These are challenging times in an unstable world and chances are likely that you will one day struggle to survive a crisis of some sort. Whether it comes in the form of a relationship breaking up, an unexpected illness, the death of a loved one, a financial setback, or the loss of your job, there are many ways that crisis can touch your life and pull you down into despair and anxiety.
During these tough times, when things fall apart, the best way to survive is to have your own personal strategy for coping with stress and gradually putting the pieces back together again. It’s normal to experience shock and self-pity in the early stages of a crisis, but the sooner you can regroup and turn your attention to more positive actions, the faster you’ll be on your way to recovery.
However, it’s important to not repress your feelings of sadness and grief. Accept and embrace all of your emotions, but give some of your attention to positive behaviors that can slowly lift you back up to a place of functioning. As the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr states:
“Grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
The crisis we are experiencing and our emotions about it usually cannot be changed–they simply must be accepted as they are. But what can be changed is our mindset: how we view the event that has occurred and the actions that we take as a result of that view. Here is a five-step strategy for a “mindset makeover” to help you look at life’s challenges with the serenity, courage and wisdom you need to survive:
This first step may seem counter-intuitive in the midst of a crisis: how can you be thankful when destruction is all around you? But it is crucial to your survival that you spend some time each day looking for reasons to be grateful, no matter how thin or fragile they might be.
Even within the deepest suffering there is still beauty: music, poetry, the colors of the sunset, laughter, hugs, trees. Find just one thing to be thankful for every day and hold on to that thread: there is goodness–somewhere, somehow–in everything.
2. Release Your Expectations
When things fall apart you can be crushed by the reality that your hopes and expectations for the future have disintegrated. The more you are attached to your desires for something that can no longer happen, the more your suffering intensifies.
See yourself letting go, one-by-one, of each of your dreams that have been shattered. Even though you might feel empty inside when you give up your expectations, remember that you are making space for something new that is yet to come.
3. Awareness in the Present Moment
Try to keep your focus on what’s happening right here, right now, rather than dwelling on the past or future. Creativity, love and healing exist only in the present moment and your thoughts and energy need to be focused on the here and now in order to receive the benefits of those forces.
Resist the urge to numb yourself or “check out” so that you won’t have to feel the emotions that are arising within you. Instead, take some deep breaths to help you ground in the present moment and welcome whatever feelings come into your awareness.
4. Compassion for Yourself and Others
During a time of hardship it is important to find love wherever you can–and if you are really looking for it you will see that love is everywhere. But dark times and suffering can cloud your ability to recognize love and you might even feel that love has disappeared from your world.
Cultivate compassion on a daily basis by sitting quietly for a few minutes and imagining that you are breathing in love for yourself until you are filled with positive energy. Then breathe out love, first for those around you who are suffering, then for all living beings, then for the entire planet, and finally, the entire Universe. By practicing each day you will gradually increase your capacity to recognize love and to share it in everything that you do.
To survive a crisis you will need to strengthen your ability to find balance and peace, even in the middle of a raging storm. No matter how chaotic your life seems right now, there is within you a place of tranquility and calm, but you might not be familiar with it if you haven’t yet learned to quiet your mind.
One exercise to broaden your center of calmness is to focus your attention within and imagine yourself floating on a raft in perfectly still water. Keep taking slow deep breaths as you watch the storms that are raging around you gradually dissipate. The more you practice connecting with your still center now, the more you will be able to discover equanimity when a disaster occurs in your life.
If you are able to face your next crisis with the G.R.A.C.E. of these 5 steps, you will likely discover that there is a hidden jewel within each tragedy. You will learn how to grow through life’s challenges and become the best person you can possibly be, while also finding meaning in every twist and turn of existence. You will then become an alchemist who can convert the leaden moments of life into gold and find that you are rich beyond your wildest imagination.
To do further exercises with these 5 steps of G.R.A.C.E. you can download The Mindshift Blueprint here.
Dr. Karen Wyatt is a hospice and family physician and the author of the award-winning book “What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying.” She is a frequent keynote speaker and radio show guest whose profound teachings have helped many find their way through the difficult times of life. Learn more about her work at www.karenwyattmd.com.
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GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
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