These are volatile times, particularly for the sensitive and loving heart. Just this weekend, a beautiful young woman on the cusp of the life she'd hoped for was found dead in her hotel room from unexpected causes. Meanwhile, others reel from the shock of other unexpected deaths, violent losses, fearful diagnoses, and deeply disturbing financial forecasts in their own bank accounts. Meanwhile, on the international front, Steven E. Calvery, spokesman for the Pentagon, described a "random incident" of shots fired at the Pentagon, creating reverberating circuits around the world. Just one day earlier, travelers everywhere were cautioned to rethink their travel plans due to news reports of rising terrorist threats across Europe.
One thing is for certain: we are not short on challenges. When faced with the unimaginable and traumatizing, how can you restore your footing? It is a given that obstacles will appear on the path. If you've lived long enough, you know this. The question is, when troubles come, how do you restore confident footsteps and shake off fear? How do you "get back on the horse"? How do you redirect your focus in such a way that your inner strength is galvanized? Below is an abbreviated checklist of steps to take, for those of you in a hurry. (Those interested in the full-length article will find it on my blog at carabarker.net. Do come by!)
Here's my action plan for tapping your inner strength when you face the overwhelming:
1) Stop. Stop whatever you are doing, and respect yourself. The nanosecond you receive deeply disconcerting news, pay attention to your reaction, and honor your upset. Take your stopwatch off, and take your own sweet time.
2) Know that your limbic system is in overdrive, your sympathetic nervous system on red alert. (This means that cortisol is racing through your system and wreaking havoc on your capacity to think clearly and act productively.) What you need most right now is to slow things down, and this means what we call "down regulating" the stress response, getting your parasympathetic nervous system on board. The quickest way to do this is to "take a breath," meaning turn towards you and away from the outer world. Notice the depth of your breathing, which is most likely very shallow. Choose to take regular deep breaths until you get your bearings.
3) Remember you are not alone. Although you might feel alone, you are not alone.
4) Contact someone who cares about you. (If what's shocking is severe enough, you might not be able to remember a phone number. Preemptive strike: input emergency numbers onto your phone so that you need not remember pesky details during times when blood supply to the brain is in short supply.) Ask for help. Just say something like this: "I'm in trouble and need your help." Step up. You deserve assistance. Walking down life's hallway requires a buddy system.
5) Remember that whatever is happening, you will get through this. Resources exist, trust me. This can be sorted out with a good, knowledgeable listener, when your thinking is unclear.
6) Stay in the moment. Do not get ahead of yourself. Tomorrow will take care of tomorrow. Your job right now is to keep your focus on the main thing: the present moment, you, and regaining your inner strength.
7) Keep the main thing, the main thing. Remember, what you are thinking right now, in the midst of what's troubling, seeds what sprouts tomorrow in your life. If you get ahead of yourself in worries of tomorrow, you will compromise your effectiveness and healing, and make poor decisions. This is a wake-up call to discover the essential by letting go of the non-essential.
8) Listen. Return to breaths that cleanse, calm. Enter the stillness. (If you practice this in non-troubling times, it will be easier to do this in the worst ones. Do yourself this one favor every day. While it might seem like a luxury, and you might tell yourself the story that you "don't have time," this is unwise. Cultivate enough self-respect to develop your own practice every day.)
9) Remain in this inner landscape, and connect with that which is deeper than what's disturbing in the moment. Breathe. Open yourself to deeper connection and contact with your own depths. Here is where the treasure lays, your own interior wisdom. Trust it.
10) Write down whatever comes to you, that restores your strength. Trust it. Act on it.
11) Refuse to participate, to be manipulated, by fears of tomorrow.
12) Cancel spending time with the histrionic, the moody, the naysayers, and those who love to dwell in "awful-izing."
13) Note who "shows up" in helpful ways and who does not. This can be helpful when it's time to do spring cleaning in your contact list.
14) Practice spending 30 seconds every waking hour focusing on what soothes and calms and strengthens your body, heart and soul. Consider what uplifts your spirit. Breathe deeply. Enjoy these times of tapping your inner strength. At the end of the day, record your favorite 30-second practice that best soothed and strengthened you. Don't forget to do this if you are serious about wanting more "tappable" inner strength!
15) Over the next 21 days (longer is optimal), observe your train of thoughts. Test their truth with facts.
16) Remember, no matter how troubling your situation is, you are not your circumstances. This too shall pass. You will prevail stronger, more insightful, and more appreciative of this one life.
I invite you to join me. What helps you tap your inner strength when it seems to be waning? In what areas would you like to experience a deeper inner strength before the end of this year?
Thanks for dropping by and passing this checklist onto your friends. You just never know who and when will need it next! For more on this subject, see carabarker.net, where there is an in-depth discussion.
For updates, contact me at carabarker.net or email@example.com. To save time, click on Become A Fan at the top of this page. Stay tuned for upcoming developments with the Love Project, including "Practicing Love." Follow Dr. Cara Barker on Twitter. Many thanks for passing this along to those who care about creating a better world.