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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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.

 

Moving on From Anxiety…

I wrote about anxiety last week, and how it can affect us in so many ways – from the way we sound and appear,  to how we can be affected physically. Even when we deal well with anxiety the anxious thoughts still sometimes hover and wait in the wings – waiting for the guard to drop and the mindfulness to lose its helpful grip for a while. If, like me, you spend a lot of time reading about self-help and enlightenment you will know what I mean when I say that mindfulness and reaching that absolute place of understanding where we ‘get it’ and nothing can bother us any more is definitely an ongoing process which needs constant monitoring! (Although, if you have ‘got it’ you may well disagree with me…actually, you probably won’t be reading this anyway, you will be somewhere on cloud nine.)

I can’t recall a time in the past when there was so much helpful information readily available to us on the subject of self-help and spiritual fitness. It’s a good thing. It’s a great and empowering thing. There is something for all of us, whether we lean toward religious solace, a more healthy body and mind, spiritual advancement, meditation, yoga, finding the best retreat, positivity workshops…… I could go on…..

The benefit in all this help and information is huge. With all the help at our disposal we will find something we really find beneficial for sure. We will, sooner or later, have our own particular author or life-style guru who really speaks to us and shows us a way forward when we need it from time to time.

I was a nurse for many years, and I can think of countless times when I had to dig deep and give comfort. To be able to reach out and support people in times of tremendous need was of utmost importance, especially when busy and working in a stressful environment. I hope I gave my best. Mostly I feel I did. But it would have been good to have had more helpful ways of releasing the tension after a busy shift than going to the pub around the corner from the hospital!  Maybe I wasn’t ready then to read the books that would have been helpful – perhaps I was finding my own way then and gaining experience in life. It is said that the teacher comes when the pupil is ready.

And I think it is good to remind ourselves sometimes that simple acts of kindness are within us all. To remember that inherent wisdom and  compassion is deep within us, even embedded in our DNA. We are braver and wiser than we think. Mindfulness and deep thinking has been around far longer than we have . Self-help is not really new. Ancient philosophers had figured out life over 2,000 years ago. Quotes from so long ago never cease to amaze me and make me realise that everything changes yet nothing changes!

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.’         Heraclitus (lived around 500 years BC in Ephesus.)

Like many big thinkers, Heraclitus was born wealthy in a city, but lived in the woods to contemplate the universe.

The sage ” is ready to use all situations and doesn’t waste anything. This is called embodying the light.”

Lao Tzu alive around 600 BC in China.

The Lao Tzu started Taoism 2,500 years ago in China. He was legendary – Lao Tzu really just means ‘old man’ and nobody knows who he actually was. He certainly made a big impression! More importantly, he left us the ‘Tao Te Ching” which is full of ancient wisdom.

To rank the effort above the prize may be called love.”        Confucius, alive in China around 500 BC.

Confucius is probably the most influential person in Chinese history. He emphasised what we today call grit: finding the value in trying and not just arriving.

The unexamined life is not worth living.”         Socrates Lived in Athens around 450 BC

Socrates embodied the fundamental spirit of Western thought that you have the responsibility of being in charge of your own life.

Perhaps the most beautiful words of all ;

  “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.

Rumi, poet born 1207

So today we are lucky with the resources we have  – both the old and the new.  We may just need to remind ourselves to open our hearts to new learning. To rid ourselves of negative thoughts and change our thinking so we can move forward with positivity and embrace change whilst learning also from the past. Nothing, and I mean nothing that is good is ever lost even when it is centuries old.

As human beings we will always be searching for a newer, better and easier way to find fulfillment. Next time your heart is a little heavy, just remember there is always a way forward. And as I have said before, if you are anxious you are not alone. You can take comfort from the fact that for centuries we have yearned to find new wisdom and ways to help us move forward and probably will for centuries to come. And we have survived.

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