There are times when life really challenges us. When it asks us to use every drop of strength and courage we have to cope with a situation or crisis.
Whether it is a short term upheaval like an accident or a long term challenge such as a bereavement, we have to gather all our tools, all our strength and find a way to get through.
If you are above school age, chances are life has challenged you at some point. It may have been the loss of a loved or beloved pet. It may have been a serious illness you had to battle against. Perhaps you lost your job and been worried about your financial future and security.
Whatever challenges life has thrown at you, you have survived. I know that because you are reading this.
Why am I mentioning this?
Well, this weekend my family had their coping strategies challenged and it was fascinating watching the range of responses to the situation.
To give you some background we were having a day out; my husband and children, my parents, my sister and her family and her in laws. Everyone was having a lovely time, enjoying the weather and each other’s company when something happened which changed the entire course of the day.
There was an accident involving one of the children. I feel able to talk about this now because they are ok, but I won’t go into details.
Everyone present loves that little bundle of joy so much, and we are all equally besotted with her.
The range of reactions was interesting though.
The parents jumped into action and doing what needed to be done along with one grandparent who was driving – the rest of us had walked. The remaining adults comforted the children and each other. There was a brief period of panic and, in some cases, hysteria and then there was nothing further we could do.
Some of the adults, and older children, were clearly reliving the experience and trying to predict the outcome – impossible.
The youngest child, once recovered from the drama, carried on as normal, playing, chatting and eating ice lollies.
The remaining adults, for a variety of reasons, just carried on until there was news and something to be done, practically to help.
This is the very essence of mindfulness.
Living in the moment. Reacting to what is happening, not what we imagine might happen.
When life challenges us it is easy to get lost in a sea of “what ifs” and “if onlys” but it is only what we can do differently now that matters.
Even at the most desperate times we always have a choice about what we think and how we react.
We could have chosen to abandon the day out and sit panicking in a tea room somewhere but we chose to entertain the children and keep ourselves busy to pass the time until there was more news.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor”Thich Nhat Nanh
Passing the time and focusing on what we could change was the only option we had. The children were already upset and distraction is a powerful tool for young minds.
It is important that when life presents us with obstacles and situations to deal with which feel like they might break us, that we take a deep breath and use that time to make some choices. We can choose to be a victim of circumstance or we can choose to be the captain of our own ship.
Even at the most challenging moments we can ask ourselves; what is the most beneficial thing I can do for myself right now? It may be to have a cup of sweet tea and a piece of cake (we did that on Saturday too!), sometimes that is enough to steady our nerves and give us the energy to carry on. It may be to create an action plan to get us out of the crisis we have found ourselves in. Or it may be to sit in self care; have a bath, go for a run, treat ourselves to whatever our soul needs right now.
Life is precious and if we don't live every minute as though we mean it, we're wasting the most valuable commodity we have, time. Click To Tweet
When we take time to breath and really think about what the best course of action is, we can amaze ourselves with the resilience and strength we have within us. We all have it, we just have to find it and mindfulness is a great map to help us find it.
What do I mean by mindfulness?
Well, I have already said that in essence it is just being present but I appreciate that that is an abstract concept. Why not try this easy mindful breathing exercise next time you are under pressure.
Close your eyes and relax your shoulders.
Take a deep breath in through your nose and feel the breath entering your nose. Does it feel warm or cold? Did you feel your breath anywhere else as you took the breath in, maybe the back of your throat or your chest?
As you breathe out pay attention to your breath again.
This time as you breathe in imagine the air entering your body is a beautiful calming blue and it makes you feel so relaxed as it enters your body.
When you breathe out imagine that calming blue breath is removing any stress and tension from your body.
Repeat this 3-5 times or as many as you need to begin to feel more calm and relaxed.