If the last year or so has made anything clear, it’s that a sense of calm in your life is certainly not guaranteed. The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up the world, creating uncertainty through health concerns, unemployment, and distance from family and friends. Is it any wonder that so many people are having to find ways to deal with stress, anxiety, and frustration as a direct result?
It also serves as a reminder that turbulent times tend to come at unexpected moments. This means that it is in your best interest to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that can help you to find a sense of calm throughout the challenges. It’s rarely easy, but it is a vital element to stop you from burning out whether the turbulence comes from global events or personal issues.
Let’s take a few moments to look closer at some areas where you can bolster your response to difficult times in your life and bring yourself that much-needed calm.
Acknowledge the Challenges
One thing that you have to understand about living through difficult times is that you can’t find a sense of calm by simply ignoring the situation. Or, if you do manage to do so, it doesn’t last for long. The elements that make the situation stressful are still going to be there waiting. Therefore, your first best step is to acknowledge the challenges and take full stock of them.
Why can this help you to find calm? Well, it helps you to make more informed plans and decisions about your situation — particularly when the circumstances are complex. Right now, there are a lot of frontline workers who are having to make some difficult and stressful decisions. Medical students in particular are often finding they need to choose whether they forgo advancement of their studies temporarily to make a difference caring for patients right now. Alongside this tough educational and ethical situation, they may also have to weigh up the risks involved with exposure, and the burnout potential for balancing online school with unexpected shifts. This clash of priorities creates chaos in the mind and is disruptive to your wellbeing.
By taking time to fully lay out the challenges, you are in effect shifting them from existing purely inside your own head where they play on your thoughts and induce stress. Write them down, create a visual itinerary of them, and you can obtain a more realistic sense of what they entail. This allows you to prioritize them and approach them logically and with a feeling of control. Though the decisions and issues themselves don’t always get any easier, your way of handling them gives you space in your mind to approach them calmly.
Create and Maintain Boundaries
Among the problems that you might face during turbulent times is the tendency to expect too much of yourself. This is a recipe for chaos. Whatever you are going through, try to assert some strong boundaries to maintain a sense of calm.
This isn’t always easy, but it begins with communication. Identify who the key people that are connected to the sources of challenge in your life are. This is likely to be your family, your employer, and if you’re experiencing an illness, your doctor. Openly discuss with them what the issues are and how they are currently affecting you. Take a solutions-oriented approach in discussing where boundaries can be created that allow you to fully focus on individual responsibilities and also give you that all-important space to breathe.
The most important aspect in ensuring people respect your boundaries is being consistent in maintaining them. It’s difficult, as it’s only natural to want to make things easier for others. However, these allowances often accumulate, and before you know it, your boundaries are non-existent, along with your well-deserved and needed calm. Set up out-of-office replies for work calls outside of your agreed hours. Take yourself away from home and into nature when you need to create a border between home responsibilities. Be strict with yourself on these boundaries as much as anyone else in your life and you can instill a habit of personal care that will help you throughout your life.
If there is anything that can become quickly clear at a time of crisis, it’s that you shouldn’t attempt to address it alone. Taking the stress entirely on your own shoulders is not a route to calm — quite the opposite is likely. As such, putting in place a strong and reliable network of support is vital to your ability to maintain your peace of mind during the most difficult times in your life.
Part of this is about being practical. When challenges hit your life, chances are many of your important tasks and responsibilities can be disrupted. You may not be able to take care of them all in the way you’re used to, or there may be more added to your plate. Talk to friends and family who have the practical ability and the time to lend a hand — if needed, set up a schedule so that everyone knows when help is needed and who is providing it. Where needed, add new experts into your network — a mental health crisis may not just need a psychiatrist, but perhaps also an expert in alternative remedies.
Your support network shouldn’t just be there as a practical tool, though. In hard times, particularly if you’ve received a difficult medical diagnosis, you need your network to help boost your positivity as much as anything else. A bright outlook on life is known to help patients manage their treatments, and surrounding yourself with upbeat, supportive people who can bring some warmth to your life when you need it is important. Indeed, strengthening your support network also means eliminating those people who bring a sense of toxicity to it. When you take a discerning approach to those you share your time with, it makes it easier to find peace at difficult times.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that we all must go through turbulent times. Be honest with yourself about the challenges you face and take the time to set strong boundaries. This, alongside a positive and supportive network, can help you to achieve a sense of calm when faced with the hardships that life can throw at you.