Wisdom Workout


How to Stay Sane in Chaotic Times

By Susan McNeal Velasquez
By Susan McNeal Velasquez

On the global front, political predictions and dire financial forecasts abound. Locally, sirens blare, boulders randomly topple, summer crowds rise and driving through town is like being captured in a frantic video game. No wonder free-floating anxiety and fear have taken hold.

Conventional wisdom says to keep a tight rein on the amount of information ingested. Handle your safety and security needs and hope that your industry, company, close family members, and good friends, are all safe.

This might work if you can isolate yourself enough from the world around you. Unfortunately, there is a more than likely chance that someone you love is experiencing seemingly insurmountable emotional challenges.

Facing the unknown is frightening in the best of circumstances. The usual response is to feel threatened and defensive. We resort to tight jawed, stoic and herculean efforts to beat life into submission to counter unwanted circumstances. On the other hand, being swept away by a torrent of uncontrollable negativity, hopelessness, and erratic emotionalism, is often another response to the same out of control circumstances. These responses are natural when our survival appears to be threatened. Threat triggers our fight/flight response.

A third response that doesn’t get much press is the freeze response. You can’t muster up enough energy to fight and you can’t flee because “everywhere you go, there you are.” How did your life get reduced down to what you are currently facing? You are too old, too stressed, too burdened, too busy, too (fill in the blank) to have this happening to you.

You can’t move forward to better times because you can’t envision how things are going to play out. You can’t retreat to the imagined safety of the past because it has unraveled into a heap of rubble that used to be your safe and secure life. Seemingly, you are trapped.

Clichés like “suit up and show up” and “keep on keeping on” sound better as concepts.

Escaping from fight/flight/freeze mode requires a few basic attitude shifts. First and foremost, assess your true energy level. If you are depleted from too much worry, admit it. You are in no shape to take on new challenges because you have nothing of value to contribute at this time.

The antidote? First, decide to get honest. Next, take on the task of getting rested and sane by taking control of your frantic mind.  Admit that you are feeling insecure and depleted. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

The real truth is that insecurity is a reality. The only part that we have control over is how we behave when we are in the throws of insecurity. Do we remain kind and respectful to those around us or do we take our insecurities out on those we love?

Stop and assess your behavior. If you are punishing your loved ones for your insecurities, stop it. Take a deep breath, apologize, and correct your bad behavior.

Here is the good news. Life is fluid. Change is constant. Chaos shifts into unforeseen opportunities. Stop your downward spiral, look with new eyes at your situation, and take small steps to move forward. Change your mind first, so that you are ready to take small, positive steps when the external environment does change. Apply liberal doses of kindness, gentleness, and humor in handling yourself and with everyone with whom you interact.

It is your duty to contribute your brand of sanity and wellness to the situations you find yourself in, no matter what the external climate.

It is comparatively easy to shine when life is going your way. The true test of your character is when you are pressed to stand up and be true to your basic goodness and the basic goodness of your life, no matter what. Allow beauty and duty to marry and birth a new reality infused with dignity and courage, each time we are challenged to stand up and face the unknown.

Susan is a local author and personal development trainer. Learn more at: susanvelasquez.com 



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