Stuck in traffic. Late for a meeting. Can’t fall asleep. Getting kids out the door. Need to have a tough conversation. Concerned about finances. Waiting to hear from the doctor. There are lot’s of situations in life that trigger anxiety or stress. This is normal. This is your body’s way of preparing for challenge.
AND…it does not have to ruin the quality of your life. You can practice being calm in the presence of anxiety and stress. Calm is not the result of suppressing or avoiding upset. Calm is not the opposite of activity. We can be calm as we feel things fully and are actively engaged in meeting the demands of life.
Calm is a state of awareness and acceptance of whatever is happening. We can be fully aware of anger, annoyance, frustration, stress or anxiety and accept it as part of being alive. An acceptance of the fluctuating human experience – sometimes comfortable and sometimes not – allows us to find some peaceful space where we can choose what to do next.
Human beings have an incredible capacity to calmly observe and accept what they are feeling internally and what is going on externally. This is why I teach people how to practice mindfulness. Sitting quietly, observing what is happening, and allowing it to pass without clinging or avoiding — this is powerful training for living a full life.
This practice is not a quick fix and it is not very sexy. A lot of the time you will experience boredom or restlessness. Having the skill of experiencing boredom or restlessness peacefully allows us to be healthier, happier and more connected to others.
The common myth is that mindfulness practice feels good. Sometimes this is true. The practice cultivates your ability to be calm in the presence of turmoil – internal or external. This is not theoretical — this is based on a ton of research as well as my own experience with debilitating anxiety. Yes, it is possible to be calm while anxious.
Dave is the CEO of Applied Attention Coaching and Consulting and the author of Good Life Practice: A Quick Start Guide to Mindful Self-Regulation. View his TedTalk here.