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“You can’t calm a storm, so stop trying. You can calm yourself. Remember storms always pass.” ~ Tracy Malon
Life is unpredictable.
It can get chaotic and messy and despite our best efforts, there will be times when we’ll find ourselves sinking into a deep dark hole of self-pity, misery, and all kinds of fears.
Before we realise, we are in an abyss of loss, darkness, uncertainty, and meaninglessness.
We are gripped by hundreds of self-defeating thoughts and extremely powerful emotions of sadness, anger, loneliness, and fear, and it seems as if the more we try to get ourselves out, the further we sink; the more we crash.
It’s excruciatingly painful and it’s the kind of pain that no matter how much we try, neither can we explain it nor will someone understand.
The lights go out and it’s all dark.
There are voices in our head that are screaming all sorts of crazy things.
There is pain—physical and emotional that refuses to stop.
It’s a storm—within.
And yes, it can happen to anyone. Such storms can be temporary or may continue for a long time. But, anyone can be hit by such storms at any point in their life.
When we find ourselves in such a space, where we are gripped and caged by our thoughts and feelings that “we don’t want” or that are constantly making us aware of that wound, that void that exists within us, it’s important to drop the fight.
You can’t fight the storm. Can you?
No. When there is a cyclone or hurricane, what do we do?
We wait till it passes and in that time ensure that we are safe.
Eventually, when the storm passes, we feel safe; that’s when we step out.
Similarly, when we find ourselves in our own emotional storm of anger, rage, loneliness, insecurity, or anxiety, and things seem to spin out of control, it’s important to remind ourselves that we need to wait for this storm to pass instead of forcing it to go away.
Often when we find our anxiety, sadness, loneliness staring right at us, we panic even more. A feeling of helplessness sets in further. Our nervous system gears up to either fight, flee, or freeze and we end up resorting to behaviors such as binging, smoking, or drinking. Sometimes people resort to excessive exercise to run away from their difficult feelings. Some may end up chasing the very people who trigger them. At times, some people experience a total shutdown and simply crash.
Yes, all of this is difficult. But what’s even worse is resorting to these behaviors as a means to avoid that distress—because it further aggravates it! Before we realize, we are stuck in a never-ending loop.
We need to shift our focus and attention toward our own emotional stability and safety in that moment instead of picking up a battle with our own mind.
We need to allow the emotions to pass, the thoughts to come and go in their own time, and figure out a solution, a strategy once we are stable and ready to move ahead.
So how do we sit amidst this emotional storm and how can we support ourselves when we are gripped by our shadow?
Here are some ways:
1. Acknowledge the feeling, the thoughts, the story that your mind is playing. Awareness is and will always be the key to change. It’s important to recognize the thoughts and emotions that are coming up.
2. Name it. After noticing and acknowledging, it’s important to give that sense of overwhelm a name. It’s important to tell yourself that “I am feeling…”
3. Drop the meaningless struggle of making the thoughts go away. Give yourself time, patience, and your own compassion. Tell yourself that “I am going through a tough moment and I need to support myself.”
4. Don’t be afraid of crying. Cry and let it out. Crying has a calming effect on the nervous system.
5. Breathe. Focus on deep inhalation and longer exhalations, especially when feeling restless, anxious, agitated, or scared.
6. Move. Stretch, jump, dance, walk, run—get your body moving to shift your energy.
7. Talk to yourself as if you would talk to a friend. Remind yourself that this too shall pass.
8. Take a short nap. It helps to reduce the load on your nervous system and gives your mind a break from being in overdrive.
9. Write. Write down what you’re thinking and feeling. Give yourself a vent.
10. Focus on building tolerance for distress and regulating it instead of pushing it away. Ask yourself, “How can I support and regulate myself when I’m in my emotional storm?”
In the end, it’s not about finding that one thing that works or will work all the time. It’s about supporting yourself with as many things as you can so that you can find your balance amidst the storm.
It’s only once the storm has passed and balance is restored that you will be able to decide where you want to go or even continue your journey toward your own self.
Learning to navigate these storms and not drown in them is an important milestone in the journey of being you.
“Strength is about pulling yourself together, even after you’ve been shattered into a thousand pieces. Falling is merely the first movement we take before rising.” ~ Rehan Khan