Ways to Be Calm in Turbulent Times

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"It's the twilight zone, it's a very weird feeling to be in the country just now….."

Dan Rather

“Every day, it seems there’s a new assault on the values that have historically defined what it means to be an American.”

Gabby Giffords

When real science, real news, and real governance are drawn into question by an alternative reality, it not only feels weird, it feels scary. As many people have discovered over the past few months, getting riled up is easy; calming down again proves a bit trickier. Are you so edgy, numb, or distracted during the day that it’s hard to pay attention and stay on task? Are you so wired, anxious, or exhausted at night that you can’t get the rest you so sorely need?

Regardless of your personal philosophy, these are changing times and change evokes fear and uncertainty. As biochemist Candace Pert stated in her book, Molecules of Emotion: your body doesn’t know the difference between a scary idea and an actual physical threat. When you’re upset or anxious, your physiology responds with fight or flight hormones. This is great when you need a surge of adrenalin to respond to imminent danger. But, it gets in the way when you actually want to stay steady and make good decisions.

You know that your state of mind affects your body. You can feel it. Worry about the environment, finances, job security, politics, or personal relationships and your stomach gets queasy, your shoulders hunch, your jaw tightens, your blood boils. But, you may not realize that body awareness can help you to reverse the flow and relax your mind. As Mark Hyman, medical director of The Ultra Wellness Center, says, “your body and mind are really just ONE bidirectional system. ”

Here are some body-smart ways to be calm in unsettling times:

Find Your Center. Like any physical mass, your body has a center of gravity. It’s slightly below your navel in the center of your pelvis. As martial arts practitioners know, being aware and moving from the center is the key to both agility and stability. Tuning in to your COG several times a day will also help you get out of your head and into the present moment. Once you become familiar with your center, you’ll have a powerful, personal reference point whenever you need it. Try it out and feel it for yourself. When you’re centered, it’s easier to be calm and confident.

Get Grounded. Standing or sitting, put your feet fully on the ground and push slightly to feel the connection. Now, shift slightly so only part of your foot connects and see what happens to your sense of support. A standard engineering axiom states that a structure’s strength depends on the integrity of the base. Apply this to your body and you establish a good foundation for knowing who you are and where you stand. The next time you’re confronted with a challenging situation, contentious person or something that rocks your world, get into your feet and see for yourself. When you’re grounded, it’s easier to be calm and steady.

See The Big Picture. If eyes are tense or tired, it restricts the field of vision and makes it harder to see the big picture- literally. To feel how you’re doing, close your eyes and notice the contraction or expansion of your eye space. If your eyes feel pinched, heavy, dense, achy or jumpy, place the palms of your hands over your eyes and invite this space to let go and soften. When you open your eyes again, focus your relaxed attention on the horizon- the big picture. Being able to see the big picture is a good way to calm down, get perspective, and find solutions that work.

If you’re all churned up, everything you do reflects this agitation, uncertainty, and confusion. When you let your wise body help you calm down, you’ll be ready to tackle challenges, negotiate conflicts, communicate effectively, connect emotionally, and show up for your family and community. Being centered, grounded and focused on the big picture are healthy strategies for turbulent times.