How to Practice Being Calm and Centered

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of reacting to your kids not doing as they have been asked by yelling, or getting fired up about a comment someone wrote on in a Facebook group, or even being passive-aggressive from the frustration you feel from your partners lack of help you could figure out a way to react calmly?  I’m not talking about becoming a robot and turning off all those emotions.  You have every right to feel what you feel, it’s what you do with those emotions that matters.

This past week has had so much turmoil.  The US 2020 election on top of the strain from the rise in coronavirus cases had a lot of people feeling like a wind-up toy.  In my own circle of friends I heard words coming out of their mouths that, in some instances, shocked me a little because of the level of passion they were expressing so I introduced them to a word that has been in the forefront of my mind.  Equanimity.

  1. mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.
    “she accepted both the good and the bad with equanimity

Growing up, I was a reactive person.  I still can be.  On my way to 42, I have discovered I don’t like losing myself in situations.  Allowing my emotions to run away from me, particularly anger and frustration, makes me feel like a three year old having a tantrum.  It does nothing to solve the triggering situation.  As we say to Monty and Grace, yelling and screaming doesn’t get you what you want.  So I have been practicing equanimity. 

  1. Notice – The first step for me is self-awareness.  You can’t change a behavior without first noticing it.  Sometimes I notice it after the fact, sometimes I’m aware enough to catch it in the moment.  Apart from the obvious signal of my voice being raised, I can notice my shoulders rise, my jaw clenching and an unpleasant heat that permeates my body.  Feeling what is going on in my body can halt the runaway train and brings me back to center.
  2. Breathe – Eliot and I say it to the kids when they are upset all the time – ‘Take a breath’.  We should definitely be taking our own advice.  Long, slow deep breaths trigger the rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system, the opposite of the sympathetic which is out fight or flight.  
  3. Ask – After I have noticed the behavior, I ask myself ‘What’s going on here?’.  Asking yourself what is triggering this can help you to uncover what your needs actually are.  Getting frustrated with the kids because they’re not ready for school might be a symptom of a need to feel heard and valued.  Understanding what is really going on within in you can help to communicate your need better or simply adjust your behavior.   

They say practice makes perfect but we aren’t really searching for perfect, just a little bit better each time.  Next time you are feeling off-center and losing control, remember NBA and find your equanimity.  

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