Last time in my post titled: Things Break – But We Don’t Have To (https://crutchprints.com/2014/01/07/things-break-but-we-dont-have-to/) we looked at ways that we tend to operate on the edge of a stress cliff. We overstress ourselves and stay teetering at the edge of our stress cliff so often that when one small and unexpected event (something breaks down in our life) our capacity is maxed out and we go toppling over the edge of the stress cliff. This results in frustration, anger, cursing, depression, silent treatment, or whatever our choice method of hyper/hypo arousal may be that day. In “Things Break – But We Don’t Have To” we discussed the importance of making choices with our time and how that can make room for things that may go wrong so we can deal with them in a healthy way.
For those of us that have a difficult time throughout the day thinking “out of the box” to avoid places of stress there is another tool we can use. It is called “Mindfulness” or the “54321 Method”. The idea is to bring yourself back to the moment so that you are aware of everything around and inside of you including how stressed you are, whether or not you need a rest, or if you need to take more time to stop “steamrolling” forward. It brings your mind completely into the present moment so that you can look at your situation with a new perspective.
Using this method (go into a bathroom if you need to escape!) you will come into a present and mindful state by:
- Taking a deep breath and close your eyes.
- Opening your eyes and focusing on 5 objects around you and thank God for their beauty. How do they relate, what are their colors, textures, shapes.
- Noticing 4 specific things you hear around you.
- Feeling 3 body sensations. Things you are feeling or touching.
- Pointing out 2 smells.
- Focusing on the taste in your mouth.
Practice this a few times a day. Maybe even pick one or two of these things to focus on. Set a phone alarm when you know you are the busiest and take a two minute break to bring yourself into the moment so that you can continue with a clear mind and operate within your capacity without stress. Remember, the idea here is to continue operating from a place of peace so that when the curveball breakdown happens it does not send us over the edge.
Because we are human we will all experience disappointment when something breaks down right in front of us. It is only natural for our emotions to express an attitude of disappointment because that is how we are wired. Most of our lives we are taught that emotions and attitudes are bad and if we express disappointment we should be ashamed.
An example of this when we were told as a teenager to clean out the refrigerator we stomped our foot and rolled our eyes. This was an emotional response to something inside. We were processing why we were unhappy about having to change from whatever we were doing that we felt was important to the new priority of cleaning the refrigerator. Chances are in our society we were disciplined by our parents for our reactions.
We are taught that expressing emotions is shameful even though at the core of our being we still feel the emotions we are taught not to express. (There is not one person reading this that hears their alarm clock on a very early morning and doesn’t hit the snooze button one time and then slowly trudge out of bed with an attitude and feeling of disappointment about not sleeping!) These emotions and attitudes help us to transition into the “next thing” which in the above case is “morning”.
When we are operating from a clear head and a full capacity we suddenly have the ability to process our emotions when something breaks down and say to ourselves, “Wow, this really sucks. This couldn’t have happened at a more terrible time. What is really needed in this situation? How can I give grace to (myself, my child, my spouse, my car) and respond in love?”
Every person is responsible for knowing and operating in his/her own capacity without stressing out and overflowing into anger, frustration, silence, dissociation, etc. We are each responsible for knowing where our limits reside. We are responsible for choosing to not operate on the border of stress, because when we do we only hurt other people or ourselves.
In my writing about chaos I define a little more clearly the things we are responsible for and things we are not. The things that are beyond our control we can “feel” and process the emotions and repercussions of but we cannot try to control them or we will end up with closed fists fighting against the impossible.
So let’s back up a little bit when we have something break down in our life and get “in the moment”. Let’s use whatever tools apply to help get us back in the present moment. Let’s stay away from the cliff of stress. Let’s process our feelings in a way that extends grace and peace, allows for disappointment, and doesn’t lash out in anger.
After all, things will break. But we don’t have to.
(Sources: From Fear To Love,Book by B. Bryan Post; Sharon Shipwash, Door to Destiny)