How to Stay Centered in the Face of Adversity

“In bad times and good, I have never lost my sense of zest for life.” – Walt Disney

Our world is filled with millions of exotic creatures, most of which we are unaware of.

Fortunately, there are countless documentaries made that give us a glimpse into the mysterious lives of our fellow earthlings. These features remind us of the prevailing sense of order that orchestrates the great circle of life.

If you watch any documentary about the wilderness in the African savannah, you will most definitely see footage of a lion hunting for prey. The antelope is a typical prey of the lion. A normally calm creature, the antelope only reacts violently when it senses a threat (such as a lion hiding out in the bushes). When it does, it runs for its life.

At this crucial point, the antelope operates from a survival mechanism known as “fight or flight”. As humans, we too have this instinctual drive, hardwired into our system. The only difference between us and the antelope is that we can be conscious of when we react in this way.

Our caveman ancestors found this mechanism especially useful when dealing with impending threats such as wild animals and other tribal factions. But in our modern times, we don’t have to worry about defending ourselves against saber tooth tigers when stepping out of our homes.

Yet many of us still stress out in the same way our ancestors did when they faced real danger. We panic about matters related to modern day challenges in our careers and relationships, which usually do not pose a direct threat on our physical well-being.

When we face a period of crises in either of those areas, we may feel like we are caught up in a storm and the winds are shaking up our internal structure of security. It might even feel like it’s making our whole world crumble down. Sadly, many people have taken their lives in this frame of mind.

The key to getting out of this emotional maelstrom is realizing that at the root of all this pain is the fear of losing control of our lives. If we had things our way, we would prefer to have more stability, comfort and predictability in our lives. But, as we all know, life does not work that way.

The reality is that we can’t control other people and circumstances around us. The sooner we make peace with this reality, the faster we can learn to cope with the uncertainties of life and the unanticipated challenges that come with it.

The only thing we can control is how we react to these unforeseen changes, and we can choose a path that is healthy, self-preserving, and moves us in a positive direction. According to most religious and spiritual scriptures, the best way to do this is by going within and channeling our inner strength that exists at the core of our being.

Just as how the calmest part of a storm is at its center, our most peaceful and stable place can be found in our center. All we need to do to avoid being swept away by the strong currents of emotions within a crisis is simply by going within.

One of my favorite ways to do this is based on a technique called “S.T.O.P.”, created by spiritual leader and author, Deepak Chopra. It has helped me maintain my composure and manage my reactions, during some trying times, by re-centering myself.

Using the acronym “S.T.O.P”, you too can guide yourself towards a calmer and loving state of being.

S. Stands for stop; just stop, hold on, wait a minute.

T. Stands for take three deep breaths and then smile.

O. Stands for observe what’s happening inside of you. It probably doesn’t feel very good. But you have to observe it to know that.

P. Stands for proceed with awareness and kindness.

Taking the time to stop and tune into our inner world so that we can acknowledge what we are feeling is an essential step towards becoming centered and moving away from panic and anxiety.

This exercise will instantly calm your nerves and allow you to proceed with a more relaxed state of mind. With this mindset, you can develop a more empowering perspective by asking yourself the following questions:

What can be changed about my current situation?
What cannot be changed about my current situation?
What do I need to feel supported now?
Your responses to these questions will frame your situation in a way that will help you see things more clearly and make you more solution-oriented. It will put you back into the driver’s seat so that you can take charge of your life.

This exercise will also make it easier for you to learn how to accept the things that you cannot change. Although this may seem difficult to do at first, learning the art of surrendering to a higher force will give you the courage and strength to deal with the uncertainties of life.

Like a voyager at sea, you will be able to navigate your ship during storms and choppy waters by adjusting your sails and following your true north. And when the sun does come out, you can step out onto the deck and admire the expansive vistas that lie ahead in the distant horizon, and all the promises that it will bring to you.

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