There are many strategies that we develop throughout our lifetime to cope with stress, fear, grief, etc. Sometimes these tools are not the healthiest coping mechanisms and can end up making us feel worse or more depleted than when we started. Things like drinking or using drugs, shutting down emotionally, and avoiding conflict are common unhealthy responses to highly stressful situations.
However, everyone has an inner toolbox that can be cultivated for growth and well-being. Life doesn’t stop being crazy and unpredictable, but we can get better at meeting life on life’s terms. Here are a few basic resources. Start with these, and build from there.
Within each person are the following faculties: perception, feeling, thinking, and acting. These capacities are with us at all times. The key is to utilize these abilities, to understand the difference between them, and to employ them in a complimentary manner that guides us through our experiences.
Perceiving involves noticing information about our surroundings as it enters our bodies. Our senses and nerve endings are the main entry points. Slowing down and honing our perception allows a new level of awareness of what is happening in the current moment.
For example, when your head is swimming, you can open the car window to feel the breeze, or listen to all the different sounds around you. This action will probably start to bring you some calmness. Just by changing how you are taking in information in the present moment opens up your perception and can change your reality.
Feelings embody our broad emotional landscape. Our ability to feel so much is a gift. Once we allow our emotions to be present, we can befriend our feelings, especially the more uncomfortable ones, and utilize them as beacons: lights that guide and illuminate.
Maybe you notice that you start to feel anxious every time to take on too many obligations or angry when you are treated disrespectfully. Negative emotions signal distress. Rather than ignore them or run from them, make a note to yourself that the situation is becoming problematic and make an assessment about what to do.
While thinking is one amazing tool, it is probably the most overused one in the toolbox. Thinking refers to our cognitions, our beliefs, and our analytical work. We own our thoughts, and not the other way around. We can train our thinking to focus and create ideas and solutions that serve our well-being.
Sometimes thoughts take over and we believe they are true. Perhaps you notice that you are having all kinds of awful thoughts. Rather than just ponder them, use their presence as a signal that you are emotionally distraught and address the feelings that accompany the thoughts in a healthy way. Then, use your thoughts to hatch great ideas, create specific plans, and realize long-term dreams and aspirations. Instruct your mind to work for you.
Acting is simply taking action. Our behavior is how we connect to other people. Its the manifesting tool for goals. Acting with the full facility of our perceptions, emotions, and thoughts is the strongest way to make our presence in the world. Make your actions count.
So there is the start of your toolbox. From here, you can become an expert in these strategies and create your own ones based on experiencing life in each moment. You can confront tough situations and move through them with grace and ease.
You have the power within yourself to hone your perceptions, embrace your emotions, know your thoughts, and control your actions. Transform stressful moments into learning opportunities and peaceful states.