With the COVID virus, shootings, loss of jobs, and closure of local businesses, these are truly difficult times. So many are dealing with losses of loved ones to their own physical capabilities due to age or illness. The ongoing dramatic events and societal changes have left many of us that the rug is being pulled out from under us. We have lost what we called our everyday reality. Frustration arises when we notice how the conditions we face are not what we designed and not what we wanted. No wonder so many of us are feeling overwhelmed. How do we live with feelings of loss, anxiety, and just being overwhelmed?
Notice the Sensations
The first step is to notice how our feelings are always arising and ceasing. If we take a moment to notice the sensations that they cause in the body, we shift our attention to impacts instead of internal dialogue. It is the internal dialogue that leads to judging a situation and often before we have all the information. An example of how to avoid the judgment trip is to notice when experiencing along with an emotion, the tightening of muscles in our gut. We can notice the sensation and given that it is associated with a particular feeding, we might tell ourselves, “I know this sensation.” After noticing the tension in the shoulders, clenching hands, or other condition in our body, we can simply breathe in and as we breathe out, can send loving-kindness to that spot.
With such a practice we can experience what we are feeling instead of letting it carry us away. We can listen to our bodies. Then with a few deep breaths, we can send loving-kindness to places where we hold tension. Noticing the feelings as sensations and dealing with the sensations takes us out of our head.
However, there are those times when our emotions are so strong, they grab hold of our thoughts and lead us around. In such situations, we are no longer using logic as a resource and allowing our emotions to lead us into labeling. We find ourselves calling feelings, actions, and ideas as good or bad. Such labeling may pull us into blaming and shaming self or others. At that point, our attention is only on our feelings and judgments. Even in the midst of such turmoil, we still can make a choice.
We can stop and assess whether we want to follow through on the actions we are contemplating. To do so we want to listen to advisors other than just our emotions. Doing so, we begin listening to our intellect, our body, and our spirit as well as our emotions. Many advisors give us the opportunity to assess how we are feeling and the causes of some of our conditions. Instead of judging the feelings or emotions we are experiencing, we can notice them, and then using input from an analytical mind and a sensing body, we can ask ourselves, “Does this (name of emotion or feeling being experienced) help or cause harm to me and others? Doing so we can consciously place our attention on thoughts, feelings, and actions that are beneficial instead of harmful.
By asking questions, we can take a break from the internal dialogue led by destructive emotions such as anger or fear. It only takes a few seconds to ask ourselves if we are feeling challenged or threatened. During the moment of contemplating the question, “Am I feeling challenged?” we can use our thoughts to assess how we want to respond. Sometimes, we might determine that we are being threatened. In such situations, the best course of action might be to leave the situation or do nothing. Other times we might notice that we are playing a tape from experiences we had in a prior lifetime. In such cases, we may want to discuss with others around us what they see happening. Asking questions of self and others around us gives us views to consider in addition to the feelings and body sensations we are experiencing.
Choose How to Respond
Anxiety in these pandemic times is not the problem. Anxiety is a normal human condition. A typical one is how we respond to inter-office communications. I had one recently where I wanted to fire off a response to a fellow employee. I wrote up my response. Then I went and had some coffee. After sitting down and looking at my email, I decided it was to the point but would not change anyone’s opinion. Also, it would further an ongoing debate. I deleted and never sent the email. I even then found a way to thank the fellow employee for something he was doing that I did appreciate. What I was able to remember was that I do have a choice about how I respond to my frustrations, anger, etc. Sometimes, I can even find a way to respond with kindness.
Find moments in your day to respond with calm pleasure …. unless you prefer otherwise.