In this stressful time, it may seem like avoidance of social media, television, other people, and uncomfortable situations, etc would seem like a good idea. But it’s actually not. It creates a pattern of behavior that actually, in the long run, makes feelings of anxiety and depression and confrontation issues worse and doesn’t give us the tools to actually deal with difficult situations we face in life.
Now is the perfect time to learn how to deal with uncomfortable and challenging situations head on, as opposed to bypassing them. We can learn to be active instead of reactive participants in life. This is one of the main teachings of Ch 1 and 2 of the ancient text, the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna tells Arjuna, who has decided to practice avoidance and not fight in battle, to get up and fight, and he teaches him tools to face confrontation successfully. He teaches us that we don’t bypass suffering through avoidance. We learn to mindfully and unconditionally interact with life.
Just as avoidance is unhealthy, it is also equally as unhealthy to deal with uncomfortable situations by “checking out” and diving into drinking, overeating, undereating, drugs, overexercising, self harm, or other coping mechanisms that perpetuate avoidance behavior and hurt the body in the process. The body is the vehicle of the Spirit. We need to take care of the body. It’s the only one we’ve got in this lifetime.
It’s important to take steps to deal with the stress in active ways. Acknowledge the uncomfortable feelings and participate in activities that allow you to make steps towards feeling relief. Journal to get the thoughts out of your mind. Practice gentle yoga to calm the nervous system. Meditate by watching and counting the breath. Walk calmly in nature. Get creative and make art or participate in crafts. Take baths. Participate in fun activities that bring you happiness. Maintain a healthy diet and regular daily schedule. Reach out to friends.
If we are taking care of ourselves and making sure our own cup is full, then we won’t have to avoid difficult situations like what is happening in our world today. It’s important to be aware of what is unfolding now and not bypass it. This is just a larger example of little uncomfortable unfoldings that happen every day. When we are exercising and we hit that challenging moment, we don’t stop and say I’m not continuing with this. We move through it. When we are on our yoga mats, we don’t stop practicing and run out of the room. We breathe through it. When we have a difficult client at work, do we stop the meeting and leave the building? No; we handle it. The same applies in the world today. We handle it.
Acknowledging and meeting challenging situations can be hard. It can hurt. It can cause anger, fear, sadness, frustration, loneliness and disappointment among other feelings. But the answer isn’t to decide to bypass it in order to not feel those things and make them magically disappear. We have to learn to cope with difficult feelings and situations through mindfulness.
Sit with the emotion when it comes up. Move into it. Feel it. Identify it. Acknowledge what it’s trying to tell you. Why did it make you feel that way? Where is the discomfort arising in your body? Then relax, breathe, and let go into it. The key is to not push it away. Resistance equals persistence. If something on social media is making you upset and you want to turn away from it, realize that pushing the emotion away by avoiding it or bypassing it will not make it go away. This is an opportunity to handle a trigger. Otherwise we push those triggers back down inside our system and they fester and come up later and at times, worse than before. Ask yourself what were your expectations in regards to the situation arising? What reactions or judgments do you have? Dig deep to the root of the problem to gain insight as to why it’s causing this discomfort in you. Acknowledge and diagnose the problem, then work towards a solution.
The more we sit with challenging emotions, we come to see that the more attention we place on understanding them, the less intense they get. Awareness brings understanding and understanding opens us to eventual healing and love.
An interesting thing happens the more we practice objective awareness. We start to see that we are not the emotions we are feeling. The emotions are like notes on a guitar. Pluck the string, and it resounds for as long as it does, and it does lessen and go away. The heart is like a stringed instrument in this way, and so is the world. It takes all kinds of high and low notes to make beautiful music. We don’t turn off or run away from the low notes because we don’t like them or the too high notes because they’re too intense. We appreciate all the notes and realize that all are needed to create the piece of music we are enjoying.
If we can learn to see our emotions and world events in a similar way, then we can learn to develop understanding and fortitude. We learn to mindfully work with difficult emotions and situations as opposed to feeling the need to control them. We open instead of closing. Then we can interact with what’s happening in the world around us and we see that our emotions regarding reality unfolding are like clouds passing in the sky and we are the ever steady permanent sky that doesn’t change. Emotions arise like waves in the ocean, and they merge back into the ocean just the same. Life is participating with all of the waves, not just the ones we like.
In summary, the key is to first accept all emotions as natural and able to be handled and understood. Secondly, we take action to deal with the difficult emotions and stressful situations so that we don’t have to avoid them but can better cope and meet them head on when they inevitably arise. By serving ourselves in this way, we can better serve situations and others in our life.