In my previous post, The Things No One Ever Told You About Challenges – Part 1, I talked about different challenges, their purpose, and some of the reasons why they enhance our lives. In this post, I’m going to expand on ways to help you more mindfully engage life’s challenges. So you can deal with them without creating, or getting caught up in, unnecessary drama. The challenges I’m referring to are called interrupters.
Interrupters are everyday issues/obstacles that come out of nowhere and confront us when we least expect it. They have the greatest potential to cause unnecessary disruption and upheaval in our lives. So it makes sense to try and stay as cool, calm and collected as possible so you reach the best possible outcome. In choosing to approach these challenges in a more mindful way, you can get the most of what interrupters have to offer you with the least effort required.
All of the strategies I provide here are supported by the practice of mindfulness. By being mindful of how you approach challenges you become, self-aware and attuned to your body. According to the experts at Harvard University, “Practicing mindfulness is beneficial to both our physical and emotional wellbeing’. Being mindful, makes it easier to savour the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events.” I guess there really isn’t a whole lot more to say other than, “Challenges are here to stay.” The more we accept and embrace our interactions with interrupters, the greater the opportunity for us to learn about our true capabilities. As we get better at doing this, so too do we become better equipped to make the most of our lives.
“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional” Roger Crawford.
Interrupters: Fine Tuning Our Responses.
While, we don’t have the capacity to prevent or predict life’s challenges, we can control how we respond to them. It’s the ‘interrupters’ that have the greatest potential to cause unwanted disruption and are the most difficult challenges to deal with. It is through our interaction with interrupters that we learn how to manage difficult emotional responses to stress. Mindfulness is the practice of handing these emotionally challenged situations.
Here’s four ways to be more mindful, when tackling those unexpected challenges that all of a sudden appear out of nowhere:
- take control of your emotions resist the urge to spontaneously react
- Quieten your mind
- Make your own decisions
- Use your intuition.
Take control of your emotions and resist the urge to spontaneously react.
Taking control of your reactions means exercising a level of self-control. It’s not unusual to experience heightened emotions, especially when a major interrupter confronts you. Strong emotions, such as anxiety or anger, command immediate action. They often override reason and logic for many people and most times, this scenario never has a happy ending.
When strong feelings arise, it’s a signal that you should physically step back from a situation. This helps you to disengage and detach from the issue/s, and gives you some breathing space. If the feelings become too much try do diffuse them in the best way you know how. Maybe you could take a series of deep breaths, vent to a friend or go for a brisk walk or a run. Whatever it takes to regain your composure, it’s your responsibility to exercise some self-control over the situation. That’s if you want to make both reasonable and rational decisions.
Another simple practice, is to try reasoning with yourself for example, if you’re really angry, try saying something like “If I don’t calm down, I’m going to say or do something I’ll regret later. I need to stay on top of the situation. How can I handle this to get the best outcome?” By taking the initiative, you are not only taking back your control over the situation, but also directing a course of action on how you want the situation to play out.
Quieten your mind and stay focused.
Our minds are great storytellers. Once an unexpected event takes place, your mind goes into overdrive and, before you know it, you have created a major drama out of a story it has told you. This increases the likelihood for things to get blown out of proportion. This is neither healthy, nor helpful, to the situation at hand. How many times have you been confronted by an issue and the end result was not nearly as bad as you thought it was going to be?
When your mind is racing, try closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths. Focus on your breathing and at the same time picture a blank canvas. When negative thoughts arise, allow them to come to the surface and release them. Put your intent onto observing your thoughts but not attaching to them. Try telling yourself, “Negative thoughts are neither useful or helpful to the present situation.” When your mind is clearer and you have returned to the present moment, that’s when you can begin to realistically assess the situation.
Make your own decisions.
It’s okay to share your issues with someone you trust and who cares about you. Sometimes, talking about things can help you get a clearer picture about what needs to do be done. But the bottom line is you should never depend on others to make your decisions for you, especially if the issue affects your personal wellbeing. Try trusting in yourself to make the right decision you might be surprised at how competent you are at doing this.
Before you make a decision, try recalling what just happened. It’s super important to recall the situation, realistically and objectively rather than emotively or judgmentally. Next, gather all the facts and the relevant information, so you can make a well-informed and grounded decision. Now look at your options and narrow them down. Try checking in with yourself to see which option/s feels the best. Once you’ve identified the best option, feel free to go ahead with the decision. But remember, your welfare is the most important thing here, honour yourself above all and you will find it easier to move in the right direction.
Use your intuition.
Francis P Cholle, a best selling author of the book Intuitive Compass refers to intuition as, “A process that gives us the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning, bridging the gap between the conscious and non-conscious parts of our mind, and also between instinct and reason.” Personally, I think there’s a lot to be said about this unique and wonderful resource. It’s like having your own personal GPS; it will always point you in the right direction if you give it the information and time it needs to process it.
Tapping into intuition involves being in the present moment, becoming still and recognising your body’s cues. When you are both present and still, try running a decision through your body and see how it responds. If you feel any discomfort, tightness or agitation, it’s probably a sign that you might need to tweak the decision, or reroute it completely. When you make right decision your body will gently meld with you and you will know it’s the right way to go. The one great thing about intuition is this resource available to you 24/7 and its custom made.
I hope you will find some of these mindfulness techniques useful towards formulating better responses to life’s ups and downs. The more practice you have with effectively handling interrupters, the greater your capacity to deal with life’s adverse events.
“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back”