Finding Peace When Stressed or Overwhelmed

Six months ago I found myself in a rather unique situation. I was volunteering for a large organization that was going through a significant transition, and many of the people involved had a lot of changing emotions and thoughts regarding the shift that was about to occur. Standing in front of this amazing group of colleagues and mentors during a transition event, I myself had a combination of emotions coursing through my body – joy, uncertainty, excitement, curiosity and anticipation. My focus was to stay centered and in my breath.

In the middle of my involvement with this event I was drawn to one person in particular. I didn’t recognize her and yet I was almost magnetically drawn to her steady sense of peace and joy, which felt like it emanated from her whole BEING – from deep within. She resonated with calm and inner contentment that didn’t appear to be dependent upon anything in her outer circumstances. Based on the nature of the event, she, too, may have had many emotions on the inside. Yet she seemed to have found peace that ran deep – unshakable and not dependent upon specific results.

In connecting with her weeks later, I understood more about the ease she held.

The first bit of wisdom I took from my dialogue with the woman was her ability to “be with” the moment mindfully — just as it is.  Mindfulness is the willingness to take a person or circumstance just as it is without judgment, embellishment, adding our story, withdrawing or criticizing. When I asked her how she practices mindfulness, she said “I focus on taking a deep breath and saying ‘yes’ to the moment. I’m amazed at how much more relaxed I feel when I get my agenda, defensiveness and emotional reactivity out of the way. I learn more about myself and others. I see things more clearly. And the outcome is usually better because my sense of peace seems to allow for the best possible results.”

She was able to simply take in the event – and all its related change and transition – without needing to alter the experience in her own mind.  As a result, she was not experiencing  the up and down feelings that the others appeared to experience. She felt deeply content and expressed her excitement about the upcoming transition, and it showed in her outer countenance.

That peace that runs deep is a value I hold and something I hunger to cultivate in my life often.  To see another who holds an inner calm in the face of stressful circumstances, overwhelm and change is inspiring. If you’ve never experienced this mindfulness, explore the possibility that you already have great peace that lies within you and goes untapped.  Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I never feel that calm and peaceful. It’s just not me.”? Or do you often find yourself on the roller coaster of emotional upset or reactivity? Take heart. The ability to maintain emotions and find peace is available to everyone.

The following techniques are a few ways to remain in the moment and find some ease, no matter the circumstance.

  • Affirm, with eyes closed, in the moment, the phrase “I am peace” for 30 seconds. Other options would be to breathe in the statementI live from peace,” and exhale, “I respond from peace.“ Open your eyes. Your world WILL feel different. Why? You just chose peace, regardless of life circumstances.
  • Ask yourself “Is there another way to see this?” or “Do I know for certain that my perspective is 100% accurate?” This brings more personal responsibility and self-empowerment to the situation versus feeling like you are at the effect of something.
  • Mindfulness Meditation – Sit for 3-5 minutes or longer if you choose.  Sit or stand in an undistracted place where you can be quiet and still.  Select a word that helps you feel centered, at peace, or inspired. A simple word like “Peace”, or “Love”, or “Calm”, or “Ease” may work for you. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your word.  When your thoughts wonder, which they will, return to your inspired word. You might notice that after a few minutes your heart rate is slower and your brain feels more present, alert, and prepared to step back into everyday life.
  • Say YES. So much of our lives are contained within the experience of an inner NO: resistance, reactivity, inner stories about people/circumstances. This inner disposition often affects how we see ourselves and others and can lead to feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and stress. Consider saying an inner YES where you notice resistance.  This doesn’t mean that you won’t have a desire to change the situation, or even step away from a situation for your highest good. However, consider making decisions and cultivating change from a place of inner calm and presence versus a place of aggravated anxious reactivity. Next time you’re upset, consider breathing in an internal “Yes,” and breathing out all resistance.  Personally, I notice that I feel more clarity and ease when following this technique.

Consider trying  one of these techniques as part of your Peace Practice for the next week.  I have often supported individuals in going a little deeper to develop mindfulness techniques.  In fact, we will be providing quite a few opportunities for our guests at Alive + Well to learn more about how to manage stress, anxiety and overwhelm.  If you are seeking support in further developing your own approach to mindfulness, consider calling me (Shannon) at (512) 351-9139 to discuss coaching options.