It’s important to find your mindful calm
Mindful calm helps us to positively handle life’s ups and downs but it’s tricky to find and keep hold of, especially in an uncertain world where so many things can knock us off balance. They might be big scary things – terror attacks, redundancy or the end of a relationship. It might be mundane (but challenging to you) a toddler tantrum in public for instance. Sometimes I find it a struggle to do the food shopping without feeling on edge!
But no matter how big or small in the grand scheme, occasionally an event can totally knock you off your feet and leave you feeling out of sorts. I encountered such an event one afternoon recently. Not to go into detail but I received an unpleasant email which had implications for my blog. It felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under me. I was in the park at the time with Boo who was recovering from chicken pox. I wasn’t feeling too great myself and we were getting cabin fever from being stuck in the house for the past five days. A trip to the park for some fresh air was just what we needed.
Our trip to the park
Though it was cold, we wrapped up and Boo enjoyed going down the ‘big boys slide’ over and over. I was slightly worried that other parents would see his spotty face, grab their kids and run screaming. But I needn’t have. Only one boy asked Boo if he had chicken pox and that was as we were leaving. Plus he’d gone past the contagious stage anyway so we weren’t putting anyone at risk.
So, while Boo was happily playing I thought I’d check my phone and saw I had an email which I stupidly read straight away. This email left me feeling breathless and the park started tilting. I had to grab hold of the climbing frame to stop from falling over. I think I was in the early stage of a panic attack.
Automatic thought processing and reacting
We process events through our own filters, often automatically, and we react without thinking. This is what I was doing. I immediately felt upset that someone was trying to undo something I’d created over the past few months and was proud of. In that moment, I wasn’t considering the implications or the options I might have, I was just reacting.
Events happen, we interpret them and we react really quickly – Michael Chaskalson, Mindfulness in eight weeks
Not wanting to alarm Boo, I took some deep breaths and shakily told him that we’d be leaving shortly. It took all my resolve and energy to get us back home safely in the car.
I felt shaken for hours afterwards and no amount of mindful breathing seemed to help, leading to a bad night’s sleep. The next day, though feeling less agitated, I still felt unsettled and decided to ask my lovely Twitter followers for advice. Just how can mindfulness help in the heat of the moment, when you’re feeling very distressed or even panicking? What techniques can help you to bring back a feeling of mindful calm?
I quickly received some helpful responses which cheered me up no end and restored my faith in the kindness of others. I’d like to share some of their tips with you so that you can benefit too, should you ever need to quickly calm down after an event has knocked you off balance.
Install a peaceful place in your mind
Two tweeters suggested having a ‘peaceful place’ to go to in your mind. This one needs a bit of effort to put into place – not one for starting in the middle of a panic attack! But, if you start doing it regularly when you’re feeling calm it should really help.
Thanks to @e_hawkeye and @MightyChildren for suggesting and for providing some links to scripts for establishing a peaceful place. I’ve tried both!
The place I chose was a small park by the sea – somewhere we’d been on holiday and a really pretty place. It was perfect for me as I love the seaside – the salty sea air and the sounds of waves lapping against the shore mixed with gulls overhead. Plus I love being out in the countryside with all the greenery, foliage and beautiful landscapes. This place combines both and I’m trying each day to think of it during a calm moment. Doing this before you meditate might be a good way to get into the habit of thinking about your peaceful place. Associating your meditation practice with it should add to the calming feeling when you next go there in your mind.
Take it back to the basics – breathing
Thank you to selena (@themumcoach) for mentioning simple breathing practice.
Let whatever is happening just happen without assigning any meaning to it then breathe it out. Focus on your breath and breathe out for longer than you breathe in. E.g. breathe in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 7. As you feel calmer, breathe in for longer and out for longer e.g. in for 7 and out for 11.
When I was in the park I was able to breathe it out to a degree, which enabled me to refocus on the fact that I was there with Boo and didn’t want to alarm him. With practice I’m sure I can use this again should I need to. Regularly practising different techniques during calm times gives you a mindful choice so you’ll be better equipped to respond positively in the future.
But back to my tale…
A few days on from my ‘stressful-event’ and near panic attack caused by my automatic reaction, I’ve bounced back and feel balanced again. Before I became mindful, I’d probably still be feeling unsettled and be ruminating on all the thoughts that were swirling around in my head. But I’m not. In fact, the very next day I realised that I’d reacted and could clearly see my emotional state so I took steps to calm down, including asking for help from others.
There might be some changes to my blog as a result of that email, there might not, but whatever happens I feel more resilient and able to handle this uncertainty. As for those other daily challenges, I’m able to think of positive options when something unexpected happens. That’s where mindfulness has really helped and I hope it continues to do so.
If you’re practising mindfulness but unsure if it’s helping, keep going and find your own mindful calm – it’s giving you the resilience to handle those bumps in the road. Even if you aren’t practising and find yourself in a challenging moment – toddler having a public tantrum or you’ve received bad news perhaps? These calming tips are invaluable and will help you stay on track even during stormy times.
Have you got other ways of calming down quickly? What do you do to find your mindful calm? I’d love to hear from you – comment below 🙂