It's easy to say, though …
A new reality in which many people have lost their jobs, and thus money for living, frightens and causes high stress, which overwhelms many with the vision of a terrible future. Already piling up or expected bills to pay, where creditors will not wait and show understanding that we have no money, gives us sleepless nights. Where to get money for children's upkeep, mortgage, another installment for a car loan, medicines, social security, real estate tax? "And this is just the beginning ... It will be even worse ..."
Stress generated in our mind causes anxiety, depression, despair, nervous arousal, helpless anger, irritability, and numerous uncomfortable sensations in our body - an uncharged tension, stomach ache, headache, insomnia, lack of focus on anything and many others. It doesn't let us loosen up or relax, to say nothing about peace of mind. Anyway - how to relax in such circumstances? Besides, to believe it, we would need to personally know people who have experienced what we have, and who can remain peaceful regardless. Otherwise - we think it's just idle talk of people who don't know anything about real life and just write such stories, have full refrigerators and bank accounts. It also makes it challenging to try to find peace, as there is a prevailing belief that a person emanating peace and serenity does not give a damn to what's going on. We want to be part of society, so if there are problems, then we need to be loyally worried and under stress, because it means that we’re having a hard time and we’re taking the situation seriously.
The choice of whether to believe in something or not depends entirely on us and our ability to verify whether something is real or not. If we choose the path of stress and worries as we don't know anyone personally with such an approach, that will make us believe - this choice will be just as right as any other, only having different results. On the other hand, If we give this possibility a moment of consideration - we'll get a chance at least to change the way we feel about difficult circumstances, if not the circumstances themselves. Changing at least our attitude may - even according to scientists - have a significant impact on the effectiveness of dealing with problems and perceiving the benefits and opportunities we may find in the crises.
It just pays off to stay calm as stress per se reduces our ability to perceive solutions to our problems even if they are around. Colloquially speaking, the stress causes a kind of 'contraction' of our brain, which does not accept valuable information in the state of alarm, which is reduced to minimal survival. It is designed to keep us physically alive and protect us against the threats that cause the death of the physical system. The brain in this mode will keep us alert and sleepless (so that we can easily detect when someone sneaks around to kill us), maintain our muscles tension (so that we can attack, escape fast or freeze to pretend we are dead - as some wild animals, for example, will not touch carrion) and won't let us calm down, because that moment could cost us our life. It is difficult for us to see solutions to, say, financial problems in these conditions, as the brain in the alert state doesn't allow them to be perceived, treating them as irrelevant from the point of view of our self-preservation instinct. Why does our brain respond with fear of financial problems as if it is a physical threat to life? Because it has learned so in the process of earlier associations. Stress is our learned reaction to being taken out of our comfort zone - a sense of stability and security, when we don't yet know if the new situation can provide those again. However, this is only a learned reaction, so we can unlearn it if we realize that it does not serve us anymore. Our brain acquires information more easily when it's at least relaxed, and even better if it's relaxed and experiences pleasure at the same time, so we should remember to provide it to be able to focus on searching for constructive solutions. It simply doesn't pay off to succumb to nervousness and panic, because in this way, we throw a monkey wrench into our attempts to manage a difficult situation. If we thought that stress, nervousness and fear were an obvious and inherent response to problems and crises, we believed in something that was not true. There is undoubtedly a difficult situation in a crisis that needs to be resolved - but stress is absolutely optional. Yet if we have already experienced stress as a habitual response to difficulties - what is optional here is our reaction influenced by stress. We have the power to choose to react differently.
It is not easy to 'unlearn' a feeling of stress and nervousness under troubled times, from one day to another, even with new knowledge. Introducing a new habit and, as a result, changing the way we feel is a process that requires time and consequence. What we can still do today, however, is to discover that we do not have to succumb to stress and panic. We can see things as they are with peace of mind, which can help us make effective decisions and recognize positive aspects of even complicated situations, which our brain in the state of panic can't see at all.
We all potentially have the ability to make decisions calm and cool-headed in a state of crisis, regardless of our emotions and INDEPENDENTLY OF THE EXTERNAL SITUATION. Like a ship captain during a storm, where everyone is panicking, and the captain remains calm and gives commands with a peaceful and clear mind, despite the difficulties.
We can't change the fact that we do not know the future. We do not know whether it will turn out beneficial or not. We have no control over it whatsoever. It can bring us something even worse than we have now, but also - something surprisingly better. We don't know it one way or another. We are often worried about what will happen tomorrow, based only on our assumptions and knowledge about the past or present. Let's do a small exercise. Let us remind ourselves of all the pleasant events from our past that happened after we had felt unwell the previous day when we had no idea that they would have occurred. We had been worried back then, not knowing that something good was waiting for us the following day. If we had known back then that such a thing would have happened the next morning, we wouldn't have worried about anything at all. We have no idea what the future will look like until it happens. However, when we have peace of mind or at least can control our emotions, we are prepared for anything that may occur. Even the most unpleasant event can be accepted easier than if we are panicked and nervous, react emotionally, and inadequately to reality, which may cause more difficulties and complications.
The only thing we can have control of is our attitude towards reality.
What usually frightens us the most is the belief in a potential catastrophe, not the catastrophe itself, even if it already takes place. For example, we are afraid that if we don't have a job and money, we won't be able to pay another installment of the mortgage, the bank will foreclose our house, and the family will be left out homeless. Before that - electricity, gas, water will be cut off, we will starve, we'll be left to street begging, etc. The more creative the mind is, the more dramatic scenarios it sends out. The real situation, however, often looks different than we can imagine. A calm mind will perceive it the way we see the same picture displayed in a much better resolution.
Another thing worth realizing is that the subject of our worries and stress often does not depend on us in any way, and we have no influence on it whatsoever. These are two main groups of concerns - global phenomena (natural disasters, pandemics, etc.) and other people's business, such as our children', life partners and others. We can mind only our business in terms of what we think, what we feel and what we do about that.
The moment we begin to distinguish what kind of business we are dealing with, and we focus on ours, we can learn to accept with peace of mind even with the most difficult of realities.
If peace and serenity depended on a full bank account, fame, beauty and health - in other words - external circumstances - it would mean that all rich, healthy, beautiful and talented people on this globe would obviously have it - but we know that this is not the case. Many people of this type are not at peace at all, and no money or fame can provide it to them. On the other hand, many people whose external situation wouldn't seem to ensure peace or are even deprived of it, still have peace of mind and serenity that they share with others, despite their problems.
So how to achieve peace of mind and serenity regardless of the circumstances that would allow us to look at reality rationally and make optimal choices, not caused by fear and panic?
The point here is not that - and it should be understood well - having peace of mind in a crisis means that we underestimate or neglect the seriousness of the situation. Absolutely not. It's just that instead of only one choice - which is
"Our terrible situation + nervousness, stress and panic,"
we have two options:
1. "Our terrible situation + nervousness, stress, and panic."
2. "Our terrible situation + peace of mind and mental clarity."
In the first situation with one option, we will most likely feel terrible, and this dreadful mood will prevent us from seeing potential solutions, and finding out that it may be less scary than we initially thought. In the second situation, with two options, provided that we choose the option with peace of mind and mental clarity, we will quickly assess what we have no influence on and leave it alone without worrying about it and focus on what we have influence on - and we will do whatever is in our power and then we will look for new possibilities in this terrible situation.
If the above argument appeals to us and we see the benefit of finding peace of mind in stressful and highly unpleasant reality, the only thing that remains is to look at how to achieve it in such circumstances.
First of all, we must stop, literally and figuratively, to prevent further feeding our stress with our reactions to it. We need to sit down or lie down or assume any position of choice, preferably in an environment that we like - in the natural environment or anywhere we can find silence and no people around. No family member should bother us there with advice, knowing "better" what we should do in such a situation or even more panicked than we are. Only when we are all by ourselves in silence will we hear the race of our thoughts and feel all those unpleasant sensations in our body. It's best to stay like this for at least a half hour straight and allow anything we think and feel to flow, without any attempt to stop this stream and take any action to react. Let it pour and flow freely, even if it seems unpleasant.
Secondly, when the power of the stream of thoughts and feelings slows down a bit as we didn't disturb its flow, let's try to pick out all the thoughts that illustrate what we are afraid of. The best way would be if we could write them down on a piece of paper to grasp what they exactly are, for example, 'I'm afraid that the bank will take my home away if I don't find a job and pay the next loan installment.' I especially recommend handwriting, because as the research shows, coordination of our brain and hand has a significant influence on the focus and constructiveness of our thinking. This action alone will allow us to calm down and sort our thoughts.
What is also essential here is that our minds tend to consider untruths as truth and treat them as if they are a reality, making us feel that unreal problems are real. The moment we see an issue put in words on paper, we often realize that our mind has created a tragedy out of things that can be settled or sorted out.
Let's return to our notes, though. After putting down everything that we are afraid of, let's group all our fears into two categories - those on which we have no influence (not our business) and those on which we have control (our business). We'll see the situation clearer this way. Until we have no real knowledge about the case, we are unable to face it effectively. A clear assessment of what we are dealing with allows us to respond to even the most challenging situation with peace of mind. As soon as we have a ready list of fears related to what we have an influence on before our eyes, let's ask about each of them if they are real or just a figment of our imagination based on fear. It may happen on this stage that we notice that some of our worries are not a real problem as they seemed before we put them in words and wrote them down on paper. Some we can still consider as real problems, and these will be the ones we need to pay attention to and begin to look for steps we need to solve them.
Thirdly, let's close our eyes for a moment and try to imagine ourselves in the same situation that we are afraid of, but without fear, with serenity and peace of mind. If we can only imagine a different attitude to the same situation, it is possible to achieve it in reality, as even Einstein himself once said.
Next, let's make a list of everything that usually makes us feel enjoyable and relaxed. It can be anything - a shower, a walk with a dog, ten push-ups, good music, a glass of wine, a good movie, a conversation with a friend. No censorship. Let our imagination take us where we always feel good at least for a moment.
And then let's retake a look at our list of concerns with the feeling taken from over the list of our pleasures. It's a bit like in the copy-paste edition. Let's copy the feelings from our favorite things and paste them to our mind when we look at the problems list.
Our will to change our current approach to the crisis will make creators of new circumstances out of ourselves, instead of being their helpless victims, and we'll get access to all information our mind holds, which is out of reach if we are in panic mode. Let's look for any inspiration for solutions among the thoughts we spilled onto paper.
The above analysis allows us to organize our chaotic mind and separate the wheat of matters worthy of our attention from the chaff of non-constructive concerns, and to focus on what we really can get done. I suggest letting go of the rest, as we only waste our precious energy by worrying, and this is energy which we need to solve problems. Realizing that, makes our actions more concentrated and focused, and generates better effect as a result. We begin to welcome the future with curiosity, what it holds for us instead of having fearful thoughts like - 'Oh, no! Why is this happening to me again?!', combined with an immediate stomach spasm and an apocalyptic vision of what will 'certainly' happen soon.