It’s so easy to look at the bright side of life when everything is going as planned. When things are going well, we are afforded blessings, able to look for opportunities, and expect to find good fortune. We have no reason to expect otherwise. I really believe in the power of an optimistic outlook and it can offer an amazing source of emotional strength. But you know, there is going to be situations that test this optimism and hope, and there is going to be times where conflict or challenge emerges. Learning to deal with the cloudy days is a part of life. But, what happens when a metaphorical thunder storm blows through your life? Maybe the damage feels more like a tornado or hurricane. How do you emotionally handle those moments of distress? When the problem can’t be immediately solved what can we do? Here are a few suggestions to keep in your back pocket and pull out for that bombshell crisis that might occur.
I admit that distracting yourself won’t necessarily solve the problem, but it can prevent an emotional breakdown if you’re feeling overwhelmed. We can’t constantly focus on our problem areas and expect to have joy and fulfillment. We need to make time for pleasurable and positive experiences even amidst troubles. If distraction seems like a feasible option there are countless things you can do. Engage in hobbies or activities you enjoy, call a friend, play games, go to a movie, garden, write poetry, or go for walk. The possibilities are endless. Remember that no matter what’s occurred you can distract yourself by making time to cool off and get collected. Counting to 10 is a valuable habit that can be done anywhere as well as breathing which will be examined next.
Relaxation is a very proactive way to manage stress and agitation. Incorporating relaxation every day can create an emotional buffer against stress and tension. We all carry around so much tension and forget to find an outlet for release. Everyone needs to take a break at times, particularly in those moments when our foundation seems a little shaky. There are a couple of ways to relax the mind and body. One method involves using muscle relaxation by tensing and relaxing each major muscle group. You can also use deep breathing. Breathe gently and smoothly and focus on the movement of your stomach. As you breathe in, allow your stomach to rise and fill with air, then exhale and let your stomach deflate as it releases the breath. Here is a post on breathing exercises that I previously wrote that offers some helpful techniques.
Use visualization and imagery
Often, stress is a cognitive manifestation. It comes from what we think about and how we perceive things to be. If we perceive our world as chaotic, busy, fast paced, and taxing this is exactly what we’re going to get. So, by changing what you focus on, you can relieve stress and better deal with your struggles. When stress is getting to you, use your imagination to escape from the incessant worry and brooding going on in your head. Imagine some relaxing scenery. Maybe a vast mountain scape where there is silence and you have solitude and freedom from your problems. Imagine a beach or a tropical environment where you can sit back, relax, feel the ocean breeze, and listen to the waves along the sand. Find a place where you can go mentally for respite from the struggle you’re going through.
Find meaning and value
Reframing the reason a difficult situations happened is a wonderful way to work through it. Instead of viewing the situation as being due to bad luck, misfortunes, and our all around stupidity and incompetence; try to find some valuable lesson, a message, or something that you learned which can make you a greater and more wise person. It may be difficult to do this immediately, but being able to find purpose or meaning is a major way to change perspective and cope with what is taking place. There is always value and something positive to be found within all painful experiences. Work to focus on the value you will gain after you make it through the challenge at hand.
When something troubling occurs it may be your natural response to play out all the possible scenarios in your head, which will probably include the worst case scenario and all the suffering that will follow. Instead, bring your focus to the moment and to the facts happening at the time, and don’t project what could happen in the future. Staying present can come from focusing on the senses. Turn to the senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing when possible in order to reintegrate yourself in the moment and break away from your thinking. Really pay attention to the environment and look at your surroundings. Listen and focus on any sounds that are present, smell any pleasant aromas, and try and feel the physical sensations of what is occurring. Work to not be influenced by what has already happened or what might happen next week. Everything you need lies in the here and now.
Use meditation or prayer
When all else fails and you still are full of angst, grief, and worry, give what is ailing you up to a higher power. Use contemplative mediation or mindfulness mediation to remain present, neutralize stress, and seek intuitive wisdom. Pray that things will turn out for the better and ask that you be blessed and protected. This may be all we have at times, though this will not solve our problems, it only offers an emotional reprieve. All in all… I imagine you don’t want to think about what could go wrong, and that certainly isn’t the point of this post, but when a time comes and you need to find some light within the dark you will have a better chance to do so. The sunny days just aren’t as joyous if you never experience a cloudy day. It’s just the way life is. Working through struggles will take being resilient and courageous, and finding strength when it isn’t apparent. So don’t forget, as much as these ideas can help us tolerate distress there may be times when we need to seek professional help. Don’t be ashamed to reach out and get assist. Courage is about facing your fears and tackling what you’re scared of. When crisis occurs be courageous and stay strong. Photo credit: Meredith_Farmer