by: E.B. Johnson
Life is hard, and it seems to get more difficult by the day. There are a lot of pressures and responsibilities that come along with modern living, and with that comes the personal pressures and insecurities that we exert over ourselves. It can be hard to remain calm as the chaotic winds of life whip up around us, but it’s a critical skill to learn in order to find our true and lasting sense of happiness. When we learn how to keep ourselves cool and collected in the intense and high-pressure moments, we make it that much easier to find the silver lining in any situation.
No matter what situation you find yourself in, or what your circumstances are — it’s possible to keep yourself calm and keep yourself in the right state of mind to conquer whatever obstacle you’re faced with. Though the road might be tough now, it can be smoothed over with some perseverance, know-how and honest-to-God commitment. Of everything in this life, our reactions and behaviors are the one thing we can control. Learn how to respond more efficiently to the pressures and stress factors in your life, and you’ll discover how to find peace in any given situation.
A chaotic life is a tough one.
While some of us lead more chaotic lives than others, we all know what it means to find ourselves up against the crunch in times of intensity and high pressure. Whether you’re dealing with an on-the-go family, or a career that demands the most of you — it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or as though you’re being pulled into too many directions to be happy. Getting to the bottom of this takes cultivating some acceptance, but it also requires stepping up to the plate. And that can be a hard place to start when you’re struggling just to keep your head above water.
Life is crazy, and it doesn’t really get any simpler or less nuanced as time goes on. The only way to deal with it is to deal with it and face up to the hardships and the fun times in equal measure. That means developing the techniques that are needed to calm our worries, anxieties and insecurities along the way — so that we’re better equipped to face the hurdles that life throws in our path.
Getting control of ourselves and our emotions isn’t a hard journey, but it is a deep dig. If you want to find your inner zen, you have to spot the signs of stress in your life and then actively customize and apply the techniques that can help you calm and still your mind and your heart across a number of different planes. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, it’s possible to control our reactions and find the calm that empower us to create efficient, measured responses that boost our fulfillment and joy.
Symptoms of an over-stressed life.
There are a number of signs that things are at a breaking point, but they require some brutal honesty to tap into and accept. When we’re up against too much negativity, pressure and stress in our lives, our bodies (and our brains) begin to send us warning signs that mean, “slow down, step back and take a break”. Understanding that can be a painful process all in its own, however, and one that doesn’t simply happen overnight. If the following symptoms of an over-stressed life sound like you — it might be time to hit pause.
Impacted mental state
When we’re stuck in a rut, or find ourselves struggling against the endless demands of modern life, it can take a serious toll on our mental state and teh way we react and interact with the people around us. Losing yourself in the to-do lists, tasks from the boss, or even just care for everyone but yourself can lead to a persistent inability to experience emotions like joy and happiness (positive). Depression and anxiety, too, are common symptoms of a life being pushed to the brink, and a signal that it’s time to take a step back.
Poor sleep quality
Our brains are delicate machines, much like a computer, that have a number of tasks to process each day. When we overload it with stress or with an overwhelm of undue pressure, it can make it hard for it to shut down or complete all the tasks that it must process. This can lead to poor sleep quality, or even a disruption in sleep patterns that can (in-turn) lead to decreased energy and insomnia.
Lowered immune function
Stress isn’t something that just impacts our sleep routines or the way we think. It can also seriously disrupt our immune systems, which can lead to more illness and therefore more stress in our lives. If you’ve noticed that you suddenly suffer from the sniffles more often, or if you notice that pre-existing conditions are becoming irritated or more difficult to manage — it’s possibly a sign that your body is wearing down from the constant pressure you put it under.
Physical decline is one of the primary signs of being over-stressed, and iit can include a number of troubling symptoms including headaches, acne breakouts, chronic pain, digestive issues, appetite changes, rapid heartbeat, sweating and more. Though we often take them for granted, our bodies are delicate systems that must be maintained through both tangible and intangible balances. When we ignore its needs, we can find ourselves dealing with serious issues that further impede our ability and happiness in this life.
A dip in intimacy
It will probably come as no surprise that being stressed or trapped in the midst of absolute chaos can lead to a serious dip in libido. Physical intimacy is important to many of us, and it can be greatly beneficial in reaffirming the most important connections in our lives. When we’re dealing with a lot of stress, however, we tend to detach from our physical body and its needs, in a way that further isolates us mentally and emotionally. Likewise, the stress of chaotic living can lead to hormonal changes, fatigue and mental issues that further cause libido to dip and decline.
How to stay calm in the midst of chaos.
When living in the middle of chaos, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel — but it’s something that’s inevitable if not immediately apparent. Getting to that light takes work, however, and that begins with learning how to keep our calm when things get hard or don’t go our way. If you’re looking to find your zen in the midst of some truly crazy times, reach for the techniques below. Though you can’t control everything in this life, you can learn how to control your reaction to difficulty and adversity; something that starts from within.
1. Learn how to take a step back
Negative events (just like our negative thoughts) have an uncanny way of drawing us in; leaving us fixated and obsessed before we’re even aware of what’s happening. When bad things go down, it’s easy to thing that everything else is bad and everything will always be bad. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of course, which further breeds more pandemonium, chaos and hardship in our lives. Something we easily manifest in our lives and can lead to a quagmire of misery and avoidance.
When things start to break down or get hard, the first and primary step we must take is to slow down and breathe. Life comes at us fast, and this makes us thing we must respond just as quickly. This isn’t true, however, and it’s always a better idea to take your time and create some space between yourself and the hard stuff so that you can clear and level your thoughts logically. When we remove ourselves fom a situation, we create space to see things from a different angle.
Understand that it’s okay to remove yourself from a situation if it’s causing you pain or stress — especially if it’s only a temporary thing. Find the little things that bring you peace and incorporate them into your life and your every day routine. Self care is an important part of personal happiness, and that starts with learning how to identify when we need to remove ourselves and pull away from the things that are pressing us too hard. Rather than using this space to avoid, we can utilize it to think and that’s a powerful tool in managing our reactions and decisions.
2. Work on your breathing
Each and every day we move through life, unaware of our breathing and how much it contributes to the quality of our physical feelings in the moment. Our breathing isn’t just the machine that keeps our cells and muscles moving smoothly. It’s also a system by which we can calm our minds and still our racing hearts and amped-up fight-or-flight responses. Better yet, a mindful breathing practice can be taken anywhere and costs nothing to develop and perfect to your needs.
Start with a basic and quick practice before bed, and use it daily in order to still your mind and calm your thoughts. Lay down in a comfortable position, and let your eyes slowly close. Clear your mind of all thoughts as you inhale for 4 counts, then exhale for 4 counts. Do everything through your nose, and try to work your way up to 6–8 counts per breath.
Notice how you feel afterward (if you don’t fall asleep first). Do you feel lighter? Calmer? Was it easier to quiet your zooming thoughts, or go to sleep? Use this practice, alongside other breathing practices like abdominal breathing, muscle relaxation, Nadi Shodhana or others to still yourself when things get really tough. Breathing is one of the best ways to help yourself feel better when it feels like things are tumbling down. It clears your mind and quiets the panic and helps you to refocus and center on the right here and the right now.
3. Be mindful
If you’ve sought help for stress before, then chances are you’ve heard about a number of mindfulness techniques that can help you find your center again, and get back in touch with the parts of you that matter most. While meditation is probably the most popular among these techniques, you can also use mindful journalling, reading and even listening. Mindfulness isn’t really about one technique or set way of behaving. It’s about reshaping your internal environment in order to maximize your effectiveness in the outer world. Laymen’s terms? Being mindful makes you a better master of self.
Start small. Find a safe and quiet space where you can relax (with no interruptions) and spend a few minutes each day getting to know yourself and your emotions. Learn to recognize how you’re feeling in the moment and why, and don’t be afraid to voice those emotions out loud, or release their power on the page by journaling about their sources and how they negatively (or positively) impact your life.
Practicing mindful meditate or journalling for just 10 minutes each day is a powerful technique for unlocking the secret opportunities of your unconcious mind. By getting more mindful, we can make it easier for ourselves to live in the present moment, thus reducing the stress caused by our expectations of the future or fears rooted in the past. Only when we learn how to relax, we can also learn how to address the things that once scared us or caused us stress. It’s a powerful tool in becoming masters of self and a powerful tool in finding a calm center in the eye of the storm.
4. Maintain your routine at all costs
Our routines aren’t just important in making sure we get out the door in the mornings, they’re also important in maintaining the norms that provide our sense of stability and security. When we’re struggling to find ourselves, or struggling that sense of peace we so desperately need to be happy — our routines can be the anchor by which we find ourselves again and reconnect with the things we need to be happy (despite the stress).
If you’re having a hard time or feeling lost, focus on your routine and do what you can to maintain it at all costs. Get up in the morning, drink your water, walk the dog. If you can’t deal with the stress — don’t. Just get through the day and celebrate that as a small victory in and of itself.
Sometimes, just getting through the day is an accomplishment. Always, it is an anchor by which we can center ourselves in chaos. When you’re adrift and feeling as though all is lost, zero in on the motions that you do every day; focus on the things that don’t take any thought or emotion. Our routines can guide us when we are lost, so lean into your daily routine and make sure you maintain it above all else when you’re feeling stressed.
5. Identify your stress points
There are a number of stressors in our lives, and they occur on different planes and within different fields of scope. By identifying these stress points, we can develop more efficient and effective ways to deal with them, by calling them for what they are and reacting more appropriately. When we identify our stress points, we empower ourselves to name our chaos for what it is. In that, we can remove the fear and anxiety that surrounds these triggers; further empowering us to create better coping strategies in future.
First, know the different stress points and name in your life. Stress and chaos can occur in the family realm, the professional realm and even in the realm of romance and friendship. Likewise, our emotional life can include fears and anxieties that make it hard to function and deal when things are running awry. Name the pressures in your life for what they are and embrace them at that value. Then, figure out what changes need to be made and deal with any emotions that might surround that.
It’s important to embrace the full complexity of the difficult aspects of our lives. If you struggle with a chronic illness, you have to accept the added stress that will inevitably create in your life through either personal commitments or professional ones too. Environmental stressors like noise, pollution, poverty, racism and social adversity can also be included in these equations and that plans you start making for your own coping and survival. We can only address our stress when we accept and analyze the fullness of it for what it is, and that is something that can take a lot of thought and incredible bravery.
6. Shift your perspective
As humans, many of us have a desperate need to strive for some self-defined sense of perfection that can leave us feeling detached, defeated and more stressed than we really have to be. Part of learning how to be calm in the midst of life’s storm means learning how to let go of our delusional ideals of perfection, so that we can start to make peace with the things we can neither change or control in this life (hint: it’s not much). When we let go of our need to be perfect, we allow ourselves to be who we really are, and in that route there is true freedom of self and authentic joy.
Spend some time with yourself (regularly) and spend some time getting to know who you are inside and outside. Focus in on your strengths, but also focus in on your weaknesses. Embrace them; open yourself up to them. Only when we face up to those aspects of ourselves that we don’t like can we turn them into attributes that we do like. Start letting go of your perfection obsession by falling in love with yourself and figuring out how to flip your weaknesses into strengths.
There is no such thing as perfection, and the sooner we realize that the sooner we find true happiness. Whether it comes to relationships, people, our careers or even the lives that we lead — the journey of existence is chaotic and unpredictable. Bad things happen. Good things happen. It doesn’t matter how well we strive to anticipate these things, or what kind of karmic destiny we work to piece together for ourselves. We all go through ups and downs, and we all succeed and fail in our own unique ways. Let go of your need to be some standard of perfection and look to your individuality instead. When we lean into who we are, we become easier to love and even easier to understand.
7. Get real about control
One of the greatest frustrations we find in this life is that many of the things we pursue are out of our control. The promotions we want, the relationships we rely on — they all lie not in our control, but within the control of others. When you break that down even further, even those decisions are often outside the control of the other parties either. So what can we control in our lives? Our reactions to the chaos and the way we choose to carry ourselves through it.
Be honest about the things you can control and the things you can’t. Severe your attachment to things that are out-with your control, and if you can’t do that — look for help. A mental health professional can go a long way in helping us to cope and process when we feel like we’re up against a wall, and they can often help us see things from a new (and healthier) angle.
Get honest about your views on control and your healthy or unhealthy obsessions with controlling the various aspects of your life and environment. Start letting go of small things so that you can, in turn, start detaching yourself from the big things in a way that allows you to deal logically, rather than emotionally. We are the masters of our emotions, our thoughts and our behaviors, but it takes the most stringent of self controls. Be honest with yourself, and honest about yourself and your strengths and limitations. Control yourself and find the calm in the middle of the chaos.
Putting it all together…
Life is difficult, and it’s often filled with chaos and hardship that is impossible to predict and (seemingly) impossible to overcome. When life pushes us up against a wall, there is little else we can do short of controlling the way in which we react to our circumstances. No matter how hard or crazy life gets, it’s possible to keep our cool — but that takes knowing the signs of being pushed too far, and it takes applying the basic techniques that can empower us to become the masters of our own emotional responses to stress.
When dealing with a life that’s jam-packed with chaos, the first thing you have to do is take a step back. Creating space between you and the issues you are confronting will allow you to reassess and re-charge your mental and emotional batteries. Work on your breathing techniques, and start learning how to live mindfully and presently in the moment. A lot of the stress we put on ourselves is centered around the future and the past and things we can’t control. Start using your energy wisely, and maintain your routine at all costs. Life is hard, but we can persevere when we identify our stress points and come up with a plan that allows us to shift our perspective. Get real about the things you can control and the things you can’t, and take action accordingly (or ask for help when you hit a wall). This life we lead comes down to choices, and we get the option to make new choices every day. Make the choice to live a happier life and find calm in the midst of all the chaos.