There is definitely something in the air. It’s a feeling of unpredictability, like something really big is broken and the next chapter is unclear. For many of us, it’s in our private moments when we feel this the most–we can feel raw, anxious, worried. I have been struggling with this myself for the past several months and though I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that’s making me feel anxious (maybe environmental concerns, massive corruption, infectious diseases, etc.), the truth is, something is up.
If any of this resonates with you, then I’d like to share with you a few of the things that I’ve been working on that have helped me stabilize myself to some extent. It’s not a magic bullet (if it was, I probably wouldn’t trust it), but it helps.
The first is to cultivate being as connected to the present moment as possible. That means, be on the look out for “future-tripping”, where the mind draws us into some scenario of worry about the future. Instead, commit to this moment, the present moment. In order to pull this off, it means giving patience for and space to ourselves to fall off center and then gently guide ourselves back to the present moment.
Second, take steps to reduce an overactive amygdala. An overactive what? The amygdala is the part of the brain that leads to a fear response, and when it’s chronically overactive, it gets larger–literally and figuratively. It begins to see ambiguous situations as fear-provoking, and most certainly robs us of our joy. Instead of wise attentiveness, an overactive amygdala promotes hyper-vigilance. To quell this, commit a few minutes every day to balancing the brain circuitry by engaging in yoga, meditation, or contemplative prayer. Doing so will reduce the intense response of the fearful brain and return you to back to a more consistent and relaxed peace of mind. After all, if something needs our attention, I imagine we would be most resourceful if we are in a calmer state of mind.
Third, build your community. This is very important for several reasons–including the truth that investing in healthy relationships, in and of themselves, can reduce stress. Belonging to something bigger than ourselves can additionally help lift our spirits. Also, knowing that we have others’ backs, and others have ours, can give us the strength to face whatever we need to. In community building, we embody the expression that there is power in numbers–and it combats the isolation that our digital age has unintentionally promoted.
These three components: 1) Stay in the present; 2) Regularly practice yoga, meditation, and contemplative prayer; and 3) Engage in community building– are antidotes to denial, over-reaction, and isolation, respectively. These will help stoke our internal fortitude so that if we need to, we can weather any storm, and weather it, together. And if no storm comes, then we have all these wonderful resources (both internal and external) from which to more fully enjoy our lives.