Finding Hope as You Cope: 3 Ways to Manage the Chaos of Today

Between the horrific natural disasters that have taken place in Texas, Florida, Mexico, Puerto Rico and beyond coupled with the unfathomable and unforgettable acts of hatred spreading across the country from Charlottesville to Las Vegas, it seems more challenging than ever to hold onto ourselves and to hope. In my work with clients, students, teachers and other professionals, I have noticed an increase in anxiety about the stateof the present and a growing fear of the future.

As we all watch the tragic events unfold on the news, I’ve noticed two distinct reactions: 1) Some feel overwhelmed while 2) others feel numb. I tend to veer towards feeling #1 and get anxious and overwhelmed. What the heck is going on? Do I have loved ones hurt? What if something like this happens here? There is so much pain, how can I ever do enough to help?

Whether you tend to be more on the overwhelmed side, numb side, or maybe a combination both, it’s apparent that we are all struggling to find ways to cope with anger, grief, and uncertainty. How we choose to handle these challenges and stressors are important, not only for our own well-being, but how it impacts those around us and also our children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren (Family Ties: Healing What We Inherit). Now more than ever, it is critical that we have a practice that offers us ways to cope with the chaos, hold on to our truth, and share love and compassion with others.

Building healthy coping mechanisms is at the core of traditional psycho-therapy, and is also a key component of yoga therapy. Coping mechanisms aren’t about running away from what’s happening or masking your feelings with a vice. It’s about getting to the root, paying attention and processing your emotions to find peace.

Here are a few things I’ve been practicing with my clients and incorporating into my individual practice. What techniques have you found effective?

Breathe into Anger: Anger and frustration seems to be an unavoidable emotion surrounding the recent tragedies. It’s common for many of us to regard anger as negative or damaging. However, what is damaging about anger is the way in which we deal with it.

Most commonly we challenge anger by reacting to it unproductively while in our fight/flight stress response or by stuffing it down, trapping it inside ourselves, and leaving it to fester into disease. Those who react to anger with the untamed fire of the fight/flight, are more prone to high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, weight gain, and heart conditions. Yoga’s therapeutic practices have proven to act as an anger “de-fuser” by giving us space to positively observe anger and offer tools to “ride the wave”.

 

Breathing (otherwise known as pranayama) is a powerful tool to help release stagnant energy and bottled up emotions. Breathing stimulates our relaxation response offering a “cooling” energy to positively combat the heat anger brings. Breathing is also a great way to encourage us to slow down, observe and assess a situation.

In my work with my clients, this is the first place I start. Without gaining control of our emotions or understanding how and where they are manifesting in the body, no progress can be made. Energy blocks and stuck emotions cannot be released in a body of tension. Breathing invites in a suppleness to the body and helps steady the mind.

Practice Non-Violence (Ahimsa): When we hear the words “non-violence”, we generally think of an act of kindness we can do for someone else or a peaceful protest. But violence and non-violence is also about how we treat ourselves.  Most of our thoughts are negative and repetitive and contain responses like disappointment, resentment, or guilt. In this way, we are subtly creating violence. Resenting others, creates a negative environment. If you can’t forgive someone for something they’ve done to you, or if you can’t forgive yourself for something you’ve done, this is an act of violence because it pushes love away. Acting out of our fear is also a form of violence to ourselves as it can inhibit us from sharing our voice and living our truth.

Practicing non-violence within ourselves allows us to practice non-violence in our daily interactions with others. Mindfulness and positive intention setting are two non-violent tools we can use to get in touch with any violence we hold inside. When we create the space to observe thoughts, we shift negative thoughts to loving thoughts. When we think lovingly, our body responds by releasing dopamine (the “feel good” hormone). This rush of dopamine brings inner and outer strength and stimulates your immune system which is why optimists tend to have stronger immune systems and recover faster from illnesses and injuries.

As we practice acts of non- violence on ourselves, we also develop more compassion for ourselves, which gives us the ability to recognize and empathize when and how others experience and express pain.

Meditation of Loving- Kindness: A meditation of loving-kindness also known as a metta -meditation is a specific type of meditation meant to bring in warm-hearted feelings of camaraderie, sympathy and love, which helps to overcome social, religious, racial, political and economic barriers. Metta is a universal, unselfish and all-embracing love. In a world threatened by all kinds of destructiveness, this mediation is a constructive means to peace and mutual understanding.

Remember those two tendencies – overwhelmed and numb? Well, becoming emotionally overwhelmed or numb can lead us to respond with aggression or withdrawal. The more we meditate, the more we become sensitive to our own imperfections, violence, and discriminations. From there, we have an opportunity to break down barriers in our minds and our hearts and offer the exact thing that seems to be missing from today’s society; inclusive, unconditional love and acceptance.

Let’s practice:

Start by breathing gently in and out through the nose. Notice any areas of mental blockage or numbness, self-judgment or self-hatred. Then invite yourself to go a bit deeper and try to connect with any sensations of self-care and self-love.

Say aloud or in your mind (Repeat 3 times):

May I live with ease.

May I be safe and protected.

May I be happy.

May I be free from pain.

May I be able to live in this world happily and peacefully.

Next bring to mind a neutral person, someone for whom you feel neither strong like nor dislike.

Say aloud or in your mind (Repeat 3 times):

May you live with ease.

May you be safe and protected.

May you be happy.

May you be free from pain.

May you be able to live in this world happily and peacefully.

Now move to someone you have difficulty with (hostile feelings, resentments) and invite yourself to connect with feelings of loving care for their wellbeing to the best of your ability. Again, repeat the above statements.

Lastly, while staying connected with the warmth and sympathy cultivated throughout this meditation, begin to visualize care and tenderness for all living beings.

Say aloud or in your mind (Repeat 3 times):

May all beings live with ease.

May all beings be safe and protected.

May all beings be happy.

May all beings be free from pain.

May all beings be able to live in this world happily and peacefully.

If you or someone you know is interested in a more personalized program to help guide and support you during this time, please feel free to reach out. We are here in love.

 

 

 

 

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