There are a lot of things that would normally throw my day into a tailspin, but I’ve been lucky in that the previous years have helped me hone my ability to take control and not let my circumstances take me over. We often feel like we are (about to, or are ) losing control. And in that moment when the reality of it hits us is when we are at our most vulnerable, because the realization often paralyzes us instead of pushing us forward to move in the right direction.
Anger, confusion, anxiety all cause us to exert so much energy either because we choose to wallow in it or fight it. Neither helps. I’ve been there too many times to know that fighting it or drowning in it will not bring me a solution. If anything, it only serves to delay the whole process and just makes the dark more terrifying, or the storm more menacing. We all cope in different ways, but I have learned to find calm in the midst of chaos to help me steady my footing.
I used to make the mistake of trying to do something grand to equal the scale of whatever problem or challenge I was facing. Sometimes you just need to go “simple” and the effect will be more profound.
So here are some suggestions that work for me when I try to find my balance in the midst of the chaos… hope it helps you find your calm, too.
Take a walk. I used to have the luxury of walking outside and just literally circling around the block to take in the ordinary and breathe some fresh air. I am fortunate to be across from one of the quieter and smaller sanctuaries in Manhattan, and I don’t even have to go far — just walk across the street and I’m in my own little paradise.
The seasons tend to make this a bit of a challenge at times but I’ve been at the park in the heat of summer, during the chilly days of spring and fall, and the barren cold days of winter. I have found a spiritual anchor in this four-cornered space of green in the metropolis, and it’s a place that holds many fond memories for me.
Do something that you like. This may sound like something you wouldn’t think of when your mind and/or heart is troubled, but you’d be surprised how many things you like to do that you don’t actually indulge yourself time to do on a regular day. People always say they love to bake or cook, or read, or just go browse the make up counters in the department stores or for us lucky make up addicts here, walk over to Sephora and sample the wares.. so do it on the day when you feel like you’re suffocating or can’t think straight and you might actually find yourself free from the tethers of anxiety — even for a moment.
It might actually help for you to list 3 things that you like to do from the top of your mind and keep this on a post it note on your wall or your desk, or even the fridge. One day you might need to remind yourself you just need to do one of these — simple and mundane, though, the task may be — and it might save you from falling deeper into chaos.
Try aromatherapy. I won’t go into recommending scents — I have come to learn that our olfactory senses have a mind of their own and is unique from one person to the next. We all have our own preferences.. from musky to fruity, to floral to sharp. Certain scents tend to bring us home — fresh baked bread? bread toasting in the oven? Vanilla? Handwash? I remember I used to love the scent of Dial soap back home until they started changing up the scents for variety. Just a whiff or a pop of flavor in the air can break you out of the doldrums so to speak and give you a second wind or whiff of the wind, literally.
List down 5 things you are grateful for. Be it people, things, or non-tangible items that make you feel grateful. List it down and keep going back to that list to remind you you are blessed. It might help you focus on what is important and relevant, because you will only be grateful for that which really matters. No matter what lands on your lap, if it is inconsequential to you, you won’t give a care whether you have it or not.
Eat or imbibe a favorite food. People tend to think comfort food is anything but good — anything gooey and sinfully delicious that makes your tummy happy. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves about the saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Perhaps the way to finding calm is to make our own stomachs happy — even if but only for a moment.
Pray in silence. While I know that many people have taken to being unbelievers, I personally have found solace in prayer. That kind of prayer that just lets you be. Praying without words, without chanting anything formulaic or spontaneous. You just put yourself in that state where you are with whoever you deem to be the higher power in your universe and just fall silent. No asking, no whining. Just silence. You might yet get the answer to the questions bugging your heart.
Find a task that calms you down and do it without hesitation when you feel like your mind and heart are all over the place. I know of people who will clean their house top to bottom even if their natural state is spotless clean. Others who will start working on focus-intensive hobbies like building things with their hands. I draw my paper garden. I start conditioning polymer clay — which is simply kneading a small block of clay to soften it before molding and baking. When I feel like I’m starting to get out of the zone, I grab a pen, or I grab whatever it is I can to stop the onslaught before it comes. Or when I am restless, I get busy and find my calm.
The thing is to find what works for you. I can go on and on with my list and what might work for me might not do you any good. In our infancy, we were imbued by nature a gift for self-soothing. We would suck our thumb or find ourselves swaying with a repetitive pattern or music that we hear and lose ourselves in that. We somehow lost that gift when we found discernment as our brains started to develop. But that ability to find comfort is there. It is a matter of finding it and sticking to it to help us steer our moods when the storms come.
Find what works and you will be able to get up faster when you fall, or jumpstart the engine when it stalls.