May is Mental Health Month. To honor it, I'm sharing some personal practices that are helping me to remain peaceful in the midst of another person's storm.
Why is this topic so important? All you have to do is turn on the news and see how unchecked tempers are leading to chaos, violence and death for too many people. Our emotions and mental states are fragile and too many people are coming unhinged. You don't even have to do that. We can get heated in our own households. So if we're all doing very well by societal standards, can you imagine people that don't have the coping skills, education, or even money to buy happiness?
All of us have to grow our ability to handle disappointments, slights, and a host of challenging emotions that I wrote about last week in my article 90 Seconds to a Better U.
As I'm writing this, my son came downstairs to discover that it rained. He went from 0 to 100 in a split second because of the possibility that his flag football game may be canceled. While I empathized, I stayed calm even when he hit the window so hard out of frustration that it could have cracked.
After I talked him off his mental ledge he went back upstairs to watch football highlights on his computer as if nothing happened. And there you have the perfect example of what happens when we let our emotions drive our behavior. It doesn't matter if we're 10 or 30+10. We usually end up making a situation worse by our response. After 10 years, I'm finally learning to stay calm in the midst of his storms.
After he calmed down, I told him to come downstairs so we could talk. I talked about his response of hitting the window and what could have happened if it shattered, ect. We could have ended up at the hospital now...who knows. I told him that he could stomp his feet, but don't ever hit a window.
It's okay to FEEL frustrated, annoyed, or whatever we feel. It's when we act based on those feelings that we cross the line. Even if we are fairly good at controlling our own emotions, it can drive up our blood pressure to be in the presence of someone else's temper tantrum whether adult or child. Here are five strategies to be a calming presence the next time you find yourself in the midst of another person's storm.
1. Stay aware of what you're thinking and feeling: It's our internal dialogue that gives rise to our feelings in response to what's happening outside of us. It's helpful to repeat mantras like stay calm, listen Asia and breathe. Make up a mantra that works for you.
2. Empathize: We have very little control over our feelings. Their purpose alerts us to pay attention to what's going on inside of us. Feelings are a part of the human experience. How we respond makes us unique to a degree. When we empathize with another person, we understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another's position.
3. Recognize what you can control: We have the Serenity prayer hanging on our kitchen wall as a reminder to accept the things that we can not change and the wisdom to know the difference. We can not control how another person is feeling, though we may be able to influence how they feel with our calming presence.
4. Resist the urge to fix: I've always had the tendency to want to solve someone else's problems. Which was not only problematic for me but definitely for the other person. But now, I ask questions that will hopefully stimulate the person to think of a solution for themselves. Or I ask questions to engage, without trying to problem solve. Or I simply listen and empathize as questioning can be problematic too. Sometimes, people don't really want to solve their problems they just need a listening ear.
5. Trust the process: Everyone is on their own journey. We are all where we need to be to learn the lessons that we need to learn. The person you're talking to who is emotionally distressed is building their own resilience. We can support them without unnecessarily intervening.
Almost each day we are presented with opportunities to face challenging situations They may come in the form of other's emotional responses, tech glitches, or anything else that doesn't go our way. The key is that each of these challenges present us with an opportunity to practice moving centered in peace. How will you choose to move today?
If you happen to have an opportunity to bring peace to a situation, let us know. We want to cheer you on because mental habits are just as important as physical habits.
Cheering you on,
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