These last two weeks have been very difficult for many yoga loving, open hearted and equality minded individuals. I was one of many, many, people who stayed up through the night into the wee hours of 2:00 am in utter disbelief of the United States 2016 election results. I kept asking myself, “Is this actually happening?”
In a past blog post I wrote about being sexually assaulted at my workplace by a man who did not pay any legal penalty for his criminal actions. After a “he said, she said” court case I was stunned to see him walk away free. So when a man who bragged about his ability to physically violate women because of his celebrity got voted President of the United States, it triggered my past emotional distress.
And there are a bunch of reasons why many others I know have felt distressing feelings being triggered in them too. Bad times have been stirred up for certain groups who have become targets and many are feeling unsafe.
Whenever a disturbing sexual assault story is being reported in the media it triggers me. I try to become aware of what’s happening with me ASAP. My aim is to stop myself from reacting to things unconsciously. To help with this, I turn to some tried and true strategies for troubling times. We adults are lucky, we can become aware of our emotional distress and take steps to remedy it. Young children are not so fortunate.
Protect Children Through Troubling Times
Children are like sponges, absorbing the energy around them. Once they’ve internalized their environment they begin to reflect it back outward. They may not know why they feel afraid or even that what they are feeling is fear. It’s up to us adults to protect kids by creating a healthy emotional environment for them.
In times of emotional distress, how can we make ourselves and the children around us feel safe and grounded? The key is to give ourselves some perspective and a few messages of hope. Here are 6 strategies for feeling grounded again:
- Practice mindfulness – take a few slow, relaxing breaths and bring yourself into the present moment. Remind yourself, in this moment, in your own home, you are safe. This will help you release fear of catastrophes that are formulating in your mind. Follow up with yoga and meditation to refocus your mind in a healthy way.
- Acknowledge life is not always easy – There may be very difficult times ahead and the only way to get through them is to keep grounded, strong and healthy to do the important work ahead. I moved through my pain and disbelief by talking it through with friends. These like-minded people helped to remind me that life may not be easy but having the support of others makes getting through the hard times easier. No matter our distress, finding positive minded individuals can get us through it.
- Focus on personal or family goals – Our path doesn’t always move forward in a straight line. Sometimes things drift too far left and other times too far right. They may even seem to be going backward at times. It’s our job to ensure we keep moving towards our goals and well-being regardless of the detour the world throws at us. The world will come around to join us eventually.
- Focus on personal values – Ask yourself “What’s important for me and my family? What do I hold dear?” Don’t let your values go out the window when times are tough. Hold on to them because they will be your guide and anchor during the hard times. Those with strong values guide others who are feeling lost. It’s during troubling times more than ever that it’s important to have leaders who remain focused on their true values.
- Conserve your mental energy – Limit the amount of time you read or watch news. A continual barrage of bad news or dismal forecasts can be mentally exhausting. Just like the student in the story of the empty cup, once your mind is full of unhealthy ideas there is no room left for healthy ideas. Save your energy to tend to your well-being. Don’t spend it on fear and worry.
- Take action – Sometimes the only thing that helps is doing something concrete. Honor your feelings. Sometimes even anger and fear can spark positive action. Focus on clear and easy things you can do. Donate to a cause. Volunteer to help a group in need. Bring yoga and meditation to those in distress. Teach children why you hold your values so dearly. Or choose to not add to the doom and gloom, especially when children are around.
Yogi Bhajan had a saying, “If you don’t see God in all, you don’t see God at all.” This is a reminder that everyone is different and they have their own lived experience. Yes, there are terrible people in the world and we should not give terrible people a free pass to do terrible things. But not everyone we disagree with is a terrible person.
I reminded myself that I may have some friends who voted differently than I would have. I may not know why they did so but I know they are not bad people. I respect them enough to know they had their reasons and that their reasons are important to them. We can use the tools of mindfulness, awareness and yoga to continue to work together to make the world better for each other and for all our children, even in troubling times.
Now Your Turn… Share Your Strategies
As Thanksgiving come closer, have you found strategies for keeping centered during times of stress? Do you need suggestions?
You can share your ideas in the comments. Let’s come back to these when we need them!
If you’d like to fill your cup with more yoga and meditation tools and resources visit the Upcoming Kids Yoga Teacher Training Courses page.