By Blake D. Bauer //
With everything that’s going on in the world it’s very natural to feel overwhelmed, worried and confused. Every emotion you’re feeling within yourself is valid. Helplessness, sadness, anger, and frustration are all healthy responses to the various situations we’re facing within our homes, our communities, our workplaces, and across the world.
Many people are feeling the need to act and reclaim both their power and their voice. This is happening in personal relationships behind closed doors as well as out in our communities, all of which is purposeful and necessary. As individuals we are facing challenges on every level of our being and in all aspects of our lives. Today more than ever, it’s both critical and potentially life-saving to have practical tools that help us to feel more centered, clear-minded, and secure within ourselves.
Instead of shutting down, numbing out, pretending you’re okay, or becoming paralyzed, I invite you to test the following views and practices for yourself and the people in your life. I promise they will help you feel better each day. They will also support you to find the strength and clarity you need to navigate this period skillfully and with grace.
Watch Your Thoughts & Take Care of Your Mind
I’m sure you’ve witnessed your thoughts spiral out of control in some moments. You may even be thinking cynical thoughts about everything you’re reading here. It’s very natural to be more aware of negative thought patterns right now, which is precisely why it’s more important to take care of and watch your mind with everything that’s going on. Here are 4 simple practices that will help you shift this; but they only work if you intentionally focus on them each day, especially first thing in the morning.
- Practice at least 10 minutes of meditation in the morning before you start your day. Even just 10 minutes can change everything and help you feel well and more centered throughout the day. Sit somewhere comfortable and simply observe your body, breathing, and thoughts. When your mind begins to wander and you notice that you’re thinking, simply say to yourself the word ‘THINKING’ internally, and use that as a cue to bring all of your attention and focus back to feeling your body and to feeling the breath come in and then flow out. When you notice you’re thinking a lot, take some very slow deep breaths through your nose into your lower abdomen area, which will help you bring your awareness deeper into your body. 10 minutes is all you need to feel better and set in motion a more positive day. If you want to do more, it will only be more helpful.
- Bring to mind a few things you are genuinely thankful for—such as your home, your health, your partner, your family members, any amount of financial security you have, your pet, your car, or your friends. Thinking about these things will activate a more positive mindset and trigger more positive thoughts.
- Bring to mind a few things you really want—such as staying healthy, being at peace, starting or finishing an important project, enjoying the people you love and care about, taking care of your physical body, exercising, starting or building the business you’ve been wanting to, or taking a course you’ve been thinking about. Focusing on what you want will help you feel less stuck and more inspired to make the most of the day, regardless of everything that’s going on.
- Take a few minutes to think about the people you love and care about most, and say a few prayers for their health, well-being, and happiness. If you feel inclined, expand this prayer to more people you know. Then, if you want to, pray for all of humanity. You will be surprised at how much positive energy this unlocks inside your being.
Beyond the morning, It’s also helpful to utilize these strategies throughout the day, especially if you find yourself stuck in negative thoughts. You have the power and ability to both choose your thoughts and guide your thoughts. In any moment or situation, you can ask yourself what you really want, what you’re thankful for, and what you can do or focus on that will help you feel better. Focusing your thoughts and attention on these specific things is the key to exercising your power to redirect your thinking, instead of just allowing yourself to be the victim of your old negative thought habits.
Take Time For Yourself
If you’ve been quarantined at home over the past few months, with family, children, or your partner, it’s crucial that you find a way to create more personal time for yourself each day. Go for a walk, take a drive, listen to your favorite music or a podcast you enjoy. Go to a park, beach or place in nature that you like. Consider bringing a journal and writing down your thoughts. Try writing a letter to the Universe, to a loved one, or even to a loved one who has passed on.
Everyone needs time alone to be with their own thoughts and feelings; to listen to the quiet voice inside that is whispering (or screaming to you) what you truly feel, need and want. We all need space to listen to our intuition, to move at our natural pace, and to feel—in the present—exactly what form of nourishment or joy we need. It’s also healthy to get away from the computer, the laundry, the dishes, and all the other unfinished tasks that stare at you when you’re at home all day.
If you live with your partner or spouse, support each other to take some personal time alone. Encourage your partner to take some time for themselves away from you and the home, and express that you need this support for yourself as well. Yes, it can be nice to go out together, but I think it’s healthy to prioritize some alone time that allows you to feel some freedom and room to breathe.
Open Up About Your Feelings
It’s important to talk about what you’re feeling inside yourself regularly, especially with the extreme changes and concerns that are present. This is not the time to put on a brave face or internalize the rollercoaster of emotion and thought that is surfacing inside. It’s critical for your health and your future to find someone you can open up to. It can be your partner, a friend, a family member, a therapist, a priest, or a rabbi. In addition to speaking to another human being, writing down all your thoughts and feelings in a journal is very helpful and healing.
It’s easy to dismiss something as simple as writing in a diary or sharing your thoughts and feelings with another person, but the truth is that doing so will keep your energy, blood, and immune system circulating in a healthy way. It will help you adapt to whatever arises on a daily basis with more flexibility and clarity. If you don’t share what’s going on for you today and you keep it in, then tomorrow’s experiences will be compounded and clouded by yesterday’s unresolved feelings and concerns. It’s vital to process what’s arising on a daily basis so you don’t combust or get trapped in self-destructive habits.
Be Gentle With Your Words
It’s equally important to express yourself kindly as it is to open up about what you’re feeling. Saying things you don’t mean, or saying something in a cruel, hurtful, or reactionary way will only make a challenging time worse. Everyone is under pressure and struggling with something in their own way, so when you do open up, do so as kindly and gently as you’re able to.
Non-violent communication that creates an environment of safety, trust, and understanding between people might be the single most critical skill you can master right now. Instead of dumping emotions like anger and frustration onto other people, it’s life-changing and relationship-saving to express yourself with phrases such as:
- I feel angry because…
- I feel frustrated because…
- I feel scared because…
- I feel overwhelmed because…
Instead of snapping at the people you’re closest to, it’s critical to learn to use phrases where you own and take full responsibility for what you feel, need and want. Our default is to point the finger and say ‘YOU are wrong’ or ‘YOU are selfish’ or ‘YOU are a #$%^.’ This form of communication only causes more hurt, separation, and misunderstanding. It causes walls to go up and pushes people away. Instead of talking to the people you care about in this reactionary way, ask yourself the following questions throughout the day, especially in tense moments:
- What am I feeling?
- What do I need?
- What do I want?
And then, be vulnerable and express yourself with the following phrases, which are the keys to effective, kind and non-violent communication:
- I feel…
- I need…
- I want…
You may need time for yourself. You may want someone to just listen to all your thoughts and feelings. You may need help with the home, the laundry, the kids, or the dishes. Or you may need someone to discuss your work or financial concerns with. The one factor that determines whether we feel supported or instead feel misunderstood is found in “the how”– or, the way you go about expressing yourself. Try to use these phrases regularly throughout the day and watch how things improve. Kind, gentle, clear, non-violent communication will bring down your walls and the walls of the people you share your life with. It will strengthen everyone’s sense of connection and help everyone feel seen, heard, and valued.
It’s also helpful to reflect on how you want to be treated in general and especially during this time. Do you want to be met with criticism, aggression, and blame, or would you rather be treated with kindness and honest vulnerability? Sometimes we have to be the one to set the example in our home, our family, or our community. Be the one who sets the example.
Appreciate It or Lose It
We tend to lose whatever we take for granted. Whether it’s our health, our partner, our income, or a loved one, if we don’t appreciate a particular aspect of our life we unintentionally sabotage its health and stability. To prevent this, particularly right now, it’s wise to be mindful of all the people and aspects of your life that you can be thankful for. Practically speaking, choose to find things to appreciate around you and in the people that you value. Everyone is experiencing significant stress right now and it’s easy to criticize or find fault in people’s behavior. Rather than judging or making people wrong, try to shift your mindset to one that looks for the blessings in your life across the board—from your relationships, to any income you have, to the roof over your head, the food you have in the refrigerator, and the clothes you have on your back. You have the power to choose your thoughts and to focus on more positive things that make you feel better in the moment. Work on exercising this power whenever you find yourself going down a negative pathway in your mind. It’s easy to be both negative and reactive right now, which is why it’s even more important that you catch yourself when mistreating yourself or the people around you.
Instead of Numbing Out, Stay Solution Minded
During this unprecedented time, it’s easy to revert to self-destructive habits like overeating, drinking more alcohol, or smoking more marijuana and cigarettes. Seeking relief from the stress and pressure of what’s going on is very understandable; however, too much indulgence will leave you feeling worse and potentially become very damaging. It will also distract you from recognizing solutions and opportunities that exist when you’re clear-headed and alert.
Next time you reach for more snacks, another drink, or something to smoke, try asking yourself first:
- What am I feeling right now?
- What am I thinking right now?
- Is there something I don’t want to feel that I’m trying to numb or distract myself from?
- Am I having trouble talking about what’s really going on inside of me?
- Why am I struggling to open up?
- What are my biggest fears and concerns right now?
And then simply notice whatever is true for you. This simple pause will provide deeper self-awareness with which you’ll be empowered to make a healthier decision about how to use your time.
Regardless of any negative thoughts you might be experiencing right now, there really are a number of opportunities and possibilities within your reach. You may not like me for saying this, but every moment you do not spend numbing or repressing your feelings is a moment that you can be pro-active and solution-minded. There are opportunities to spend time doing things you’ve been putting off, there are opportunities to spend time with the people you love, there are opportunities to clear out your closet or home, there are opportunities to do art or work on things you’ve wanted to but haven’t had the time for previously. There are new business opportunities emerging online. There are opportunities to read a good book, to exercise outside, to cook more, to take an online course, to research strategies to come out okay on the other end of this period.
If you can observe any tendencies you have to numb your emotions and thoughts, and then intentionally make a healthier choice, you’d be surprised at the possibilities that open up for you. Sometimes life strips away everything that is extra, unnecessary, or not aligned with who we really are, so we can rebuild our life from a more meaningful and genuine place. This challenging time is offering countless moments to shift your thinking and habits from self-harm to self-care. If you’d allow yourself to open more to the moment, instead of covering or suppressing what’s arising inside you, you’d be surprised at all the life, joy, and possibility that will surface once you process those more challenging thoughts and feelings. The sun is there behind the clouds. Don’t try to drown out the clouds. Be patient with those inner storms and the sun will come out and shed light on new and important solutions.
Be Kind To Everyone You Meet
Every person you cross paths with right now is facing their own struggles mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, and professionally. In the same way that you’re facing new and overwhelming challenges, everyone you know and all the strangers you come in contact with are also under pressure and dealing with varying degrees of stress. With this in mind, it’s important to approach each person with as much kindness and gentleness as you can muster. The old saying about treating others how you’d like to be treated is particularly relevant and necessary with everything that’s going on in our homes, communities, and world. Be mindful of dumping misplaced anger, frustration, and stress on people who don’t deserve it. Using the tools outlined above, such as talking about your feelings, taking time for yourself, and taking care of your mind, will help you have more space in yourself to approach the people in your life with acceptance and understanding.
Further Reflection & Support
About the Author
Blake D. Bauer is the author of the international bestselling book You Were Not Born To Suffer. He is a sought after wisdom teacher with an extensive background in psychology, alternative medicine, nutrition, traditional healing, mindfulness meditation, and qi gong. Based on both his personal experience overcoming deep suffering, addiction, and adversity, as well as his professional success with over 100,000 people worldwide, his pioneering work integrates what he’s found to be the most effective approaches to optimal mental, emotional and physical health.