Surviving Treacherous Times…Finding your own compass…

If you were washed up on a desert island and desperate to survive, I wonder what survival technique would serve you best? No matter how fit and strong you were, if you weren’t mentally strong you would find it difficult to keep going. Bulging muscles and gym enhanced fitness might help you bounce around the sand for a while but without mental fitness you would soon start to panic or go into ‘freeze’ mode. You would only be able to run around searching for ships on the horizon, and an immediate solution, for so long. While it is certainly good to keep physically fit, there is much more to survival than that. Often the person with hidden strengths survives against the odds.

Just as we would find it hard to cope alone on a desert island, this time of year especially, with all the extra stresses and strains, we may feel we need to go into survival mode. We may not be lost on that desert island but we may feel just as stranded and panicked. It may not only be the stresses of Christmas that bring us down; there could be more serious worries in our lives; worries about finances, health, relationships or body image may become more pressing during the festive period. There is something about Christmas that heightens our emotions and makes us feel things, both good and bad, more deeply.

The strongest survival skill comes from managing the mind. Everything you do and experience comes from your mind after all. It is hard at times I know, but there are some basic tips to help you settle your mind and feel more in control. Just as when trapped on that island, if you worry too much you may panic in stressful situations. In times like this just STOP.  Stop and find a quiet space and take a breather. Pause and do nothing and think about your situation and what is really bothering you. Think carefully about what to do next. Are you stressed by loud music and crowds in a shopping centre for instance? Can the shopping wait to another day? Is it really that important? Think about finding a quieter area to regain some calm. Remember most things aren’t as crucial to get done as you think.

If you were stranded somewhere you would probably make yourself a base camp – somewhere where you felt safe and could shelter from the storm. In the same way so it is also needed in normal life – make sure your surroundings at home are peaceful and comfortable – create your own safe haven and your own ‘go to’ place. Escape to this place from time to time and especially during frantic days, and feel the calmness there. If you work in an office keep your own space uncluttered and perhaps keep a photo on your desk of loved ones or have a framed positive quote that you like. Have a little corner that is just yours and rest your eyes on a scene that is tranquil. If you can go for a walk at lunchtime and play some peaceful music on your headphones you will feel more able to cope with the day.

Make a plan – in  the desert you would formulate a plan so that you could attract help and the possibility of rescue. Do the same in your mind to help you ease your worries. Think of who may be able to help you in your current situation, whatever it may be. Be open to advice. Put out feelers  – you will be surprised where help may come from.

Work out your everyday survival techniques. Have an imaginary compass in your mind – picture it pointing you in the right direction – the calm and happy direction. If you have a problem that is really worrying you, picture your compass rotating until it points you to a place where you can work out your problems. Picture it pointing you to a friend who is ready to receive you with kind and open arms. Imagine it sending you towards your own personal North Star where peace and contentment abounds. It is amazing how this can help you find a way forward and calm your mind.

Every time you leave your own particular safe place, your ‘base camp’, and venture out in a calm and peaceful way and can cope with what ever is outside you will be building confidence and more able to take control of different and even anxious feelings. Also, knowing you have a place to retreat to and recharge your batteries will help, even if you just go there in your mind when you are in a chaotic place.

So next time you feel you are anxious or jittery, put your mind to survival and find the path you lost.

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Finding Patience

Do you find you have times when you find yourself coming across coincidences? Then again, I have heard it said there are no such things as coincidences. Maybe we are led in certain directions for a reason. This week I have read several bits of advice urging me to find patience, so I thought I should take notice and ask myself whether I am a patient sort of person, and what showing patience really means.

      ‘We can be bombarded with all sorts of new ideas and clever thoughts and these more than have a place, but sometimes a handful of patience shown to us can be far more helpful.’

I think of myself as a patient person generally, but then I think of certain recent examples where I have struggled to keep my cool. This very day I was held up in my car for several miles, driving behind a slow moving tractor carrying an enormous pile of manure; I squirmed behind the wheel, straining my neck trying to look around the vehicle for a chance to overtake safely when there was none. My hand hovered over the steering wheel, itching to beep the horn. I asked myself why the  driver wouldn’t pull over to let the long stream of traffic overtake. I huffed and puffed and felt annoyed. But eventually  I got to where I was going and soon my equilibrium returned. I soon forgot about the incident until now. Now, I can see that yes for a moment there was a bit of a hold up, but was it really worth getting annoyed about; allowing the blood pressure to go up and the adrenaline to flow? Definitely not. I would have been far better off keeping calm and listening to classic FM. Ah well, maybe next time.

This was a relatively minor incident, and fairly common to all of us from time to time. Mostly we learn to calm down and move on in these situations. But what about the situations where patience is really important? For anyone in a position of relative power, it is easy to feel full of a sense of importance and forget that others also have something important to say. I remember a small child at school, stricken with shyness, being told to hurry up and give her answers to a question and being made to look silly as she stumbled over her response. Had she been shown patience and kindness, she would have had a chance to get her answer right and gain confidence. We see examples of impatience around us on a daily basis –  and none of us are immune to it. When people are busy and workloads are heavy it is easy to fall out of step with how we should treat others. Will the hard working doctor with a long queue of patients always remember to treat each one with compassion and realise that every person coming into his waiting room may be harbouring worries about their health? Will the politician dealing with a hundred questions a day treat every person he comes into contact with with the same tact and interest? Will the busy vicar treat every member of his flock in the same way after a busy day visiting parishioners? We hope so but we can understand if they sometimes fall short of what we expect.

When trying to develop more patience I am going to  try a few tips :

To take a day where I make patience my goal for the entire day. Make a concerted effort to take my time and think about everything I do, be mindful and live in the moment.

Practise slowing down.

Practise delaying quick outcomes.

Practise thinking before I speak.

Ways to BE patient:

I will:

Pay attention to what makes me feel like I am in a hurry.

Take my mind to obedience school and learn to be still and quiet for a while.

Learn to let go – it doesn’t always matter to me that I need to be right about everything.

Be patient about learning patience!

Plan ahead – that way I will not feel as stressed if I allow plenty of time i.e. to get to appointments etc.

I am going to take time (perhaps next time I am stuck in traffic!) to notice all the good things that life offers.

So the importance of patience should be realised. Patience when learned, can help us to reach for the stars. With patience we can stop ourselves making hasty decisions we may later regret. Life is not about living in the future – it is about slowing down and taking each day as it comes.

 

When Worries Floor You…

I’m continuing my theme about anxiety this week. If you can find anything here to help you then I’m very glad and wish you well.

Just when you think you are doing okay, when you have life worked out at last and have a spring in your step again, do you find yourself ‘floored’ by a comment you hear in passing or by an unexpected letter stuffed through the letterbox? It may not be anything serious but enough to make you jittery.

Sometimes we can feel we are on a fine balance, and find it hard to cope with extra pressures. Or maybe we don’t like the world to see us looking anxious or worried and so we bottle things up inside. This is worse than letting go and having a meltdown;  emotional turmoil can be damaging to us if not released.

I read this explanation of anxiety somewhere this week and it really resonated with me:

      ‘Anxiety is not being able to sleep because you said something wrong two years ago    and can’t stop thinking about it.’

This may or may not be true for you but I know I have had times when I’ve lain awake tossing and turning worrying about past mistakes. Maybe mistakes is not the right word; perhaps it is ‘perceived’ mistakes. Those things which may not have even been important at the time and certainly aren’t now. Then there are the worries that creep in about tomorrow, next week or next year. The ‘what ifs’ and the ‘how is that?’ Before I know it an hour or two has passed and then I start fretting about the fact that I can’t sleep and worry about being a wreck the next day. Thinking ‘I must get to sleep’ doesn’t help!

The good news is there are things that can help:

Repeat your worries over and over rather than try to push them to the back of your mind. Instead, rumble them around until you are bored with them. It may not be a cure exactly but it is better than being overwhelmed.

Think of the worst thing that could happen in a situation you are worrying about, for example, forgetting what to say when giving a speech. Imagine making light of it and joking with your audience – see yourself relaxing and letting the words flow – people usually understand, they’ve often been there themselves.

Don’t judge yourself if you feel you are feeling a bit crazy. You may think a little strangely at times, but that doesn’t mean you are going to act upon your thoughts. Realise that no one is ‘normal’ and what is normal anyway?

Remember that most things you fear do not come true. If and when they do, then that is the time to take action. Not now. Those panicky feelings you are feeling are not going to kill you or give you as heart attack, but if you can deflect them by telling yourself most things you are worrying about won’t happen you are saving yourself some angst.

Be a casual observer. View your worries from afar and make light of them. See them drift off into the distance and wave them goodbye.

Realise you can’t take control of everything. If you feel you’ve done or said something tactless or silly ( most people probably haven’t even noticed) don’t fret about it. Just be warm and friendly, and smile.

Breathe deeply and slowly when you are anxious – I know you have probably heard this many times before, but it does help. If nothing else, it slows you down and calms the nerves.

Don’t let anxiety take over and stop you enjoying things. Even if you think you have a major worry, divide your time – set some going out time to spend an uplifting hour or two with a friend, and then go back to the worry when you get home. Chances are it won’t seem nearly so bad.

Most of all, whatever is happening in your life, remind yourself – this too will pass. Nothing lasts forever in life whether good or bad, whoever and wherever you are in life. That is a fact.

What can you still do in life when you are anxious? Actually, almost everything!

Be gentle with yourself. You are doing the best you can.

 

Imagine the sight of a rainbow,

     Shimmering in the rain,

    Like a painting stretched across the sky,

     Bringing colour to your world again.’

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Blessings to you.