Calming the Chaos

April 27, 2012 by Lynn Faughey

Isn’t it funny how quickly calm can turn to chaos?  A perfectly manageable day can turn unmanageable with the arrival of just a phone call or a few e-mails.  Your boss, your co-worker, your client all need something from you and the only common denominator is that they all need it now.  It’s hard not to get a little aggravated when so much gets thrown at you all at once and while you can’t always control the demands being placed on you, you can control how you handle them.

Rose and I attended a seminar conducted by Michelle Alva, fittingly called “Achieving Calm Amidst the Chaos”.  Alva’s background as a physical therapist, yoga therapist and energy medicine practitioner, among other things, provided us some interesting ideas on how to manage those moments that make us crazy.  We all know that chaos comes in many forms –  from a traffic jam to juggling the kids’ activities to work demands, really anything that causes stress or frustration.  Alva explained that the key to dealing with the chaos is in how we respond to it.  As an example, imagine being caught in traffic and late for an important meeting.  You’ve moved maybe three inches in the last twenty minutes and you’re getting more annoyed by the minute.  Giving into the negative emotion is the way most of us go, we’re irritated, we’re impatient, we’re stressed.  Traffic does that to people!  In reality, none of those feelings are particularly helpful and are certainly not going to make traffic move any faster.  Instead of allowing the chaos to get to you, Alva offered a few suggestions to help you get through those trying times.

Take deep breaths. Times of stress can cause your breathing to become more rapid.  Focusing on your breathing automatically takes your focus off the source of your frustration and has a calming effect.

Visualize.  Imagine you’re viewing the situation, whatever it is, through the eyes of a video camera.  Now you’re a spectator and not a participant.  For example, you’re now watching the traffic jam, not in the traffic jam.  Altering your view can help you to mentally and emotionally distance yourself from the negative situation. It can allow you to calm down, regroup and move forward.

Realize that it’s not personal.  Yes the traffic tie-up is making you late, but the accident up ahead that caused it is not about you.  Taking a moment to think about the bigger picture can help you to refocus on what you actually can control.

Especially during those times when everything seems to happen at once it’s easy to get pulled in many directions. Don’t try and process everything at once.  If you find yourself amidst the chaos give yourself a quick mental time-out.  Focus on something such as taking a few deep breaths and clearing your head.  Alva also suggests focusing on one sense at a time, for example listening.  If you’re in a traffic jam turn on the radio and listen intently to a song.  Listen to the words, focus on the message, tune out everything else.

I’m hoping to take some of Alva’s ideas and put them into practice the next time my calm is interrupted by chaos.  I’d be interested to hear any ways you’ve found helpful in keeping your cool when things get challenging.  Feel free to drop me a line.

-Lynn Faughey, FlexPro COO

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