How to Stay Calm in the Midst of External Overwhelm

The financial crisis is on every news channel, every radio station, every newspaper. How is all of this affecting you

I listen and think I'm not reacting, but then when I'm alone, or when I'm writing checks to pay bills, or when a client cancels for some reason, I get caught up in the fear.

All the what ifs start coming into my mind. What if there's another Great Depression What if we can't pay our bills What if our kids can't finish college What if we have a big medical bill we can't pay

Okay, I say to myself, Get a grip.

I relax and allow myself to connect with what's really happening with me and around me. What's really going on is that in a very short period of time, we have lost our feeling of basic security. We feel that we might not be able to provide food, clothing and housing for ourselves and our families. We see the evidence in the news--people losing their homes, seniors sleeping in their cars.

This is a tremendous national loss, and most everyone in our country (and this is global also) is reacting with some kind of grief reaction. Fear, anxiety, physical symptoms, not being able to sleep, over eating, low energy, and sadness are just a few of these symptoms.

When you add this loss on top of other loses from your distant or recent past, you could feel overwhelmed with it.

Do I get upset Yes. Do I start worrying and telling my self how bad it is Yes. Do I get any of the symptoms I listed above Yes.

Then why am I trying to tell you how to stay calm in the midst of all of this

The key here is to allow yourself to be where you are. This is the first step. DO NOT resist. When we resist, we hurt ourselves (I know I'm beginning to sound like a broken record). But, the truth is that it's not what's happening to us, it's our resistance to what's happening to us that causes us the most suffering.

Think about it. I sit down to pay my bills, as most of you do. I see that I've spent more money on groceries this month, and in fact, have exceeded my budget for food. I then see that my stocks have gone way down and when I watch or listen to the news, it looks like there is no end in sight. I hear talk of depression, Wall Street crashing!

WOW, no wonder I start to feel fear, I may even panic a bit. As I continue to go about my day, I turn on the radio to find out how much my stocks are really going down, and I ask if I should sell everything too, or try and get a little cash out in case I can't buy food tomorrow.

Do you see where this is going My heart rate speeds up, I can't fall asleep at night, I wake up in the middle of the night worrying.

What am I doing I'm resisting. I'm taking the reality of what's happening and I'm fighting it. I keep listening to the news, I ponder and worry about selling my stocks, I get paralyzed with so much worry that I feel sick to my stomach and my sleep is interrupted, etc.

So, what do I do instead I stop resisting. I acknowledge that our country is in trouble. I limit myself as to how much news I'm going to watch (the same news gets repeated over and over again--I won't miss anything is I limit it to 5-10 minutes per day). I take stock of my resources, like who are my support people, what do I actually have available for myself and my family, what are my strengths.

I then call my financial advisors and ask their advise knowing that there is no crystal ball here. The reality is that there is no sure fire way to protect all your assets because we don't know exactly what's going to happen. So, I stop resisting and accept the fact that I'm doing the best I can do with whatever knowledge I have.

I then imagine the very worst, because isn't that what we are trying to really NOT think about (resisting) When I allow myself to really take my own situation to its worst case, I realize that I can survive and so can my family.

Even if we lose EVERYTHING, we can still breath, we can pool resources with neighbors, friends, family, we can all live together in one house, we can make a garden, plant food, share.

We all have INTERNAL resources. This is the 2nd step after you stop resisting, you go inside. All of this financial crisis is happening externally. Do you really have any control of other people, places, or things NO, you don't.

What control do you have You only have control of what you do, say, or think.

I can't control what my own husband does, how can I control what the financial market is going to do But, what I can do is control what goes on inside of me, because what goes on inside of me is how I'm going to be able to react to what goes on outside of me, and here is where the allowing comes in, which allows us to remain calm.

This is what it looks like for me

I listen to the news, it sounds bad. I immediately get scared. I allow myself to feel the fear. I feel the fear by first of all acknowledging it's there. I then consciously relax my body to get into the mode of allowing, rather than resisting. I turn the news off. I make myself a cup of tea, or coffee and go sit in a quiet place where I can either see or feel nature around me (for me it's trees). I sip on my warm drink, allowing it to sooth me. I then very gently and quietly ask myself to think about something that makes me feel better. For me, it's usually that I think about my kids or my dogs. I imagine my kids as children, happy and carefree and it makes me smile. I imagine my doggies playing and imagine their funny little faces, and it makes me laugh. I slowly and gradually start to feel better. Once I start feeling better, I start to think better thoughts and my emotions start becoming less negative and I eventually am in a place where I can go about my day, calm, connected to that peace that is in all of us, if we go looking for it.

I don't suggest that this is easy, but it is very simple. Once we get started on the thinking that causes us a lot of fear, more fear comes and more and more negative emotions come until we are a wreck.

The reason why the spiritual leaders tell us to pray and to meditate is that it shifts our focus away from our negative thoughts. Once we've shifted our focus away from the fearful, we feel better.

Many of you, and myself included at times still, have a lot of resistances to refocusing. Often times, we just forget that we are in control of our internal workings. We may get into blaming and worrying by talking with others who are also blaming and worrying. We think this brings us comfort, but it's really making us continue to feel bad. Many of us are in a habit of projecting out onto the world reasons for us feeling bad.

One of the most difficult things for us humans is to believe and know that we are in total control of how we think and therefore how we feel. We keep thinking it's something out there that is causing us our pain, when in fact, it's really our own reactions to what happens out there that is causing us the suffering.

This has taken me years of struggle and seeking to finally come to this knowledge of being able to deliberately create how I feel. I used to say, I wouldn't care if I had to live in a tent in the desert if I could only have peace of mind.

Does it mean that I never feel anguish Of course not. But, what it does mean is that I can catch myself earlier and earlier and then stop the resistence, allow what is, and then intentionally change how I feel.

This is a process and many of you already do this. Some of you do it immediately, some of you do it for some things, but have pockets of areas where you truly believe that it really is the external that is causing you the pain.

What's important here is that we all be gentle with ourselves, not judge where we are, and allow ourselves to be where we are. Why Because where we are is where we are. When we fully embrace what is at the moment is when we can move forward, get clarity, and come to peace.