It is easy to lose connection to inner peace and wisdom by getting caught up in the drama of any storm or adversity.
The incessant focus on what’s going wrong (or what can go wrong) keeps the body in an unhealthy level of chronic emergency stress response.
Turns out that much of our angst is caused by us and not by what is happening around us. Once a threat comes to our awareness, we tend to hyperfocus on it resulting in our bodies producing chemicals to have us ready to respond at a survival level, even when things aren’t immediately life-threatening.
But there are a number of things you can do to calm this over-reactivity of your nervous system and return yourself to a calmer physiological. You can find inner peace — even in the midst of adversity and its aftermath.
Here are some things you can do:
- Calm The Breath. The first thing to do is to slow down your breathing. Make your exhale longer than your inhale (it helps to be seated or lying down). This is much like how you might breathe if conserving your oxygen while swimming underwater, or blowing bubbles, or playing a wind instrument! The slower the sustained outbreath and the pauses in between breaths, the calmer you will feel. A type of yoga breathing called Ujjayi breath (aka Darth Vader breath) can also be helpful!
- Stimulate your Parasympathetic Nervous System. This is the part of the nervous system can help you slow your heart rate, calm your respirations, and lower your blood pressure. It is involved with the “relaxation response”. Check out this excellent article for tips: http://bit.ly/FindingYourInnerPeace
- Get Curious. Curiosity is not what killed the cat. Make friends with fear by allowing yourself to be nonjudgmentally and humbly curious about what you think and feel about what’s happening all around you. This is like taking a step back and getting some space between yourself and the thing triggering you.
- Exercise Compassion. Be generous with compassion to yourself and others. Assume the best of outcomes, even if the worst of predictions were to be accurate. This involves both what you DO and DON’T allow yourself to focus on!
- Increase Calming Stimulation and Decrease Negative Vibrations. Cease unnecessary input and output of negative “vibration” and increase the peace and alm around you. Stop the incessant media stimulation and rumination — enough already.
- Maintain a heartfelt appreciative focus. Be mindful of those things for which you can be truly grateful, despite it all.
- Contribute with love, kindness and generosity. Find safe and healthy ways to connect and contribute to others.
- Meditation and Prayer. “Be still and know…” Spirituality is foundational and can provide you with an inner peace beyond all understanding, including in times of adversity. Practice meditation, contemplation and prayer. Besides, if our canines can learn to sit and stay, so can we. Learning to observe without reactivity and draw on our inner wisdom can go a long way towards creating inner peace.
- Increase Heart-Brain Connection. In any moment, you can also simply place your hands over your own heart space and imagine breathing in and out through that space. and feel those vibrations. This can be interestingly soothing at any time!
- Draw on Hope and Positive Expectation. Even in uncertainty, we can find positive expectations that bring hope, such as the hope for dawn during times of darkness.
And remember that we adults need calming and soothing as much as babies do. Similar techniques and physical vibrations that help them can help us too. So get yourself on a schedule for healthy sleep, nutrition, movement, touch, and play. Decrease excess stimulation. Increase calming vibrations such as singing, listening to music, focused breathing, mindful movement, etc.
Finding and maintaining a mindful center can hold you in a place of inner peace much like being in the eye of a hurricane. It can allow you an opportunity to position (or re-position) yourself more effectively in any moment that has arisen. Being mindful also means you must let go of judgment and worry and simply remain fully present with all of your wisdom and senses to the moment.
If you are unable to nonjudgmentally focus on what’s happening around you during an adversity, then create calming things on which you can appreciatively focus:
- Calming Visuals – focus on the things and colors that are pleasing to you — even pictures can help
- Relaxing Sounds – listen to soothing music and nature sounds
- Appealing Smells – try natural scents or even light a scented candle
- Soothing Touch – pet your furry critter or apply a soothing body balm
- Favorite Tastes – fully taste your food or favorite beverage or treat by holding it on your tongue longer than usual
- The more of your senses you can use together in this way, the better.
Maintaining a courageous presence will go a long way to helping you find you way back to inner peace.
Just remember that even when the wind whips and waters rise, attitudes of judging or worrying about any storm or crisis have no power to alter what is or what will be. Recalling what has happened in previous adversities or thinking of all that can possibly go wrong next, only takes you away from the present moment and into the past or future and definitely away from a calm center of the moment.
You can think and plan to be more present for the next moment in a calm centered space in the now.
To do this nonjudgmentally, choose to accept whatever each moment brings. Mindfully stay connected to your authentic self and act in full alignment with your highest wisdom. This allows you to do what is necessary and required of each moment of time, and actually makes you much more effective for the precise time you need that extra wisdom and energy the most!
Meanwhile, don’t forget that the sun, moon, stars, and clear blue sky always co-exist in the atmosphere beyond the clouds of any storm.
When you remain ever present, you can find that space of inner peace. This will allow you to be more fully present for the moment of rainbow and star shine when the sun and moon eventually show themselves again.
Originally published October 8, 2016 during Hurricane Matthew. Revised and reposted during Hurricane/Tropical Storm Florence, September 16, 2018. Revised March 29, 2020 during the Co-Vid 19 Crisis.
Dr. Cindy Hardwick is a Coaching and Consulting Psychologist with nearly four decades of experience. She specializes in wellbeing for holistically informed healthcare professionals, executives, and entrepreneurs. Learn more about Cindy here.