There are so many things that can throw us off course in our lives, some of them obvious and some of them subtle yet persistent. Regardless which category of “storm clouds” has you veering out of alignment with your joy, clarity and overall well-being, here are some mindful methods you can use to check your compass and stay calm during the storm:
1. Drop Down.
Allow yourself to drop down into the emotion and see what’s there, not judging it but simply observing it with curiosity. This is the heart of what mindfulness is all about. It takes practice, but pretty soon you will be able to tune into your body and notice what’s happening inside you. For example, when you feel joy, you will recognize that wonderfully expansive feeling. When you feel anxiety or fear, you might sense a tightness or constriction somewhere in your body. When you feel sorrow, you might notice a feeling of heaviness or fatigue. Once you notice these feelings, you can work with them, giving yourself room to breathe and changing your relationship to them.
2. Self Soothe.
Evidence shows that putting your hand over your heart—or putting your hand on your body wherever you most find it soothing—taps into the body’s mammalian caregiver response and releases oxytocin and opiates in your brain to counteract cortisol, the stress hormone. I put my hand on my heart twenty times a day. Whenever I hear a bad story, up goes my hand to my heart! Some of my students find that placing a hand on their belly or cheek worked better for them. Try different spots out on yourself and see what works best for you. If you are in the workplace, pick a soothing touch that isn’t obvious, like holding your arms or holding one hand in the other hand. That way, you can soothe yourself without your coworkers (or boss) knowing the negative effects they are having on you!
3. Practice Loving Kindness on Yourself.
Ask yourself what you really need to hear right now. Do you need to be told you are loved? Safe? Healthy? Strong? Whatever you most need to hear right now, create a Loving Kindness phrase and repeat it as a mantra to yourself. You can do this in seated meditation, but you can also do it on a walk, in the car, at the office, in line at the DMV or anywhere else you need to. Try this out next time you feel bad and see much it helps.