This morning, as I sat down to write, I received an upsetting phone call that kicked my adrenal system into high gear. As soon as I felt the cortisol running through my veins, I instinctively took a slow, deep breath and used a technique I learned from my friend Russ Hudson to keep myself in a calm, helpful state.
As I listened to the distressing details, I engaged my senses to stay present so I wouldn’t get on the crazy train. The crazy train is the ride the mind takes as it starts to imagine scenarios (often worst-case) during stressful events. Once you’re on that train, it quickly speeds up and before you know it your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes shallow, and you become part of the problem rather than the solution.
Prior to the phone call, I was already feeling overwhelmed having watched a bit of the news about the heart-breaking destruction in Florida, the threat of nuclear war from Putin, and the political drama on its way with the midterm elections. In the age of social media and Internet news, the world sits at our doorstep unfolding its challenges at our feet and it’s a tricky balance to stay informed and off the ledge at the same time.
In case it’s helpful (and it really is), I thought I’d share with you what Russ taught me because I use it all the time now to the point where it has become second nature. I think of it as coming home to myself and I use my senses to do so. Here’s how it worked this morning:
As soon as I received the phone call and felt triggered, I heightened my senses. I felt the soft fabric under my hands as they rested on the arms of my chair. I felt my body being cushioned by the seat, and I wiggled my toes to feel my feet on the floor.
I paid close attention to what was in front of me (what I could see). I watched the rise and fall of my cat’s belly as she lay sleeping on the sofa across from me. I noticed the branches of the ash tree outside my window swaying in the wind. I searched the pattern in the floral rug beneath me, looking for my favorite sections.
I also smelled the lavender tea sitting next to me, and the musky scent of a nearby patchouli candle. And I listened to the tap, tap, tap of the bat house fastened to a nearby outer wall as the wind lifted it on and off the building.
All of this happened within a minute or two and it allowed me to stay present, centered and calm, and better able to support my loved one dealing with the problem at hand.
Life is a lot right now. I suspect you feel it, too. How wonderful that we can use our senses to stay present. From now on, let your anxiety or feelings of overwhelm be an invitation to come home to yourself. Before you know it, it will become instinctual for you, too.
For the larger context of this conversation, I invite you to listen to my podcast with Tami Simon from SoundsTrue.com called: Getting off the Crazy Train, Living a Soulful Life. You can listen to it, here.