For those of you who missed Monday Meditation, we talked about self care. Hopefully we all have some sort of self-care plan… yoga on Tues, meditation on Thurs, eat right, drink water, etc. But I proposed to the group a little different self-care plan. This one is directed at those moments when we find ourselves panicked, anxious or angry. I’m guessing you’ve had an experience (or perhaps two ;)) standing in line at a store and it’s taking forever and it seems that everyone is just making you NUTS? Or of course, there’s that driver ahead of you who knows not how to drive? You know those moments, when you’re seething or frightened or beating yourself up over something less than perfect you did.
These are the self-care moments I’m talking about. At these stressful times, what we do and what we say to ourselves, can either help us or hurt us. Replaying some negative scenario or allowing the angry voice in your head to scream, “What’s wrong with these people??!!” actually is harmful to you. It causes anxiety and stress to escalate- blood pressure spikes, breathing is shallow and your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. So instead of adding fuel to the physiological “fire,” I propose we take action to calm ourselves. Yes… it’s possible and can actually be very effective.
First, acknowledge that you’re not taking care of yourself when you’re angry, fearful or anxious. Practice turning your focus in during stressful times. Generally what is outside of you is not within your control, but the inside that is where you can affect positive changes.
Second, realize that “it is what it is” and likely this situation is out of your control. If it’s a person or situation you find yourself with and you can’t walk away, acknowledge that you can’t change things. If you are replaying a past event or projecting a negative scenario in the future, both of those aren’t anything you can control.
And thirdly, take care of yourself. How? Begin with a breath. Taking a deep inhalation is always a good step. Breathe in oxygen as well as peace or calm in your imagination. And when you exhale, let go of a bit of anger, anxiety or stress. Breathe in the good, let go of the yuck. Continue breathing, keeping your attention on your insides. It helps you begin to detach from whatever was stressing you. You can breathe and drive…. breathe while waiting in line… just breathe. One of my meditation teachers challenged me years ago to try to hang onto fear or anger while breathing deeply. I tried… but have yet to prove him wrong. Breathing just makes you feel better. A deep breath defuses the flight or fight mode while shallow, rapid breathing feeds it.
Once you’ve detached a bit from the situation that is stressing you and you’re breathing fully, it’s time to visualize something that makes you happy. You don’t need to sit in lotus position with eyes closed to visualize but it does help to practice the “happy place” visualization when you are some where calm and comfortable. That was what we did today in meditation… explored our happy places. Often people love the feeling of sun on their face, the sound of the ocean, a walk in the woods. I imagine standing in a hot shower and the water is washing alway all my stress. It is amazing what even a few moments of positive visualization can do to your emotional state. Learn to take care of yourself by practicing replaying happy experiences in your mind.
So take care of you, especially when you find yourself in a stressful space. Make the decision to take care of yourself regardless what is going on around you. Let go of the uncontrollable, and turn your attention within. Breathe, breathe, breathe. Then visualize something lovely… a place, a positive result, the sun on your face. If you were attached to some sort of monitoring device, likely you’d watch your breathing rate and pulse slow and your blood pressure drop. But it doesn’t take any special equipment to realize that you feel better… calmer, stronger and able to cope.
You might not know… but start looking for signs… that your calmness (as well as your anger) affects those around you. Whether you vocalize your joy (or your frustration) or not, that energy can be felt by others. The office, your home and the world around us need your positive energy and your joy. So in helping yourself, you help others. Help me make the world a better place to live… even one deep breath can help.
ps. The image above is “Go with the flow” by me.