder the question, you’ll find the answer is in the realization that value and meaning in life are shaped from the inside out—a truth that has been taught by spiritual leaders for centuries.
3. Love The Devil You Know
There’s this ugly thing in our life called uncertainty. It can throw us for a loop because we don’t know what to expect, therefore we can’t prepare for it. Studies have found that most people feel better about knowing what’s coming–even if it’s painful–than not knowing. The anticipation of the unknown wears us down because we can’t predict what will happen next.
Our brain freaks out because it makes decisions for the future based on our past experiences. When the future is uncertain, or we’re experiencing something new, we don’t have past experiences to inform our decision-making.
How many of us have missed tremendous opportunities and experiences because we’ve chosen to walk away when faced with uncertainty? When we avoid challenges because we’re scared of failure, it’s a form of self-sabotage. We’ve held on to a self-limiting belief about what we can do in life.
How To Make It Work For You: Focus on the things you can control, like your values. Decide which ones are worth suffering for and which ones are junk and should be thrown out. Don’t lower your standards and ask “What is easiest?” Instead, ask yourself, “How can I be a better person?” The answer to this question will help you make priorities in your life so you are able to define what success means to you. When you encounter good problems, it makes uncertainty produced by stress easier for you to overcome
4. Inject Calm Where Possible
Often, our first reaction to stress is panic. We feel we’re in the clutches of a bear trap—stuck and alone. And it hurts like hell, even if the wound only bleeds from the inside. We can thrash around and hope someone will throw us a lifeline, but this is also the time we learn how to suck it up and free ourselves.
If there are no heroes to save you, you be the hero—LaRae Quy
Yes, we need to be brave, persistent, and most of all, resilient. There are many ways to be resilient when times get hard; it produces the mental toughness to manage our thoughts, emotions, and behavior in ways that help us overcome the unexpected, and unwanted, turns in life.
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So how can you find the calm eye of a shit storm? If you’ve developed good habits, they can provide the comfort of entrenched go-to routines. But what if you’re like most people and your habits are a tossed salad of both good and bad?
You might want to use this time to work on creating better ones. There are also simple and effective ways to inject calm into your life even if you flirt with calamity on a regular basis.
How To Make It Work For You: Restrict your intake of the news; the media knows that panic and hysteria gets our attention. Seek quality and positive people; we need those interactions to calm our nervous systems. Remember that you’re likely to be more irritable when under stress so take the time to communicate to others around you to minimize misunderstandings.
© 2020 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.
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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths
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