Finding calm in the chaos: pressing the pause button

Finding calm in the chaos: pressing the pause button

Sitting, marvelling at the beauty of the blue sky on a clear, sunny day. Wondering at the bright, shining stars on a crystal clear night, gentle waves washing in and out on a white sandy beach, or strolling slowly along a winding nature trail, with the gentle breeze caressing your skin

These are things that we can all imagine and see the images in our minds eye, as we allow yourself to be in the moment. You don’t even have to physically go to these places to enjoy their benefits – just imagining them can help you to feel tranquil and at peace.

A short mindful, visualisation exercise for you to try

So, try this little exercise. Sit in a quiet place and allow your eyes to close and as your eyes close, bring your attention to your breathing, taking a deep slow breath in and then gently pushing all the way out, repeating this conscious breathing 5 times, then allowing your breathing to return to its normal, slow, relaxed rhythm. And, as you begin to feel more relaxed, let your mind drift so that the images of your favourite, peaceful place become clear in your mind’s eye, and as you do this, feel the calmness flowing through your entire body …  

This is just one of many techniques I use with my clients, as a Wellbeing Specialist. I hope you found this short exercise useful. If you did, great, if you didn’t that’s fine too, we are all different and sometimes all it takes is a little more practice

So here I share my story, to help you find calm in the chaos…

I used to be stressed and overwhelmed

Having worked in the corporate world for 28 years I felt stressed for long periods of time. There were always demands on my time, people expected, demanded so much that I felt under constant pressure and totally overwhelmed. After years of being in this heightened state, I found I’d become a very reactive person, who often responded to even minor situations with frustration and at times anger.

This was not a healthy way to be – not for my mind, my body, nor at times for the people around me. 

So what was going on for me?

My fight or flight response (also called hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) had kicked in, I was running on high alert. The constant stress and overwhelm I was feeling triggered a physiological reaction that normally only occurs in the face of danger or threat to life.

On researching the reason why I was feeling and reacting in this way, I discovered that the amygdala in my brain had hijacked control of my response to stress. The science behind this is, the amygdala disables the frontal lobes and activates the fight or flight response. Without the frontal lobes, you can’t think clearly, make rational decisions, or control your responses

The problem is, in today’s hectic, pressurised world, your body can overreact to stressors that are not actually life-threatening. Like work pressures, deadlines, high expectations and working long, draining hours.

My body was simply responding to these stressors and made my body prepare for fight or flight.

Prolonged periods of stress and overwhelm can be extremely damaging to your mental and physical wellbeing. Fight or flight is only meant to be a brief response that quickly subsides when danger has passed. Today, constant stressors mean it can last much longer.

Unfortunately, my body was constantly ready for action. I knew I couldn’t go on living in this state of high alert, a constantly stressed state, so I had to do something about it…  

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl

Finding a different way, finding my pause button

While you can’t always control what life throws your way, you can choose how to react: As I searched for a solution, I came across this quote from holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, he said

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

So that’s exactly what I did – I chose to change my unhealthy, damaging way of being.

At first I found a self-help group that majored in meditation, which helped me to quiet my mind. This then led to practicing mindfulness and ultimately studying the energy healing practice of Reiki. Within a few months of following and immersing myself in these disciplines, I found what I refer to as my ‘Pause Button.’

It was truly life changing. Using the techniques I had learned, I found I was no longer a reactive person, instead, whenever there was a stimulus, be it minor, or something major in my life, I’d press my pause button to allow my mind to process the information before I responded. You see, I found that between stimulus and response there was a space, a space where it seemed like time stood still, this is where I pressed my pause button. I found within this space, I had time to reflect and develop an appropriate response to the stimulus, in a calm and considered way.

After much practice, my ‘positive, healthy thinking muscle’ became stronger and stronger and I went from being out of control and reactive, to being to calm and in control. I became highly effective as a manager, leader, student, parent, partner and sportsman, all areas of my life improved.

I felt good…

Life felt good…

It was as if I’d been wrapped in a blanket of calm and positivity.

I was not the only one who noticed this change

People around me, including my line manager, began to notice the transformation and commented that I was a changed person. As a result I became a more valued member of the management team and became increasingly included in the decision making process within the organisation. People started coming to me in all areas of my life, it was as though I’d become their go-to person when they needed guidance or advice. Even when they simply wanted someone to listen to their challenges, within a calm, safe space.

Finding my purpose

In time, I became highly attuned to other people and highly skilled at listening to understand (rather than listening to respond). I was amazed that what began as self-help had become a desire, a passion to help others in a powerful way.

I’d found my purpose.

I made the decision to leave my secure, managerial role within the corporate world and started my own business, which I named Clock and Compass. So why Clock and Compass? The clock represents the time we have and how we spend it, the compass is our purpose, our direction in life. I help my clients to synchronise their internal clock with their internal compass, so that they spend more of their time doing what matters most in their lives.

“Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least” Stephen R Covey

The mind is so powerful and you have control over your thoughts. Remember, you get more of what you focus on, so focus on more of the positive … It’s so powerful, any time I choose I can set the intention in my mind and it takes me to my favourite place on a beautiful sandy beach, where the sky is clear and blue, the sun is warm and shining brightly and I can see and hear the gentle waves as they wash in and out on the shore. You’ve got this, you can do this too …

I hope you found my story interesting and if you want to find out more

Let’s Talk

Author: Daniel O’Connor