Keep Calm and Carry On

I used to look for a stress free life, a life without worries or problems, yeah that was the dream. A dream. It was only when I awoke to the truth that the solution to stress, worry, and problems wasn’t to get rid of them, but to become calm and at peace in their presence, did things get better for me.

It is natural to think about getting rid of or away from stress, worry, and problems because getting rid of or away from is a primitive brain response to a threat and our brains view the discomfort of stress, worry and problems as threats. The primitive brain deals with threats with one of three ways: fight, flight (run away or avoid), or freeze. Freeze is one reason for procrastination. Ironically one of the best methods for dealing with all three perceived threats is to sit quiet and still. You can do this formally with mindfulness meditation or you can do this informally by sitting quite and still and simply allowing your body and mind to settle.

Once your body and mind are settled the next step is reasoning or analyzing your stress, worry or problem until you reach a potential solution or understanding. I say potential solution because until you try your solution you don’t actually know of it’ll work. That is the way it is for everyone, even the most successful people became that way through trying a solution and if it didn’t work, try another until one does. So another truth is there isn’t one ultimate solution for success or happiness. Accepting that finding solutions or answers is a process of matching the right solution or answer to the current problem, rather than a final destination, will prevent you from getting discouraged. Instead of giving up you will simply repeat the process of getting calm and seeking another solution to try. This is what is meant by Keep Calm and Carry On. It is a slogan created by the British government to motivate people during the Second World War.

Calming and analyzing are actually steps in formal meditation training. When you practice calmly analyzing you are training your brain to not operate from its primitive reptilian level and to instead operate from higher more modern functions. Sure there are times the primitive brain is useful, like when not thinking and running as fast as you can away from a tiger, but for most modern or first world problems it isn’t useful and can actually be harmful.

Even when being chased by a tiger or in a fight, the calmer you are the more likely you will figure out a way to survive. So practicing calmness when there isn’t an intense threat and analyzing an intense, or potentially intense threat, while calm, trains you to be calm and present when faced with actual intense situations. It is similar trading athletes use when visualizing and mentally rehearsing their sport or event in their minds. When scientist have monitored athletes mentally rehearsing their sport in their mind they have recorded their muscles firing as if they were actually running or jumping when in reality they were laying down and just going through the motions in their head. This kind of training is called Visual Motor Rehearsal.

You can do Visual Motor Rehearsal for a job interview or for a task on a job that you are struggling with. Create a full sensory experience of the job interview or task in your mind and see yourself doing it smoothly, relaxed and confident. Try to think of all the ways you could use Visual Motor Rehearsal in your life.

Don’t forget to also practice calming and settling your mind and body. Sometimes just imagining yourself as say a glass of orange or apple juice and seeing the pulp slowly settle to the bottom of the glass while feeling your mind and body settling in the same way can aid you in learning to be calm. Try it and see for yourself the power you have to bring peace and ease to yourself.

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