We often hear about how we are living through unprecedented times. However, it’s important to recognize that we are also living through incredibly stressful times. Not only do we have to deal with the fear of an invisible virus that continues to spread unchecked throughout the country, we also have to contend with the anxiety of economic hardship, social unrest and political uncertainty. Let’s face it, life seems to be completely out of control right now and nobody really knows what is going to happen next.
In times like these, it’s best to not let the imagination get carried away. This is especially true for those of us that obsessively imagine the worst case scenario. We waste so much of our precious mental and emotional energy forecasting disastrous outcomes that never actually take place. There are enough ‘real’ problems to worry about right now without also having to worry about everything that ‘might’ happen. All we can really do is cultivate a feeling of inner ease as we allow events to unfold as they may. What else can we do to keep our inner balance during these intense and unpredictable times? Here are three simple ways:
Cultivating a relaxed inner disposition towards life begins by recognizing what stress and anxiety feel like inside the body. Stressed people will often complain that they are under immense amounts of ‘pressure.’ This internal pressure can feel like you are being physically crushed, as if every cell in your body is being pulled inwards towards the center. There are healthy ways of releasing this internal pressure, such as exercising. There are also unhealthy ways of ‘blowing off steam’ like getting drunk and punching things. Regardless of the coping mechanisms we employ, we naturally seek to release pent-up pressure and return to a neutral, balanced internal environment.
A simple way to achieve equilibrium at any given moment is to consciously equalize your internal pressure. The next time you are feeling anxious, notice the amount of pressure you feel on the inside of your body and compare it to the pressure that is present in the atmosphere. To equalize, simply breathe until the pressure you experience internally feels equal to the ambient pressure of your immediate surroundings. When there is no pressure differential experienced between your internal and external world, you will find yourself at peace.
2. Have faith.
As we discussed earlier, much of our stress comes from imagining troubling future scenarios and then suffering from them as if they were really happening. However, it is unrealistic to believe that we will one day stop imagining what the future might be like. Anticipating what is going to happen next is the nature of the mind. It’s not a problem until you realize that the horrific futures that you keep envisioning are frying your nervous system. This is because imaginary futures can either be heartwarming or bleak depending on whether you are coming from a place of faith or a place of fear.
We must to learn to use our imagination more effectively, since it clearly doesn’t serve us to be anxious all the time. I used to think that predicting the future came down to a choice between hope and fear- that one can either hope for the best or fear for the worst. But, nowadays, I think I’d rather have faith than hope. I feel like hope still contains a trace of doubt whereas faith feels far more certain and concrete. Having faith implies that you know, deep down in your core, that everything is going to be alright- no matter what happens next. Hope is more like when you wish really hard for things to work out a certain way. With faith, there is no room for doubt. It is the difference between hoping everything will be ok and knowing everything will be ok.
With so much going on these days, it’s hard to keep up with all the things that we are supposed to worry about. To remedy this, many of us are addicted to the media, eager to check out the latest headlines just in case they trigger an emotional response. A constant flow of bad news keeps stress levels up and our panic mode activated at all times. It keeps us glued to our devices, feeding our awareness a steady diet of fear and anxiety mixed with a little anger and just a touch of despair. Over time, we become addicted to certain stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that get released into the bloodstream every time we emotionally react to the media we are consuming. We begin to crave the news, checking it the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night and every spare moment in between.
We mistakenly believe that staying informed and up to date about all the little details of a particular story somehow enables us to control the outcome. Meanwhile, 90% of the news we ingest is ‘bad’ news, designed to keep us in a vibration of fear so that we keep coming back for more. The truth is, you don’t need to be plugged-in to lead a happy life. You can easily break free from a media addiction by deciding not to get caught up in the drama anymore. Yes, it’s important to stay informed about current events, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend your whole day as an emotional wreck. If you are at the point where the news is tearing you apart inside, then it’s probably time to take a step back and reevaluate your focus. When you unplug from the constant stream of media, you create space inside your awareness. It’s in this space, free from all the generated fear and distractions, that you are able to comprehend the infinite peace of your true self.
Nick Hughes is a massage therapist, yoga instructor and co-owner of Well Being. Influenced by the ideas of Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra, Nick presents his unique take on human existence with the goal of helping others live a happier life.