There are many times when life moves too fast. It’s unavoidable. Because it’s unavoidable, you have to find a way to deal with it. One of the best ways to judge how successful a person will be in life is how well they deal with adversity. When adversity comes into our lives, we have to find a way to deal with it in the most healthy and productive way.
Unfortunately, some of us aren’t afforded the opportunity to be taught the necessary skills to deal with adversity or emotions in the best way. Don’t get me wrong… I dealt – just not in a healthy manner!
I grew up in a very chaotic household (to say the least) where there was no sense of stability or coping whatsoever. I wasn’t sure what was up or down, nor was I ever aware of what was going to happen any time a parent walked through the door (both alcoholics). At any moment everything could go from peace to complete chaos and pandemonium without warning. I learned to always be on guard and in defensive mode and to stay protected at all times. I carried this defense mechanism with me throughout life.
Through yeeeeeeeears of therapy I have learned that it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, that used to be my normal, but that was only because I didn’t know what a true “normal” was. I knew that my “normal” wasn’t really a “ healthy normal”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see how to get to a “ healthy normal”.
So, this eating disorder, although very plaguing, has taught me a lot about life and myself. I have been afforded the opportunity to learn about what it really takes to live a healthy and balanced life. One thing that I think I have always tried to look for, but wasn’t sure how to do it, is equanimity.
1. mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.
(Nerd alert! That’s your fun English word of the day!)
Back story: I was very good at doing this in sports, but for some reason the idea of “clam during chaos” didn’t translate into my personal life. In the middle of any high intense game in college I could search for composure and calmness, and discipline myself to search for clarity, BUT I’ve wondered why I couldn’t do it in personal life situations…. and it hit me… emotions and feelings were holding me back…. oh those feelings!!! 🙂 I think we are often blinded by our feelings and it prevents us from being able to see and think clearly.
Emotions and feelings can sometimes be a full-body experience. They can be an interplay between our thoughts and our sensations. One person once described to me this formula:
Thoughts + Body Sensations = Emotions
For instance, a kind of giddy happiness and anxiety might have the same sensations, such as tight muscles and a pounding heart. What determines whether we feel happy or anxious are our thoughts. So, when we start having thoughts and sensations we might have to navigate and do some searching for what the true feeling is behind it all. I have to admit, the hardest ones to navigate through are the negative ones as they often feel like they are the most powerful.
I’m still trying to figure out this whole “figure out your feelings” stuff…. So here is my short (and probably incomplete) list that I think about when I start figuring out my feelings… and start searching for equanimity.
- Acknowledge my feelings without judgment
- Accept my feelings as real and okay
- Sit with my feelings – they will pass
- Release my emotions in a healthy way
(This list is in no way complete so I don’t recommend dropping what your therapist has you doing because I’m no therapy guru!)
So, finding equanimity is a lot harder than it sounds!!! It’s not something that you can just start doing and perfect right away. When things are chaotic it’s hard to create a calm feeling. I’m not saying you necessarily go all yogi-meditative-tree-hugging-hippie to find some calming peace…
But hey… if you want to do that… whatever floats your boat! 🙂
My goal is to try to look at what is going on in stressful times and search for where I can create some type mental calmness in situations/moments (note how I’m stressing moments because we have to start small, right?). By no means will it be perfect the first time I try it, but I bet it does come with practice. Even if it’s just bringing myself back to the present moment, not allowing myself to let the stress keep me in a bad mood, refusing to allow my thoughts race or change my plans. Really, I think the best way to start is to just be aware of feelings as they surface and then search for places to create moments of understanding equanimity. Once we understand and accept the feelings, we can begin to be at peace with them. [Goodness, if my psychologist could hear me now… I’m like a walking poster child for therapy and feelings!]
For me, I have learned that my center for equanimity is God. I recently felt extremely lost and “fell off the boat” and realized it was because I had not been cultivating my relationship with God. So, if you’re able to find what brings you to that mental peace, grab it and never let it go because that is what will sustain you through the meal plans that make you want to quit, the therapy sessions that are tough, and the moments that seem impossible to overcome.