The world we live in can be an uncertain place. One day we may be living a life that is very familiar to us and the next day, it may feel like everything has been turned upside down. Whether you have lost a job, a loved one, or know somebody who has experienced some sort of loss or turmoil, you are likely going to feel the emotional side effects. The good news is we have the power within ourselves to feel peace and harmony in the midst of life’s confusions.
First and foremost, remember to be kind to yourself! Whether you or somebody else you know has experienced chaos, know that what you are experiencing is a normal human response. Not everybody’s responses are going to be the same, so please try to remain as non- judgmental as possible towards yourself and others.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or your mind is racing, it could be that you are yearning for what you had in the past or that you are anxious about the uncertainty of what is to come. Notice how the former situation brings your thoughts into the past and the latter into the unknown future. Both are okay if you don’t choose to spend the majority of your time allowing your mind to keep you feeling trapped in either situation.
I’m sure you have heard it before – the past is in the past and you can’t change what has already happened. The future hasn’t happened yet, so there is no sense worrying about it. If the present is where we are supposed to be, let’s take some time to consider ways to bring ourselves into the present moment.
Grounding is a technique that involves doing activities that reconnect you to yourself, the earth, and the present moment. You could try counting to 10 allowing yourself this time to refocus. Another technique that might be helpful is to bring a specific object to mind and then try to imagine it with all your senses. For example, if you are thinking of a rose, ask yourself the following questions: How does it look? What colours do you see? How does it smell? What does it feel like? Does it have any sound? Another technique you might find useful is a body scan. Start by noticing which parts of your body are in contact with the floor or surface you are sitting on and then take note of how each part of your body feels. Send breath to any areas that might feel tight.
Breathwork is one of the easiest ways to stay grounded especially if you are feeling overwhelmed. Breathing is one of the only biological activities that can be brought under full conscious control and still function semi-automatically. By learning how to bring your breath under conscious control, you will also be able to control your emotions. One breathing technique you could try is square breathing.
Start by finding a comfortable position and take a full breath in through your nose, count to four as you inhale slowly, hold your breath for a count of four, and then exhale completely for a count of four, pause for a count of four and repeat for a few rounds. You can choose to keep your eyes open or closed and hands can go wherever they are comfortable. I personally like to place my left hand over my chest and my right hand on my belly and notice the rise and fall on each inhale and exhale. Notice the breath as it comes in through your nose warming your body, notice the exhales as you let go and release stress, and don’t forget to notice the pause where there is no inhale or exhale. Please remember if this or any other breathing technique is making you feel dizzy or uncomfortable for any reason, you are in control and can stop at any time.
Gratitude has many benefits including improved mental and physical health, lower blood pressure, and a feeling of greater happiness. Did you know you can “rewire” the brain to be happier just be recalling things you are grateful for? Gratitude can boost the neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine. To practice gratitude, try writing down three things every day that you are grateful for.
Vagal nerve stimulation
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system. It runs from the brain through the face and into the abdomen. It helps regulate heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and sweating. Stimulating the vagus nerve can help to calm the nervous system. Some ways you can try to stimulate the vagus nerve include deep and slow breathing, singing, humming, chanting, massage, exercise, pushing the tongue to the roof of your mouth. If you like, you could try Bee’s Breath, which is a combination of breathing and humming.
Start by sitting in a comfortable position, lengthen the spine and take a deep inhale through the nose, filling the belly with air, drawing the root of the tongue to the back of the throat, keeping the mouth closed. On the exhale, draw the back of the tongue to the back of your throat and make a humming noise like a bee. You could try plugging your ears with your pointer fingers or plug your ears with your thumbs and spread the rest of your fingers vertically down your forehead applying gentle pressure. Notice the vibration at the back of your throat as it helps to calm your nervous system.
Remember whatever approach you take to staying calm in these uncertain times, do what feels right for you and take it at your own pace. My personal approach to dealing with uncertain times, is to create myself a routine, allowing myself certain parts of the day to process my thoughts and feelings and certain parts of my day to stay focused and centered. Perhaps instead of spending our time wishing to get back to “normal”, we can find creative ways to enjoy the present moment.
by Cindy Hunt
Cindy Hunt is certified with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiologists as a Certified Personal Trainer. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree and graduated with Honours from the NAIT Personal Fitness Training Program. She is registered with the Yoga Alliance as a 200 hour Yoga Instructor and has completed an additional 100-hour Trauma Sensitive Yoga certification with Yogafit. She has been a part of the Sport and Wellness team since 2016 where she trains and teaches a variety of classes including Hatha and Restorative Yoga. Her passion lies in motivating others to get active and pursue a healthy lifestyle. Her specialty is in working with dancers, older adults, pre/postnatal women, and people struggling with anxiety or who are newer to the gym environment.