Our instinctual response to problems is to stress out and worry. Yet there is a better way to respond when facing adversity, and that involves centering ourselves and asking the right questions. (Estimated reading time: 4 minutes)
“In bad times and good, I have never lost my sense of zest for life.”— Walt Disney
If you watch any documentary on the wilderness in the African savannah, you will most definitely see a scene of a lion hunting for prey.
The antelope is a typical prey of the lion. A normally calm creature, the antelope only reacts violently when it senses a threat, such as a lion hiding out in the bushes. When it does, it runs for its life.
At this crucial point, the antelope operates from a survival mechanism known as “fight or flight”. As humans, we too have this instinctual drive, hardwired into our system. The only difference between us and the antelope is that we are conscious of our reaction.
Our caveman ancestors found this mechanism especially useful when dealing with imminent threats such as wild animals and other tribal factions. But in our modern times, we don’t have to worry about defending ourselves against saber tooth tigers when stepping out of our homes.
Yet many of us still stress out in the same way our ancestors did when they faced real danger. We panic about matters related to modern day challenges in our careers and relationships, which rarely pose a direct threat on our physical well-being.
When facing adversity, it can often feel like we’re caught up in a storm, and the winds are shaking up our sense of security. It might even feel like our whole world is crumbling down. Sadly, many people have even taken their lives in this frame of mind.
The key to getting out of an emotional maelstrom is realizing that at the root of all this pain is the fear of losing control of our lives. If we had things our way, we would prefer to have more stability, comfort and predictability in our lives. But, as we all know, life does not work that way.
The reality is that we can’t always control other people and circumstances around us. The sooner we make peace with this reality, the faster we can learn to cope with the uncertainties of life and the challenges that come with it.
The only thing we can control is how we react to these unforeseen changes. We can choose a path that is healthy, self-preserving, and moves us in a positive direction. According to most religious and spiritual scriptures, the best way to do this is by going within and channeling our inner strength that exists at the core of our being.
Just as how the calmest part of a storm is at its center, the most peaceful and stable place of our being, is at our center. All we need to do to avoid being swept away by the strong currents of emotions is to simply go within.
One of my favorite ways to do this is based on a technique called “S.T.O.P.”, created by spiritual leader and author, Deepak Chopra. This re-centering exercise has helped me maintain my composure and manage my reactions, during some trying times.
Using the acronym “S.T.O.P”, you too can guide yourself towards a calmer and loving state of being when facing adversity.
S. Stands for stop; just stop, hold on, wait a minute.
T. Stands for take three deep breaths and then smile.
O. Stands for observe what’s happening inside of you. It probably doesn’t feel very good. But you have to observe it to know that.
P. Stands for proceed with awareness and kindness.
This exercise will instantly calm your nerves and allow you to proceed with a more relaxed state of mind. With this mindset, you can develop a more empowering perspective by asking yourself the following questions:
- What can be changed about my current situation?
- What cannot be changed about my current situation?
- What do I need to feel supported now?
Your responses to these questions will frame your situation in a way that helps you see things more clearly and find solutions. It will put you back into the driver’s seat so that you can take charge of your life.
This exercise will also make it easier for you to learn how to accept the things that you cannot change. Although this may seem difficult to do at first, learning the art of surrendering will give you the courage and strength to deal with the uncertainties of life.
Like a voyager at sea, you can navigate your ship during storms and choppy waters by adjusting your sails and following your true north. And when the sun shines again, you can step out onto the deck, and admire the expansive vistas that lie ahead in the distant horizon, full of promise and hope.
All my best on your journey,
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