The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger and attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness. -Dalai Lama-
Now more than ever, we may be struggling with stress and anxiety. Everyday we are bombarded with anxiety-producers: news, work, kids, our devices 24/7 and on and on. And now we have either added to or replaced our “normal” stressors with new ones. Add to our list teachers, 3 meal a day cooks, and a crash course in epidemiology!
Even though most of us long for a more peaceful existence with more room for joy, we don’t really feel as though we have much control over making that happen And so we continue to experience and have emotional reactions to stimuli that have the opposite effect. The current situation is a perfect example--the amount of uncertainty and lack of control is unprecedented. And even when the current crisis is over, we know that the world will still be stressful and anxiety-producing.
So, how do we get closer to the life that the Dalai Lama describes in the quote above, even in the midst of the madness? We have all heard the adage that we choose how we react to things. Partially true, but we will all experience the full spectrum of emotions—anger, fear, happiness, sadness, awe, etc., even if we think that we would rather not! We can’t—and shouldn’t--avoid feeling them because all experiences and emotions contribute to our growth and are part of our journey. Ignoring emotions that may be painful can lead to shutting down our emotional hearts to the possibility of the positive. What we need to learn is how to feel the feelings and process through them and not get “stuck.” Below are some of my thoughts about what can we do to avoid getting stuck in negative emotions, and instead live our lives in a more peaceful state, where we are open to joy, love, and positive emotional energy.
Identify Your Emotions
It is important to be able to identify what are the emotions that you are feeling. Easier said than done! Most of the time, we are experiencing multiple emotions at once, and emotions like anger can actually be a mask for other emotions that you are feeling. By identifying and giving a name to your emotions, you will be better able to process through them and have them be less consuming.
Know Where Your Emotions Manifest in Your Body
Be conscious of how your emotions make you feel physically. Where do you “feel” your feelings? Where do sadness, anger, fear manifest themselves? Once you have identified the emotion and where it sits in your body, pay homage to the emotion—sit with it, breath into the place in your body where the emotion manifests, and then let the wave of the emotion go. For example, for me, fear manifests in my solar plexus, about 2 inches above my navel. I feel like I have a brick sitting there when I am afraid. I breathe deeply into my solar plexus, into the physical feeling of fear, and then let it go on its way.
Change Your Perspective
Consciously refocus your thinking on positive experiences and the positive emotions associated with them. Painful emotions can leave us focused only on experiences that are associated with the same, painful emotions. When your mind returns to focusing on the negative or painful, consciously refocus on positive events and aspects of your life that you are grateful for. By making it a practice to regularly return your focus to gratitude and on positive thoughts and experiences, over time, you will be less likely to return to the painful emotions. I love the saying, “Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened!”
Engage in “Energy In” Activities
If you are already experiencing difficult emotions, it is so easy to engage in “mood buster” behaviors--watching stress-inducing TV shows, complaining, isolating yourself by gluing yourself to your phone or computer, etc. These activities will likely keep you stuck in negative emotions vs. helping you move through them. Instead, engage in behaviors that elevate your mood—listen to music that makes you happy, exercise or go for a walk (6 feet away from anybody else!) —or call, Facetime or Zoom a friend.
Bring on the “Calm”
You can bring more “calm” into your world by simply breathing more deeply and more regularly. Also, take time to meditate for a few minutes every day. Realistically, though, stressors and anxiety-producers can come at us at any point during the day, and we may not be able to drop what we are doing to meditate. So, when I need immediate relief from anxiety or other negative emotions, I turn to IN:PEACE, my delicious drink mix made with a proprietary blend of stress-relieving herbs. 20-30 minutes after I drink IN:PEACE, I am much better able identify what emotions I am experiencing and why, and refocus on the positive in my life.
Likely, all of us could spend less of our time stuck in the painful and the negative. Hopefully, with some practice, we can create a little more room in our lives and in our hearts for peace, love and joy, both now when things are truly difficult, and later after the current situation has passed.
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