I am dismayed at the political state of the United States. Many of my clients feel scared, sad and hopeless about it. How do we remain emotionally centered and resilient in these difficult times? I know that I am most effective in whatever I am doing when I am in a good emotional space. Allowing external circumstances to drag me down is only going to undermine my value to others and drain my energy for doing the work that is necessary. So how do we remain hopeful and optimistic despite the discouraging news?
Here are some approaches to use. An important part of these is to recognize that paying attention to nourishing input deliberately does not require pretending that painful events do not exist. In a rose garden, smelling the roses does not require denying the existence of the thorns or the manure. Your day to day experience is like that – spending your time smelling the manure is an option, but not required! Even if you decide to work with the manure you do not have to stick your nose in it.
7 approaches for remaining centered in difficult times:
Recommit to your self-care. Most people allow their self-care to deteriorate under stress. Don’t. In fact, to make yourself more resilient, notch up the quality of your life-style 10%. Look at your patterns with diet, exercise and sleep. How can you improve them? How can you reduce your reliance on distractions with an addictive quality such as drugs, alcohol, or internet?
Maintain the long view. This country has gone through very trying times in the past. Despite this, we have been able to create positive institutions, great works of art and loving relationships. Humanity in general is maturing and behaviors that were socially acceptable in the past have become widely unacceptable. Persistent effort by people of goodwill makes a difference.
Think in context. Humans have gone through ordeals far more difficult than the one we are facing. Recall Nazi Germany, recall the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. What frame of mind did members of the French Resistance have to maintain during the Nazi occupation?
Control your thinking by controlling your input. Be aware of what experiences lift your spirits and which drain them. For instance, watching the news obsessively every day is a sure way to tax your resilience. Allowing yourself to express your outrage and upset daily or listening to your friends express theirs will connect you powerfully to energy draining emotions. I am not advocating denial, but be cautious about what you let in. The deliberately spend time in activities that leave you happy and optimistic. Play games with friends, laugh, watch comedies, listen to uplifting talks and podcasts, spend time with animals and in nature.
Strengthen your social network. Spend time with people doing things that are uplifting. Reach out with kindness to strangers, and explore new friendships. Join a new group, meet-up or group. Create time to really listen to others. We are all in this together, and each of us needs support.
Create and act on a plan. It is essential that good people stay committed to acts of kindness and service. These may be of a political nature, but they may also be volunteering at your local food bank. What are you going to do over the next 4 years to make the world a better place? Use your distress over the present to commit to making a more positive future. Deliberate and effective action is the best antidote to hopelessness and despair.
Set time aside to deeply relax and be in the moment. Despite challenging external events, the present moment is usually still a safe refuge. Create or find a nourishing external environment and relax into the world of your five senses. Savor warm tea, good food, lovely natural scenes, yummy scents, great music, or the warmth of a hug. Let yourself stay with the sensations for 10% longer than you might otherwise..
Staying centered in these times is paddling upstream. Admitting that, how do you want to feel? You have more power over this than it may seem. Looking back over this list, what are you willing to change to be more centered? Commit and make progress towards that today!
If you need some additional support, feel welcome to contact me!