Finding Peace in Difficult Circumstances

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

When the world conspires to destroy our tenuous grasp on peace, we have to strengthen our resolve to find it.   More than just faintly wishing we had more of it, more than believing that it’s out there somewhere, but not knowing how to get our share of it, we have to work to establish—and hold onto it—for ourselves!

Practice these four things every day to erase despair and welcome peace into your life.

1. Stay Grounded in the Present

“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”

Michel de Montaigne

Nothing disrupts our peace quite like being anxious about an unforeseeable future.  They say, “nothing in life is guaranteed”, and yet we feel certain that we could write out a long list of every problem that will undoubtedly befall us. 

We can’t have it both ways: we can’t be anxious about an unknown future and be upset about “known” troubles that are guaranteed to transpire against us. 

Anxiety gains its power when we surrender our peaceful present to worry about an unknown future. 

The way to counter Anxiety and FEAR is to stay firmly grounded in the present. 

“Your anxiety is lying to you.”

Mel Robbins

How do I stay Grounded?

1. Surrender your addiction to worry. 

Yes, some of us are addicted to worry.  It’s not that we enjoy the physical ramifications worry has on us, but we are so accustomed to it, we don’t know how to break free from it. 

Start by believing you have ultimate control of your emotions.  You can choose to be as happy or as worried as you want.  Choose to be so consciously positive, that you make the negativity uncomfortable.

2. Spend 5-10 minutes every morning meditating. 

When you stop continually repeating the same thoughts again and again and concentrate your efforts on pushing all that mental clutter out of your mind, you’ll be amazed at the rush of healthy, focused thoughts that come into your mind. 

Imagine your anxious thoughts as a dam.  They are holding back positive, productive thoughts from flooding your mind. 

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.”

Wayne D. Dyer

Often, when you are able to peacefully manage your thoughts, you will feel a physical reaction as well.  Our bodies crave peace of mind, and when we are able to achieve that—even briefly—our bodies react positively.  Our breathing becomes slower and deeper, our muscle loosen, and a warm sensation spreads through our bodies. 

3. Repeat deep breathing and grounding through the day, as necessary.

Finding Peace when Overwhelmed

In order to hold onto those peaceful physical sensations through the day, it might be necessary to stop periodically and practice deep breathing.  Try breathing in for four seconds, holding that breath for four seconds, breathing out for four seconds, and holding that exhalation for four seconds.  Repeat several times. 

Grounding is particularly beneficial to soothe sudden anxiety.  For this quick exercise, focus on 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can hear, and one thing you can smell.  Focusing on these senses can drive away mental clutter, bring you firmly back into the present, and help your body feel more peaceful. 

2. Focus on What you Can Control

Difficult periods in our lives are made worse by the overwhelming thought that we have no control over anything.  When we focus on everything that is beyond our control, it makes us feel more vulnerable, which can lead to feelings of hostility, isolation, and distrust.  (See “Stop Chasing Happiness” for more about being honest about our emotions.)

Inundating ourselves in Social Media and with the News can often aggravate those feelings. 

Remember the negativity bias in the news, and the positivity bias present in Social Media.  We all tend to post pictures of great adventures, grandiose indulgences, new purchases, romance, big, happy smiles, while hiding pain, suffering, and all kinds of other gritty realities. 

In July 2018, one twitter user posed this challenge:  

Twitter Social Media Challenge

The response was overwhelming.  People from all over replied with vibrant, happy pictures they had posted, while confessing that at the time they were struggling with things such as postpartum depression, hunger, fighting with their spouse, even contemplating suicide.  (Read more about this story here.)

Consider a fast from either or both outlets if you are feeling overly anxious by everything you hear and read. 

However, if not knowing causes you more anxiety than knowing what is going on around you, you can always reach out to a trusted friend for a “News Briefing.” 

Years ago, my sister texted me, “Okay, I’m going off the News for a little while.  You’ll text me if the world is ending, right?”  Easy enough! 

What Can We Control?

In difficult circumstances, it might be beneficial to remind ourselves what we can control: 

  • Out emotions
  • What we say
  • Our thoughts
  • What we think about others
  • How we respond to challenges
  • Being kind/understanding/patient
  • Our choices
  • Telling the truth
  • Taking care of ourselves
  • Working hard
  • Our relationships

Not only is there a lot of power to be had in those things listed above, they are ultimately what are most important to us as individuals. 

If our focus is on being a good human being, a worthwhile member of society, and nurturing our relationships, the ability to do such lies entirely within our control, no matter what is happening around us. 

“You cannot always control what goes on outside.  But you can always control what goes on inside.”

Wayne D. Dyer

3. Seek Laughter

“Always laugh when you can. It’s cheap medicine.”

Lord Byron

There is nothing quite as effective at chasing away despair like laughter.

I remember my sister’s sudden, unexpected death, and how horrible that was for my parents, my 5 siblings, and me.  When we finally all came together for her viewing, I remember my Dad quipping, “Well, Paula, you finally got us all together!”    

The quiet laughter was instantly healing.  His joke wasn’t irreverent or inappropriate, it was reassuring that life goes on and that we will get safely through it.  It immediately–though only momentarily—relieved the heaviness we were feeling. 

Over the years I’ve had many similar experiences, and I’ve come to the conclusion that,

People who are able to illuminate dark situations with the light of laughter are the best kind of people. 

Seek out their company.  They will lighten your load without burdening themselves. 

The Power of Laughter

Honestly, there is no more important time to seek laughter than in times of difficulty.  Depression breeds hopelessness; anxiety breeds anger; chaos breeds despondency.  Laughter interrupts those destructive progressions and brings much needed light into our lives. 

Finding Peace in Difficult Circumstances Laughter

Rejecting laughter is equal to surrendering to despair.  Laughter’s healing nature reminds our bodies, minds, and spirits of the peace we seek.    

4. Establish Your List of Supports

First and foremost, remember that no matter what the circumstance might be, you are not alone.  There are always more out there willing to help than we think—I know that to be true from both the giving and receiving end of that help. 

Talk freely about your concerns.  Be honest about your feelings.  Stop hiding your fears hoping they will magically disappear.  Chances are you will find someone who has felt the same as you and can offer words of advice, or just simple reassurance that this too shall pass. 

In addition to human supports, create an inventory of personal comforts—things that bring you peace in difficult circumstances:

  • Eating well
  • Providing service
  • Good sleep–even short, restorative naps
  • Fun exercise—especially with a friend or family member
  • Getting outside
  • Talking to loved ones
  • Listening/Playing Music
  • Dancing
  • Reading
  • Crafting
  • Playing Board games

It’s your list! Whatever activities that enable you to focus on the present, forget about what is outside of your control, and smile and laugh a little more freely will chase away your anguish and bring you peace, no matter what the difficult circumstance. 

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