"Staying on guard takes a tremendous amount of effort, and eventually it will wear you down."

Other titles you may like.

An Invitation To Self-Care

The Recovering Body

Help for the Hard Times

Visit Recovery Road to view and listen to all the episodes.

Episode 40 -- Auhust 31, 2020

Finding Calm in a Crisis: Recharge, Relax, and Remember

It's impossible to have a problem-free life. The global effects of coronavirus have underscored this reality. Living well in these times includes discovering ways to stay healthy, positive, self-loving, and helpfully connected with others while we navigate problems big and small. Written originally for young people, this excerpt from Earl Hipp's book, Feed Your Head: Some Excellent Stuff on Being Yourself, offers specific ways to channel energy, access calm, and stay in touch, even when the storms are raging.

It has been edited for brevity.

The Eye of the Storm
Everyone, absolutely everyone, has times when their life is pretty rough. It's as though we're in a small boat tossing and crashing about on the ocean in the middle of a big storm. We feel vulnerable, without direction or much control over our fate, scared, and lonely. And as with a bad storm, when we're in the middle of a crisis we often feel like it will never end.

Fortunately, most storms--the ones at sea and the ones in our personal lives--don't last forever. They do tend to blow over, and learning to survive these storms is an important skill for getting a great life.

A hurricane is one of the most devastating storms, with winds often reaching well over a hundred miles-per-hour. Needless to say, they make a mess of whatever is in their path. But right in the middle of all the raging confusion is a wonderful, calm place where the wind is quiet and the sun is shining. This place is called the eye of the storm.

One way to get through the hard times--life's "hurricanes"--is to find life's "eye," a place where we can rest and collect ourselves before heading back into the struggle. There are a couple of ways to get into the eye. One is staying physically healthy and calm. The other is regularly taking the time to boost your feelings of competency and self-esteem.

Recharging Your Batteries
When life is full of ups and downs and you are working hard to cope with challenges, your body gets strung out. You may feel like a cat who's been living in a neighborhood full of unfriendly dogs--on guard for danger all the time. Staying on guard takes a tremendous amount of effort, and eventually it will wear you down physically.

It's important to sense early on when your body's "batteries" are getting low, and then to do something positive to recharge them. Here are three of many ways to help your body recharge physically:

  • Be physically active: As strange as it seems, reasonable and regular physical activity really helps. It gets your heart pumping and sweeps out all those nervous chemicals your body makes when it's stressed.
  • Don't "drink" fear: Too much caffeine creates some of the same reactions in your body as fear--tension, nervousness, and stress. It's easy to consume a lot of caffeine and not know it. Coffee is an obvious source, but caffeine is also a major ingredient in many soft drinks. If you're already in a crisis, drinking more stress is not what you need! If you are fragile and nervous anyway, the added stress of caffeine can push you over the edge.
  • Get quiet: Healthy ways to temporarily find the eye of life's storms include taking a hot bath, listening to relaxing music, using a relaxation tape or technique, or taking a nap. Any other method that helps you become physically calm and to focus on something other than your worries is great too.

Build Up Your Self-Esteem
As the storms of life wash over you, you may become unsure of your strengths and your ability to successfully work through the situation you're in. The skill you need here is to sense when you are beginning to feel helpless, overwhelmed, or that you just can't handle things. At that point, call a "time-out" to build your confidence and self-esteem.

Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Focus on things you can be thankful for (your gratitude factors): It is important during the hard times to remember and stay in touch with what you like about yourself and with the parts of your life that are going well.
  • Share your fears with someone you trust: A problem shared is a problem cut in half. Talking to another person will help you not feel alone with your feelings. Supportive friends can help you remember your strengths. And because they're not so closely involved in the storm, friends can also help you look at your situation more clearly and objectively.
  • Remember that you have weathered other storms: You are basically a survivor who has gotten through hard times before. And you have seen your friends get through them too. Remembering--knowing--that the storm will end can help you endure what is difficult now.
  • Focus on some of the things you are good at: You may not be able to resolve your immediate challenges right now. Rather than letting yourself be swept up by feelings of incompetence, focus on and put a little extra energy in the things you are good at.
  • Ask for help: Because our culture encourages us (especially guys) to be "tough"--to hide our pain and "go it alone"--we often forget about all the help that is right around us. Or even if we remember, we're afraid to ask for it. Having other people help out is a nice reminder that we can very often depend on others if we only let someone know we need them. Asking for help when it's needed is the normal response of a psychologically healthy person.

Trying to have a life without problems is NOT the challenge. That's impossible. Instead, it's discovering how to stay calm, healthy, positive, self-loving, and in touch with others in supportive ways while we work to solve the problems that come our way.

About the Author:
Earl Hipp is a writer, speaker, and consultant. He works with businesses, schools, parent groups, and other organizations to help people manage life's challenges and get along with each other better. He has written Fighting Invisible Tigers - A Stress Management Guide for Teens, and three pamphlets for Hazelden's Step Meetings for Young People series.

© 1991 Text, Earl Hipp; illustrations, L.K. Hanson
All rights reserved