Taking a deep breath in the middle of a big challenge can change everything.
Maybe most of your days are “normal,” but every once in a while there is one of those days that is different—a couple hints of bad news come together or a gray morning combines with dense traffic and things seem to flow from bad to worse. Maybe it’s not just one but several days, with a challenging life situation in the background. Maybe you leave the house with the hope that everything will be alright, but it’s not. And the worry begins to spiral down, seemingly all by itself.
So easily we find ourselves in a negative spiral in our minds and then, unfortunately, even more bad things happen. The coffee spills, it starts raining, we make a mistake, and negative thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies. What to do? What do you do on those days?
What I’ve Noticed
Many times I’ve watched my mind running in circles, imagining the worst. Fear can appear and bring desperate hopes that nothing “really bad” happens. If I stay feeling stuck the imprint can become strong. It can take a long time in the evening to calm down from that fearful stress and relax into what is actually true: that it was a challenging day, I encountered difficulties, I navigated them, even succeeded in clearing up what went wrong, but on top of that my mind threw a heavy blanket of worry, self-criticism, and fear over me. Yet I survived and finally reached the evening.
Making the Catch
If I can catch what is going on in a day like that, I might stop and smile or even laugh in the middle of the rain. Habitual tendencies to fear the worst and connect to ancient stories cause worry and stress to rise up. But I don’t have to follow where that is leading. I can notice it, I can be aware and feel it and then stop right there and breathe. Old stories and worries—that’s what’s happening. I don’t have to follow them. What a relief!
Stopping the Story
What a relief to stop the worry story. What a relief to consciously choose instead of habitually reacting. What a relief to notice and stop in the middle of that dynamic. Stop and breathe. Feeling the air, noticing the weight of my body touching the ground, and taking a look around. Just being there for a moment and just observing.
As long as we don’t go into the stress, we can think. We might not know anything at first, but we can check in with ourselves and figure out what would actually work best right now. We can do that if our mind is not totally caught up, not run by the habitual pattern. We can observe the habitual tendency and stop and breathe. What a relief!
Now we can reflect and decide what actually would be best to do. You might have your unique response, and I mine. Some people see more with their head at first, and others with their heart. If stress has really started, there’s going to be some pain in your system, and there are so many ways we might wisely respond to that, from quiet curiosity to a warm embrace. I love to smile about myself and see what is going on, feeling with my heart. I know most of the negative stories in my mind’s repertoire and I know what it likes to focus on instead. Also I know where I’m really sensitive, where I want to be understood and really be seen. What would a perfect mom do for me if I were her child?
Opening Naturally to Others
I might feel for a moment into my body, breath, and connect with my heart. It might come naturally to me to feel the wish for everyone who is stuck in a challenging place to have some loving care right there. Certainly I don’t wish for anyone that worry, blame, and shame take over and steal all of their energy. So I also don’t want that for myself. I hope we all can meet a beautiful moment outside or respond from a wise and caring place inside.
In responding to the stress inside, I might feel a bit shaky and vulnerable at first, but the warmth in my heart and the stillness in my body can carry me through that moment. Then I might feel like a nice cup of tea and look forward to a successful rest of the day. Or I might long to connect with someone and focus more on what I can do that is not so challenging until the evening comes.
How is this for you?
Later that day I might reflect that it feels like such a relief that I didn’t get stuck in that one challenge. The more often I have these experiences the deeper the alternative gets. Especially if I really manage to not follow the old habitual tendency. Everything happens for a reason. These patterns arise as opportunities for us to do something entirely new, something that transforms the pattern. So whatever went south that day can be one more support for us to strengthen a new habit—not following the tendency that has been ingrained forever in our human being, but to stop, notice, breathe, and chose a different story, or no story at all.
Have a wonderful week! I’m curious if you might catch yourself in a similar experience. 🙂