The Being & The Doing EPISODE 4:
Finding Calm in the Midst of Chaos
If life was always smooth sailing then we wouldn’t need to learn how to go with the flow. From minor irritations to major crises, managing stress is an inevitable part of life. Unfortunately, when things are hectic or uncertain, we tend to react in ways that may in fact add to our stress.
In this episode Laurel shares how to manage with greater ease the inevitable ups and downs of life.
HIGHLIGHTS YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS
- Life is an unexpected experience 1:09
- A misconception about going with the flow 3:54
- The key to resilience 6:20
- Your mindset makes a difference 8:46
- Finding inner calm 11:54
- This episode’s homework 15:03
* A full transcript of the show is available below on this page.
Here’s the link to the page for your Being & Doing homework. It includes a little guide with some ideas about making time for both action and awareness. When you grab it you will also get my weekly tips about living life the mindful way.
You can grab your FREE homework Awareness & Action guide HERE
Here’s a blog about how to shift your perspective
Curious about the skillset approach to well-being? Check out the Well-being By Design model
THIS EPISODE’S HOMEWORK
Something to think about:
What does calm feel like?
In our hyper-stressed world, it might have been a while since you experienced a sense of calm. Think about a time when you felt calm – what was that like?
Something to try:
Pause periodically in your day and ask yourself “How am I doing things right now?”
When you ask yourself that question, you are really asking how well you are going with the flow of whatever is happening in the moment. When we pause to ask how we are doing, we give ourselves the chance to switch from being stressed to being calm, grounded and confident.
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CREDITS: The Being & The Doing podcast is produced by Neela Bell. Voiceovers by Jason Harris. Music is GoodMorning Sunshine by Yoav Alyagon and Firefly by Scott Buckley.
Full Transcript of the Show
Intro: Welcome to The Being and The Doing, a podcast about well-being and the practices that help us have more calm, focus, purpose, and presence in our busy lives. Here’s your host, author and life coach, Laurel Vespi.
Laurel: Hey, lovely ones welcome to Episode 4 of The Being and The Doing. Thanks so much for taking the time to tune in. In today’s show, I’m going to share one of the cornerstone skill sets of well-being, the skill set of being able to find calm in the midst of chaos.
When it comes to well-being, I don’t think we’ve been very successful using this tactic of focusing on a long to-do list of activities that are supposed to create wellness in our lives. I think a skill-based approach is a far more powerful and effective way to build the habits and mindsets that actually lead to well-being. I shared more about that back in episode 2.
So today, let’s begin with a question. Have you ever had anything unexpected happen in your life? You know, things don’t go quite the way you imagined, there’s been some interruption to the usual plan or schedule, a ‘wow, didn’t see that coming’ kind of moment? Well, of course, you have, we all have. That’s because life is naturally chaotic.
Chaos means those unexpected events in our lives. They exist on a continuum from small little things to catastrophic things. Things that are happening to you or to someone close to you or in your community or even in the world community.
Stuff happens, big stuff. The stuff that rocks your world and little stuff that’s just annoying or frustrating.
Everything from getting some kind of news that you really did not want to get or getting stuck in traffic or your kids get sick or, I don’t know, there are no ripe bananas at the grocery store.
On any given day there will be unexpected things that happen. Most days something is not going to go the way that you want it to and unfortunately when things are hectic or uncertain, we tend to react in ways that actually in fact add to our stress. Now we know in the 21st century, stress is a major health crisis.
Managing Our Stress
And you might be thinking, well, you know, yeah, that’s true. But I kind of have my stress under control. Like, I know how to manage my own stress but you don’t exist in a vacuum, you exist actually in an ecosystem, the ecosystem of your family or your workplace or your neighborhood or your city or in the world.
You exist in an ecosystem and the stress that people around you are experiencing has an impact physically, mentally, and emotionally on you. So even if you are managing your stress and other people aren’t, you still might need to find ways to remain calm in the midst of other people’s chaos. Because it’s not so much the event that’s happening, the little event or the big event, it’s more about how we’re responding to that particular event.
So this well-being skill set is about the ability to manage stress and the natural chaos that is happening in life with a peaceful heart. It is easy to be calm when everything is calm. It’s about learning how to stay calm and going with the flow in the face of a stressful day. When I say ‘going with the flow’, sometimes people think ‘going with the flow’ that’s about just tolerating things but that’s a big misconception.
‘Going with the flow’ doesn’t mean that you’re apathetic or tolerating things that are unjust. No, ‘going with the flow’ means that you recognize what is happening in this moment and not denying what is happening and not resisting it because what is happening is happening. This skill set is about being conscious and intentional in how you respond to what is happening.
I mentioned Jon Kabat-zinn before, sort of one of the founders of perhaps what we call the modern mindfulness movement. And he uses a great metaphor. He says: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.” So think about those waves, are all of those unexpected naturally chaotic things that happen in life, we can’t stop them. We can’t stop things that are out of our control, but we can learn how to respond to them, how to remain calm in the midst of whatever wave is coming. A little way for a big wave, we can learn to surf it.
So there are lots of different things that we can do to help us go with the flow. And in my well-being by design model, all of these skill sets fall under the category of calm. And by the way, if you want to learn more about this skill set of probes, this well-being by design idea, you can check out the link in the show notes.
So let me share three important things that I think we need to keep in mind about managing the inevitable ups and downs in life with greater ease.
Number one, to understand that resilience is a set of skills. So resilience is not some trait that you’re born with, resilience is actually something that you develop. You learn how to be resilient by practicing these skills every day, especially on things that are minor irritations or disappointments. Because if we can practice every day, finding calm in the midst of the little chaotic unexpected interruptions, distractions frustrations, then we’re building those skills so that we’re better able to cope when the nasty stuff hits the fan.
When a crisis arrives, you need to be able to lean into skills that you already have, not try to build new ones because if the big crisis is happening, you don’t have the time or the energy or the focus or the attention to be learning new skills.
So we practice every day on things that in the big picture don’t really matter that much when the stakes are not that high. Okay, yeah, you’re stuck in traffic. You’re going to be a little bit late; the stakes are not that high. Or there are no ripe bananas in the grocery store, I don’t know why I why that was sticking in my mind. Sometimes you get to the grocery store, I got to get bananas and you go and they’re all like lime green and you think, darn, are the no ripe bananas? Just an unexpected little bit of chaos.
So we practice, when the stakes aren’t that high, we practice reframing, shifting our perspective, how we’re looking at it, we practice positivity habits. We practice being able to switch from plan A to plan B. We practice taking care of ourselves physically. We practice building a support network of people around us who are going to be able to help us when things are much more chaotic or much more stressful.
I’m going to do a podcast just totally on the topic of resilience. But that’s number one. It’s important to keep in mind that resilience is a set of skills that we practice every day.
Number 2 is about mindset because how we think about things, impacts our experience. If we think something is hard, then it’s going to feel hard. If we think something is instead a challenge and maybe things can shift a little bit. Especially if I’m also thinking, I’m capable; I’m able to handle this challenge.
Now, I know you might say okay, that’s just semantics, hard challenge, what does it really matter? Well, one client actually described it to me this way as; however we’re describing it or thinking about it, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. And that you know, she was bang on, that’s exactly right because we like to be right. Human beings like to be right and so we look for evidence to prove or support our position.
So think of it this way, you are getting up in the morning and your alarm didn’t go off. So you’re getting up late and you are now rushing around and you spill coffee on your shirt and now you can’t find your keys and this wonderful phrase ‘it’s going to be one of those days’ comes out of your mouth. And likely what happens is, you have one of those days.
Because you’re going to go through your day now probably like unconsciously, not necessarily consciously, unconsciously collecting up all of the evidence to prove, oh, yeah, it was one of those days. So that at the end of that day, you end up coming home and you get to say at the dinner table: “You know, the alarm was late and I spilled the coffee and I couldn’t find my keys, I knew it was going to be one of those days.”
And yeah, and you know what happened? This and this and this and it really were one of those days because we go looking for evidence to support our position. We can either make things better or we can make things worse by how we think about it. We can either increase our stress or decrease our stress by how we think about it.
And it’s not about denying what’s happening, it’s just, am I in a mindset that is actually helpful? We can focus on, maybe gratitude; maybe positivity, and optimism, hope not fear. When we’re able to shift our perspective the way we’re looking at things then it makes all of the difference.
I left a link in the show notes to a Blog that I wrote about that whole idea of shifting perspective. It talks about putting on your ‘perspecticles’ or the lens that you’re looking at the world through, so you can check that out.
So number one is about understanding that resilience is a set of skills that we practice on a daily basis. And number two is about mindset, mindset matters. And number three is about being able to ground ourselves. Now again, it’s like, oh, what the heck does that mean? Well, groundedness or being centered just simply means just feeling connected and connected to the physical world, to your surroundings, to your body, to your needs in the present moment so that no matter what is going on around you, you can feel this sense of quiet confidence and inner calm.
Because when you don’t feel grounded and centered, you can become really easily distracted and overthink things and worry too much. Do you ever do that? When things are unexpected, not going your way, we can start to overthink it or we start worrying about what if this happens and what if this happens and what if this happens? And the other thing that can happen when we’re not really feeling grounded or centered is that we begin to have this sense of like unsettledness, almost like a very low-grade kind of anxiety.
So being able to re-center ourselves, to take a moment to be able to find that footing again makes all the difference when things are chaotic about you. So it doesn’t matter what is swirling around you, in the center of that, you are standing grounded. And there are some really simple but very powerful techniques that can help you to regain that sense of common focus no matter what is going on around you. No matter what’s trying to push you off balance trying to knock you over, truly the simplest of those is to just focus on your breath for a moment.
You know, just paying attention, bringing your full attention to the fact that you’re breathing and just noticing that you’re inhaling and noticing the little pause that happens before you exhale. Then noticing the little pause that happens again before you inhale for another time and why that works is when we are focused on that, we aren’t focused on the other thoughts.
We aren’t focused on those thoughts that the process of really overthinking things and we’re not focusing on the worrisome thoughts. You know, we’re not jumping on the negative thinking train and riding it to cuckoo town. We are just focusing on our breath and it gives us that little break that then allows us to be able to go forward differently. But really, it’s about knowing what techniques work for you. Like what helps you calm down, calm yourself in the moment.
Because you want to figure those out and then practice them before you actually need them. Because again, when something really knocks you off center is not the time to be learning a new technique, you want something that just is readily at your fingertips that you know works for you.
So for now, let me leave you with a little bit of ‘being and doing’ homework. And you know homework is a great way to kind of lock in your learning about something extended a little bit for yourself, you know something to think about and something to try. So something to think about is really that ‘being’ part of stuff. We’re going to reflect on things, build a little bit of awareness and something to try is the ‘doing’ part of stuff. A little bit of action that often leads to more awareness, but let us try something on.
So write this one down or you can also check out the show notes that because we leave in the show notes the ‘something to think about something to try; homework. Here goes, something to think about. What does calm feel like? Because you know what, in our hyper-stressed out world, it might have been a while since you actually experienced a sense of calm. So think about that. When was the last time that you really felt calm? Maybe you have to think back a while, to a time when you felt calm and what was that like? Because it’s important for us to know what does it feel like to be calm. That’s your something to think about.
Now something to try, pause periodically in your day and ask yourself this question, how am I doing things right now? You may think like, what? When you ask yourself, how am I doing things right now? What you’re really asking is, how well am I going with the flow of whatever is happening right now, in the moment even if it’s chaotic? So when we pause and ask, how are we doing? How am I doing things? We’re giving ourselves a chance to switch from being stressed to being calm.
Switching from feeling sort of off-kilter to feeling more grounded, feeling more confident and from that place, well, then you’re better equipped to be able to manage whatever tasks you have to do in the midst of whatever chaos is there. So just creating a little pause periodically and just asking oh, how am I doing things right now? Am I proceeding calmly?
I’m I proceeding confidently? Am I grounded or not? Like wow, it’s crazy.
So feel free to leave some comments or questions on the show notes page or in iTunes. I really want to hear your thoughts. I’d love to hear your thoughts about other topics that you would like me to take on in The Being and The Doing. Next time, I’m going to share some ideas about the well-being skillset of getting stuff done. But you have stuff to do, we’re going to talk about getting stuff done. But we’re also going to talk about how to focus on the most important things on your to-do list. So, until then lovely ones, pause, breathe, and enjoy your day.
Outro: You’ve been listening to The Being and The Doing with your host, Laurel Vespi. If you liked this episode and think other people would, please subscribe, rate, and give a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Be sure to tune in next week for another conversation about The Being and The Doing. Thanks for listening.