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Our boss, our family, our finances, our hectic schedule, the stupid virus—it’s enough to make us want to scream!
So how do we keep from going crazy? How do we tap into our inner resilience to turn chaos into calm?
The answer may not be what one would think, but here it is anyway: we need to learn to consciously control our feelings.
That’s what I want to share with you today—how we can effectively regulate our feelings for more balance and calm in every aspect of our life.
Do you need anything special to do it?—Nope. Nothing at all. Largely because everything you need is already inside of you.
Inner resilience (aka psychological strength and flexibility) is grounded in your attitude combined with your ability to:
>> Recognize and use your internal resources,
>> Consciously control your emotions, and
>> Create positive feelings
What’s great about this is that you do have control over each one of these—whether you realize it or not.
Before we go any further though, let me ask you this:
How are you doing on an emotional level, right now?
Are you afraid or worried because you don’t know what the future holds?
Are you angry or disappointed because everything you planned for the next few months is stuck in limbo?
Do you feel tense and irritable without really knowing why?
Do you feel nervous and anxious because you don’t feel like you have any control over your life right now?
If so, relax in the knowledge that there are reasons for these (completely normal) unpleasant feelings.
The world’s pretty topsy-turvy at the moment, and depending on what’s happening in your life, you may be feeling a bit like Alice when she tumbled through the looking glass, right about now.
Please know that you’re not alone. So many people I know, all around the globe, are feeling like you are—unhappy, uncertain, helpless, fearful, even angry. It’s okay to feel that way. Suppressing your feelings or beating yourself up about them never helps. Learning how to deal with them effectively does.
In fact, that’s where inner resilience comes in:
Face Your Feelings
So, here’s the first step—go ahead and feel what you’re feeling. Let it flow through your body and see if you can put a name to it.
Where is that feeling in your body? What exactly does it feel like? Be willing to explore those unpleasant thoughts and emotions, openly and with curiosity.
Use the statement below to help you name that feeling:
In this moment, I have the feeling of…
(frustration, fear, overwhelm, helplessness, rejection, hurt, jealous, etc.)
Or you could use this statement if you’d rather:
Right now, I’m feeling…
(insecure, lonely, irritated, pressured, envious, ignored, disappointed, discouraged, etc.)
If you’re still struggling to find the right word, this list might help.
Name It To Tame It
When those anxious, angry, or fearful feelings threaten to overwhelm you, it’s all too easy to forget that you are not what you are feeling.
Feelings come and go. It’s not a good idea to let them define you. That’s why it’s so important to learn to manage our emotions. Think of this exercise as “naming the emotion to tame it.”
No matter how overpowering your feelings seem, you have what it takes to deal with them. Here’s how:
Rather than saying: This is terrible; I’m never going to get this done; I’m so hopeless; I’m such a failure…
Admit what you are feeling: I’m feeling totally insecure right now.
Or, instead of thinking: I’m scared out of my skull, I’m totally freaked out! How could I do something so stupid?…
Say this: This has me feeling scared and frightened.
Read through each of the sentences aloud. Do you notice a difference in how they each make you feel? I hope so.
As you pay attention to what you’re feeling, to help you name it, do your best not to judge.
Feelings like anger, fear, worry, jealousy, hopelessness, or overwhelm are not bad. Bad is a label you’ve given them, but, really, they’re just feelings—feelings that arise inside of you to show you what it is you need right now.
Once you’ve named what you’re feeling, take a moment to delve a bit deeper by adding a “because” at the end. Like this:
“I’m feeling really uncertain right now because I don’t know if I’ll still have a job when this whole virus scare is over.”
Or, “I’m feeling frightened because I may not be able to keep myself and my family safe.”
Increasing Your Inner Resilience: Self-Coaching Tip
Use words like “currently,” “right now,” or “just” as you name your feelings and explore the reasons behind them. This helps you signal to yourself that what you’re feeling is only temporary.
Here are a few ways to use the sentences you come up with:
>> Repeat them out loud throughout your day.
>> Write them in your journal and review them before you go to sleep.
Whichever you choose to do, always keep your focus on self-compassion over self-pity.
How This Builds Resilience.
The most important reason to name your feelings is to help you step away from them, look at them through the lens of detachment, and, ultimately, stop owning them.
This is the key to looking at what’s going on inside of you from a totally new perspective.
By using the phrase “I feel…” you can acknowledge what you’re feeling, without allowing yourself to be consumed by it. And this, in turn, is the basis for strong inner resilience. The more resilient you are, the better you will be able to handle whatever life throws your way.
What’s In A Name?
Did you know that naming your feelings does essentially two things?
It allows you to:
>> Deactivate the part of your brain that’s responsible for how you respond to stress.
>> Activate the part of your brain that makes it possible for you to think logically and clearly.
This makes rational decision-making and coming up with sound solutions so much easier. Think of it as putting a dimmer switch on your stress response so you can relax and calm what’s going on inside. Once you get what you’re feeling, you can dial the switch down and start dealing with it right away.
Let me show you how it works:
This year was to be my “concert year”—my husband and I had booked concerts for bands, well-known and not, throughout the whole year, and I was really looking forward to the whole experience.
Talk about feeling frustrated, angry, powerless, and disappointed—especially angry and disappointed.
I really wanted to go to those concerts, and not knowing when, or if I ever could, was super hard to take. But, I also understood that feeling that way was okay—and absolutely normal.
So, I took a step back and admitted to myself that “I was feeling deeply disappointed at that moment because I had been looking forward to my ‘year of concerts’ for months, and now I was going to be stuck at home instead.”
Doing this helped me:
>> Step outside what I was feeling and look at it from a different angle.
>> Let go of the tension I was feeling inside.
>> Rethink how I was going to spend my time instead.
There are times I still flip through those concert tickets on my dresser with longing, but I recognize that anticipation is a considerable part of pleasure. So, I tuck them back into their envelope and look forward to the fun I’ll have when the time comes.
That said, it’s not always easy to sit with those unpleasant feelings and just let them flow. Like many things that are difficult at first, time and consistent practice do make it easier over time—I promise.
Take It One Step Further.
Strengthening your inner resilience starts with naming your feelings. Naming them makes it easier to manage them. The next step is to learn how to consciously create and embrace pleasant feelings throughout your day. This means:
>> Looking forward to having dinner with your family tonight (rather than seeing it as just another thing you have to do).
>> Noticing what’s going on in the world around you when you’re out for a walk—how things are beginning to bloom, or the leaves are changing color (rather than doing a mental run-through of your to-do list).
>> Being grateful for the checker’s smile and warm greeting (rather than shrugging it off because you’ve got other things on your mind).
Embrace Calm Over Chaos.
It may seem overly simplistic, but starting to look for and embrace the positives in your everyday life goes a long way in reducing the stress you feel. Mainly because positive feelings uniquely serve as a buffer against unpleasant emotions.
In positive psychology, this is known as the undoing effect.
When you first start focusing on the positive in little, everyday situations, you may not notice a huge bump in how you feel. But like muscles that get stronger with training, the more you focus on the good things in life, the happier, calmer, and more resilient you’ll be.
You’ll even get better at finding creative solutions to your problems.
When I hit up against a wall with my writing, one thing I like to do, for example, is head out into the woods with my little dog, Cinni. Once there, I really enjoy focusing on the wonder of nature around me—butterflies flitting through the trees, woodpeckers pounding out a rhythm way up high, iridescent beetles scrabbling amongst the leaves. After my walk, I feel so relaxed and happy. My head is clearer, my focus is back, and I’m able to tackle any challenge from a fresh perspective with new ideas.
What Will You Choose?
The easiest way to boost the positive feelings in your life is to do more of the things that make you happy—things that inspire you and make your heart sing. Simple things like:
>> Enjoying some one-on-one time with your spouse.
>> Being silly with your kids.
>> Taking a 15-minute “book-break,” stretched out on a lounge chair in the garden, with a glass of ice-cold lemonade.
But, there’s another way that’s even simpler: learn to control your focus.
No matter what you’re doing, it is always up to you what you focus on. You can focus on the downside of things or you can focus on the upside—it’s your choice.
What you consciously focus on will naturally affect the way you feel.
Aim For Positive Feelings.
So, let’s look at a few simple strategies for consciously controlling your focus:
1. Anticipation as a strategy:
Before doing anything, you can consciously influence your mood by looking forward to whatever it is you have to do—at least on some level.
In your mind’s eye, see yourself doing that “thing” and doing it well. Feel how doing it well makes you feel. Opening yourself to that positive feeling beforehand can help to enhance the overall positive effect when the time comes to actually experience the situation.
2. Present moment focus as a strategy:
When you’re in the middle of doing something, consciously pay attention to small details. Take a deep breath, enjoy the moment, notice how you’re feeling, and let those positive emotions shine through—in the form of a smile, a bounce in your step, or the tone of your voice.
3. Reflection and gratitude as a strategy:
After talking to someone or doing something, consciously focus on the high points of your conversation or the event. Think about how grateful you are to have someone so special in your life, or how lucky you are to be able to do the things you do.
Going back over positive past events and remembering the way they made you feel is a particularly helpful way of embracing and promoting positive feelings in the moment.
Rather than seeing a time of crisis as an overpowering tsunami determined to drag you under, look at it as an emotional wave you can learn to ride.
The Inside Story
Life is never perfect. There will always be difficult situations that trigger unpleasant feelings. But these are exactly the kinds of situations you can use to strengthen your inner resilience.
It’s up to you what you do with those feelings when they arise. You get to choose. Will you let that wave of emotion sweep you under? Or, will you face it calmly, surfboard in hand?
“Choose to be optimistic. It feels better.” ~ Dalai Lama
This is true for you, for me, for all of us. Inner resilience starts and ends with the way we view what’s going on in our world and how we choose to respond to it.
So, look for the positive and embrace it. What’s brought a smile to your lips today? What about yesterday? How did that make you feel? Let that feeling flow through your body from head to toe and remember this:
Everything you need to master any crisis is already inside of you.