Exhale

Something I’ve become well-practiced at is coping with change and uncertainty. When you grow up in an unpredictable environment you learn how to stay calm under pressure because often the best response is a neutral one because it results in the least repercussions. Another habit you learn is how to lie to avoid harsh irrational punishment. One day you could get in trouble for something that is benign that you were never punished for before, it was random. So you try different tactics to see what works best to appease them. I found that truly nothing worked, so I gave up on trying to make sense of it and took the path of least resistance which was non-reactivity. It didn’t matter what I did, so I became stoic and tolerated it as best I could.

We all want to feel safe and secure, confident that our lives will unfold in a predictable manner. But that’s not how it works. There are so many unpredictable outcomes that are beyond our control so it’s important to learn how to navigate change.

Being able to stay steady and in emotional control is only one aspect. The stoic neutrality I learned while I was growing up, though it helped me keep it together, had undesirable effects in adulthood, namely being detached from my true feelings and the propensity to tolerate bad behavior, because it was normal to me. The lying aspect I quickly learned was not helpful in real life, it only created more chaos, but it was difficult to know when I was lying because I’d want to appease everyone and make them happy. I was codependent. That was so difficult to unlearn. I’d become whatever I thought everyone wanted me to be and didn’t know myself anymore. It took years to find my way back home to my true self.

To cope with change and uncertainty we have to learn deep self-awareness where we identify our true feelings and know the reason why we’re having them and trust in our ability to make aligned decisions that are beneficial for us as well as others. And most of all we have to trust in the universe, that there are loving people and forces that will always be there to catch us. It requires faith in ourselves and the world at large. And it must be balanced with rational, critical thinking, emotional intelligence which is savvy, logical with eyes wide open while being truthful and honest with ourselves. No blinders allowed.

How do we do all of that? Life experiences help you learn along the way. The older you get the more adept you become. But if you want to learn in a more controlled and proactive way there are helpful tools, techniques, and ways to practice your coping skills. From what I’ve seen, most people don’t bother and it can be a real bummer, that’s putting it mildly, lol.

Emotions are normal and healthy, but not when we allow them to hijack our behaviors. There are ways to pause and choose how you respond in most situations (where it’s not life and death), you can take a time out before you do something regrettable. If you’re too upset, then remove yourself from the offending situation until you can pull it together. Sometimes people who are having difficulty regulating their emotions need professional help. If someone you love and trust is suggesting that you might benefit from professional help, then probably it would be a good idea to listen to their advice and seek help. It can’t hurt to try. If you don’t jibe with the professional then try someone else until you find a good fit.

When I’ve gone through stressful changes in my life I’ve relied on practices that help me stay grounded, focused, healthy, and resilient. Mindfulness is a key component along with reframing how I think about and relate to the adversities. Accepting what is while making the improvements that are within my power helps me feel more in control, so I can release what is not within my power to control. Healthy boundaries help me know what’s mine to change so I can surrender the aspects that I can’t change.

When I’ve been overwhelmed and feel powerless, I’ve allowed myself to feel and think all of the things that are bothering me, my fears, the hurt, I let myself have a pity party if need be. Afterward, I begin reframing the situation and see it from different perspectives until I have a broader and more rational view. I journal it out. I meditate, go for a walk or run, make sure I get enough sleep and eat healthily while giving myself extra TLC, self-care. I also make sure I connect with others and maintain social interaction with supportive, nurturing others. If I don’t have friends available, then I can always join forums, or seek counseling, or coaching, use helpful resources like books and websites/blogs/podcasts for support and information. I can try different techniques to help me find clarity, to release emotions, to stay grounded. I always feel more peaceful after yoga.

I reassure myself by affirming all of the challenges I’ve already been through and know that I’ve always made it before and I can do it again, I can weather the storm. Gratitude for what’s going well and appreciation for all of the simple pleasures and natural treasures we are graced with daily keeps me buoyed. I spend time in nature to reset my biology and to revel in the beautiful wonder of it all. I take a break from media, spend time in quiet solitude to get my bearings again. Stay in this moment where all’s well, the world keeps on doing what the world does and you can’t stop it, you can help in your own ways, but you alone can not save the world, so take a deep breath and let it all go…exhale.

When I’ve got too much on my plate, I prioritize and focus on one thing at a time while comforting myself saying, you’ve always managed to get what needed to be done accomplished, so this time is no different, it’ll be okay, take it day by day. And I take nonessentials off my plate, saving them for later if they don’t get done then they weren’t really important were they?

Paradoxically I’ve learned that relaxing my grip and lightening up is the most helpful of all. You’d think that when all hell is breaking loose, you’d better do something about it and fast. Sometimes it’s best to hold off and see how everything lands and in the meantime chill for a bit, laughing it off. Find reasons to play and laugh while you’re ducking for cover, lol. Get a bit bratty and sarcastic, a little gallows humor never killed anybody 😀 I used to always have a vase with stems of balloons on the counter to remind me that life’s supposed to be fun. I still keep visual reminders that remind me to seek childlike joy in life. To try and see everything anew, like a curious child who encounters life with no expectations, just exploration and fun.

I am still learning about ways to help me navigate more gracefully in this fascinating world and will continue to for the rest of my life. Yay!

Michelle Miyagi
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