Being Calm Amid Uncertainty
by Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)
(listen to article read by the author)
How good are you at being calm during times of great uncertainty? For most of us it’s not easy. It’s hard to remain calm when you are faced with financial challenges, a scary health diagnosis or a global pandemic.
Your thoughts about the situation effect your feelings. When there’s uncertainty, your thoughts can project a terrifying, horrendous future. Dwelling on your scary thoughts is a recipe for feeling overwhelmed, not calm.
Noticing Your Thoughts
What are you saying to yourself? Are these thoughts helping you or making things worse? Noticing your repetitive thoughts is the first step in altering them.
Whatever you focus on expands. Do you know what you are spending your time dwelling on?
Being a mother of two young children, Barb didn’t take time to consider her thoughts. She felt pressure to continually accomplish things. There was no time to waste on self-reflection.
She taught at a college and received many awards for her excellence. She was excelling in her career. Like most parents, she and her husband were busy between work and family duties.
One day Barb was at the college when she experienced a sudden pounding heart, shortness of breath and profuse sweating. A colleague rushed her to the emergency room. Barb thought she was having a heart attack. After running through a series of diagnostic tests, the doctors told her the good news was her heart was fine. She had experienced a panic attack, not a heart attack.
This was a huge wake up call for Barb. She decided to join a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class on campus. Although the idea of meditating seemed like a waste of time, she knew something needed to change.
Mindfulness practices helped Barb become more aware of her inner landscape. She realized how often she felt fear, worry, concern, anger, annoyance, frustration and resentment. She learned to control her racing thoughts by changing her focus.
Learning to meditate was life-changing for her. She realized she had been missing the simple joys of raising her kids. She began to cherish little things like being able to hold them in her lap. She took time to make cookies with them and experienced yet another new delight. Ultimately, she left her job at the university and became a mindfulness instructor.
Accessing Your Best Thinking
When is the quality of your thinking the best? It’s probably when you’ve had enough sleep, enough to eat and are calm. Recognizing your best thinking can help you avoid poor decisions when you know you are not at your best.
Not all states of thinking are created equal. There are times when your thinking and decision making are poor:
- Middle of the night (scary thoughts seem more real)
- When you’ve had a few drinks (another drink digs you in deeper)
- When you are feeling anxious or worried (more thinking increases your fear)
- When you are exhausted (it’s hard to think clearly)
Recognizing that you are not in a good thinking state can help you pause and plan
. This can prevent you from making the situation worse. Do not act on your worst thinking. Do not even believe those thoughts. Things look better in the morning or when you are sober or when you are not so anxious.
Thinking from a place of fear produces scary future possibilities. Thinking from a place of calm will lead to more positive, expansive possibilities.
Since you are reading this article, you are currently safe and have access to the internet. Take a deep breath. Bring your awareness back to this moment.
Being fully present in this moment allows you to appreciate life’s gifts. Anxious thinking robs you of feeling joy and appreciation. Being trapped in fear is no way to live.
What helps you stay calm? When you are calm, you do your best thinking and make the wisest decisions. It’s key to develop daily self-care practices
that you find calming. These daily practices will help you through even the most challenging times.