Peace in the Midst of Chaos

We’ve all experienced it in our lives – chaos. It’s what we feel when we learn the move-in date for our new home is now a month later than the closing on the sale of our current home. It’s the knot we have in our stomachs when we’re initially diagnosed with an unanticipated and unwanted health issue. It’s the numbness and fear we may feel when we’re served with divorce papers.

we need to find a way to access peace, stillness, and joy in the midst of the storm

Whatever we’re facing, especially if it is a process, we need to find a way to access peace, stillness, and joy in the midst of the storm.

Why?

Well, first of all, we need to decompress physically. The body does not do well operating out of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) all of the time. The SNS ramps up the amount of stress hormones in our bodies, in anticipation of fighting or fleeing a perceived threat. This is a very good thing when we need to deal with an emergency – like finding ourselves on the highway with a wrong-way driver in our lane of traffic. We see the approaching car and instantly are laser-focused. We innately process all of the options at light speed, pick the best one, react quickly, swerve the car, and slow to a stop on the shoulder of the road. Whew! Once we put the car in park to gather ourselves, we notice that our palms are sweaty, our breathing is fast and shallow, and our hearts are racing!

When the SNS is activated, the adrenal system in our bodies releases copious amounts of stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol. This is fine for dealing with infrequent emergencies, but sustained elevations of adrenaline and cortisol over time disrupts our body’s natural processes, and puts us at increased risk for numerous health problems, including: anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and memory/concentration impairment. (Chronic stress puts your health at risk, mayoclinic.org, April 21, 2016.)

In addition to needing to decompress physically, we need to be able to rest and gain perspective – emotionally, mentally and spiritually – throughout the course of a lengthy challenge. Continually thinking and re-thinking things, shooting from the hip, and feeling like our emotional chains are constantly being yanked are exhausting and joyless. Do we make the best decisions for ourselves, and for our families, from the mountain top perspective that takes into account the whole panorama or from down in the valley, where our perception is more myopic?

So, how do we find the stillness, the peace and the joy even in the midst of a daunting process or challenge? Well, I’ve found it, and seen others do so, in one of four ways: prayer, meditation, connection and therapy/coaching.

I believe it was Kelsey Grammer who once said that prayer is when you talk to God, and meditation is when you listen to God. Turns out, there appear to be health benefits associated with both.

PRAYER

increases self-control and tends to make us kinder. It also helps us to be more forgiving and trusting, as well as offsetting the negative effects of stress. (Clay Routledge, Ph.D., 5 Scientifically Supported Benefits of Prayer, psychologytoday.com, June 23, 2014.)

MEDITATION

has been shown to effectively help with stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, and cognitive function. The research also suggests that mediation lowers blood pressure, pain response, hormone levels and even enhances cellular health. (Meredith Melnick, Meditation Health Benefits: What the Practice Does to Your Body, HuffingtonPost.com, May 2, 2013.)

Given these findings, why not use both prayer and meditation to help get through the crisis of chaos? Most everyone knows how to pray, but some folks are intimated by meditation. You don’t have to be a guru, sit on the floor with your legs crossed, or recite some ancient mantra to do it!

You don’t have to be a guru, sit on the floor with your legs crossed, or recite some ancient mantra to do it!
The easiest way to meditate is to sit in a chair, with your feet on the ground and your hands in your lap. Close your eyes. And begin to count your breaths. If you get to twenty, start over. If you have an interceding thought (“I forgot we’re out of ketchup!”), let it go and begin counting your breaths again, starting at one. Set aside ten or twenty minutes, ideally twice a day (morning and evening). The effect on your level of inner peace will astound you.

CONNECTION

is a direct way to navigate through chaos. What do I mean by connection? I’m taking about the benefits associated with being social. And guess what? Social ties are also good for your health! In a culture that values hard work, success and wealth, it’s no surprise that many of us do not set aside enough time to nurture our social connections. Studies seem to show that connection has both short-term benefits (i.e., reduction in the number of colds and flu) and long-term benefits (i.e., better survival rates for diseases and longevity). (Interview of Cecile Andrews by Julie Coutreau, Social Ties are Good for Your Health, bewell.stanford.edu). Perhaps Dr. Christiane Northrup said it best. According to her, “community is immunity.”

THERAPY/COACHING

can also help us get through to the other side of a daunting challenge. How? These processes help us to better understand ourselves, our situations and our goals. In therapy or coaching, we can develop or enhance skills for improving our relationships. We can also utilize our therapist or coach to work through, and overcome, the issue(s) we may be facing. (Christian Nordqvist, What is psychotherapy? What are the benefits of psychotherapy?, medicalnewstoday.com, July 4, 2009.)

Of course, using all four ways at the same time is the grand slam homerun approach to cultivating peace, stillness and joy in the middle of chaos. We become the eye of the storm. While the tempest may be raging around us, we’re in a continual place of repose. Most of the time anyway!

Suzanne E. Grandchamp


UNTANGLE, UNPACK, & LIVE WISELY:

  • How can you cultivate peace, stillness and joy in midst of a current crisis or challenge?
  • Can you lift yourself up through prayer?
  • Can you take even five (5) minutes a day to sit quietly and count your breaths?
  • Are you willing to make time to be with your best friend this week?
  • What about finding a counselor in your locale, and making an initial appointment?