Sunday, October 11, 2015

Calm and stillness

I've already posted about the first 7 guideposts from Brene Brown's book 'The Gifts of Imperfection,' so I may as well push through to the end and share all 10. Today is #8: "Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety As A Lifestyle." I didn't underline a lot from this chapter, but it's another important one.

The author states that many of us are out of balance when it comes to managing competing priorities, family demands, the unrelenting stress and pressure of work, academics, or whatever. Eventually we begin to adopt a lifestyle of anxiety, and we will miss out on Wholehearted living unless we figure out a way to address, or lessen, the anxiety.

According to her research, the people who handled it the best weren't anxiety-free or anxiety-averse; but they were anxiety-aware. "They were committed to a way of living where anxiety was a reality but not a lifestyle. They did this by cultivating calm and stillness in their lives and making these practices the norm."

She defines calm as: "Creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional activity." It is being able to bring perspective to complicated situations and feel feelings without reacting to heightened emotions like fear and anger.

One big help is simply the idea of being slow to respond and quick to think. Some practices of it are counting to ten when feeling overwhelmed, taking 3 deep breaths (or 1), or something similar.

Stillness is similarly integral to Wholehearted living. According to her research: "From meditation and prayer to regular periods of quiet reflection and alone time, men and women spoke about the necessity of quieting their bodies and minds as a way to feel less anxious and overwhelmed."

Oddly enough, our society is so used to always being on the go, that many people actually feel anxiety when first beginning to practice stillness. Yet here's the definition of stillness she came up with:

"Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it's about creating a clearing. It's opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question."

As she says, this can be scary stuff...
"If we stop long enough to create a quiet emotional clearing, the truth of our lives will invariably catch up with us. We convince ourselves that if we stay busy enough and keep moving, reality won't be able to keep up. So we stay in front of the truth about how tired and scared and confused and overwhelmed we sometimes feel. Of course, the irony is that the thing that's wearing us down is trying to stay out in front of feeling worn down. This is the self-perpetuating quality of anxiety. It feeds on itself...

So... while cultivating calm and stillness in our lives may seem like an easy thing to do, it can actually be quite challenging. It may also call for more exercise, better sleep habits, and a healthier diet. She recommends experimenting with different forms of still and quiet until we find something that works for us. Personally, I like reading, meditating, and naps. :)