What to do to protect your calm when your stress level skyrockets.
The world has always been rife with turmoil in one part of the world or another. And lately, horrible events seem to be stacking on top of each other.
We’re bombarded daily with devastation, treachery, and just plain awfulness. From the recent outbreak of war between Hamas and Israel, Ukraine and Russia, Sudan and Iran conflicts, Fentanyl overdoses, shootings, and fires in Canada and Maui. It’s hard not to be affected when you feel the pain of others or even be afraid for your and your family’s safety.
How do we keep going “business as usual” during so much suffering, especially when it hits close to home? When do your spiritual belief system, heritage, family, friends, and neighbors feel in danger?
Processing emotional overwhelm
As a Jewish woman, my heart ached, my energy drained, and my mind was overrun with hopelessness, disbelief, and mourning about the recent attacks on innocent people in Israel and Gaza. I experienced a constant eruption of tears, and I found it challenging to be present for anyone or anything outside absorbing the horrific news.
As a mother, I summoned every ounce of energy in my reserves to make breakfast, share excitement about my kids’ achievements, help with homework, and read bedtime stories.
But my lack of full presence was noticed.
One of my kids called me from school, worried about seeing me so upset. I’m usually “The Queen of Calm,” right? Seeing me in distress and so sad unearthed her. She didn’t know how to navigate what this recent conflict meant to her and our safety.
How I talked about the Hamas attack with my older kids
Here’s what I told her, which I also needed to hear.
- We can only take one step at a time. We don’t know what the future holds. What we do know is that right now, right here, we are safe.
- We can know what is in and out of our control. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs. We can disagree and have peaceful and hopefully productive conversations.
- Two things that are in our control are how we treat ourselves and how we treat others. We can be kind to ourselves to have our whole minds and energy available to support those who need it. And we can foster and maintain positive relationships. If we care for ourselves and are kind to those around us, we make a positive impact for the greatest good.
As parents, it’s okay to show our emotions, but we also need to preserve our calm for our sanity, health, and that of our kids. So many of us are experiencing entire days and nights at level 10 stress. Studies show chronic stress leads to a compromised immune system, illness, and a shortened lifespan. This is why it’s imperative to give your body a break from constant cortisol release and have at least some moments of relief.
How to navigate a crisis toward calm
- Feel the feelings. Don’t push them down or try to ignore them. They have no place to go when you keep them in. Whatever your modality is, be it journaling or talking, get your thoughts out.
- Tell those around you what’s happening and how it has affected you. This will help others understand how to support and give you compassion and grace.
- Think about and take action on what is in your control. And let go of the guilt and internal conflict of what you cannot control.
- Use your calm strategies (here’s my “2 minutes to calm” download) to support your nervous system, even if your mind isn’t ready to be there.
- As much as possible, limit exposure to distressing news, especially in the morning when starting your day and at night before going to bed.
- Maintain a routine and connect with supportive friends or family members.
It may seem impossible to get to a calm state amid a storm. That is more than understandable. For days, my body has been on high alert from the moment I wake up until I fall asleep, with racing thoughts and feelings all day long.
But, we can help our bodies and minds throughout the day with micro-practices to soften the amount of stress we endure.
We can start and end the day with practices that support our calm and regulate our nervous system, in addition to anchoring moments throughout the day that bring relief, even if only momentarily.
By practicing these strategies and calm as often as possible during any major crisis that causes extreme overwhelm, your body will have more moments of reprieve to set you up mentally, emotionally, and physically to best take care of yourself, your family, and support those in need.
To read more on parenting with the five pillars of calm, pick up my book, Chaos to Calm: 5 Ways Busy Parents Can Break Free From Overwhelm, and sign up for my Own Your Calm newsletter!
Reach out, I’m here for you.