Calming the everyday crisis (9/30/10)
Crisis. Just the word makes people nervous. Yet imminent threat is what a lot of us feel these days. Add in an economic crisis cutting the heart out of the American middle class, and people feel crisis becomes an everyday thing.
So what do you do if your kid is sick and has to get to the doctor, you’ll be late to a job you already fear losing, there’s a huge highway traffic tie-up ahead and you suddenly recognize your uncle’s funeral is next week and you have to work that day?
The answer – get your brain back under control. Here’s a group of active rest techniques than get your brain back to doing what it’s designed to do:
1. First, cut down anxiety enough so your brain can do its job. Active rest techniques really help. Start with deep breathing. Stand up straight and breathe in to the count of 4, out to the count of eight. Repeat for 5 breaths.
Next, try paradoxical relaxation. Concentrate on feeling the tension in muscles of your face and head. Note one slightly more tense than one next to it. Now, pay complete attention to this muscle, sensing it alone. Your complete concentration is rewarded by feeling the rest of your body relax. Both deep breathing and paradoxical relaxation can be done very successfully in 30-60 seconds, like most active rest techniques.
2. Determine if your crisis is life or career threatening. When overwhelmed, people believe their crisis fully critical until they slow down, think, and take back control.
3. Use quick social connects for advice. Contact a few friends and family you trust and admire, and ask if you can call them for advice, anytime, anywhere. Most family and friends will say yes, but it’s best to ask in advance. Use quick social connects to calm your anxieties and improve social rest, a major factor in health and survival.
Social support is also crucial to emotional release. Keep with you a list of friends, family, smart acquaintances and work colleagues you can contact when you feel stressed – and make sure to keep up contact when you’re not in crisis.
4. Make a flash priority list. Take some seconds to write down the things you “have to” do and prioritize them one by one. Quickly move to priority one (it may be getting your kid to the doctor) and feel good if you accomplish that one action.
5. If unable to act effectively, repeat techniques like deep breathing and paradoxical relaxation or try different ones like ear popping.
6. After dealing with your everyday crisis, try to find in your day five minutes to get outside and walk. Nature can calm people inside five minutes, and give you a chance to think through your priorities and what to do next. Walk with colleagues at lunchtime so other brains can help you out.
7. Train your brain to think of solutions instead of problems. Start by taking three to four minutes before the evening meal to write down what’s really bugging you and how you plan to tackle it. When writing think about A. What you can do to prevent similar problems B. Who can help you deal with them C. Evaluating how well you coped that day.
8. Learn quick spiritual rest techniques like appreciating suchness or moving through time and space as ways to rapidly relax and provide perspective. With practice these techniques also become instant stress reducers.
The Process of Creating Solutions
You always need to control your brain. Though we have not dealt with major crises like life threatening illnesses or losing a job, try to give yourself enough active rest time that you can think straight, because without proper rest, you die younger; use social support for advice and emotional survival; take a moment to obtain perspective every day; and train the brain to think in terms of solutions, not problems.
Problems will always be with us. You want to have a process all your own that creates solutions. As you learn to think of solutions instead of problems, you act more quickly and build competence. Eventually you begin to solve problems as a form of flow, where the challenges of the day become opportunities to improve skills and confidence – and avoid the crises of the future.
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