Mind, Body and Spirit Part 4 – The Emotional Storm

Centered, grounded, and focused

Happy Valentine´s Day!
photo credit: MichaelBmxking

Call it what you will, we all know what it means. We’ve rid ourselves of negative emotions and have filled ourselves with a serene calm. We know what that feels like, because we’ve all felt it at one time or another. That is the moment when our spirit is at rest, and letting our minds and bodies take control of the situation. Its the opposite of how I spend most of my time. I live in a lot of emotional turmoil. It kind of sucks.

Feeling without falling.

Emotions are a tricky, nasty thing. You let them sneak in under the guise of happy things, like when your dog curls up next to you, or when you see that girl. You know the one. Next thing you know, you’re hiding in a fortress made out of couch cushions and sobbing into your bowl of Bunny Tracks ice cream. The problem with emotions, is that we have no real control over them directly. You can’t just stop being sad, and you can’t just start making yourself be happy. There is always a root cause that you have to explore and understand.

Then it still takes time.

Turning off our emotions and becoming numb is never really the solution. Its not healthy. Its good to feel sad, angry, happy, and grumpy. These things are important because that’s how our spirit tells us what we need in life. What is healthy is learning how to keep our emotions from controlling us entirely.

Meditation and Relaxation

Every New Age hippy out there will tell you that the key to happiness is sitting with your legs crossed starring at a crystal of some sort and humming a mantra to yourself. Oh, that and excessive use of mind altering chemicals.  They might be right, but I can’t sit still that long, and I don’t want to put chemicals in my brain any more than absolutely necessary. The truth is there are lots of ways to reach a zen moment. Everyone is different, and no two people will have the exact same way to calm themselves down. You might be okay staring at rocks and humming, I prefer to do things my own way.

The Quick Fix Focusing Breath

More often then not, its people that send me into an emotional spiral. Once the anxiety starts to set it, it will build until I can get away and spend a moment alone. If I try to wait it out, and it gets worse, then solitude is absolutely essential. Once I’ve hit the point of freak out, I have to get away from people, or I just keep getting worse. Fortunately, I’ve learned a few tricks to make it easy to get alone, even in a crowded situation.

  1. I walk away from people that are talking to me. That usually keeps anyone else from talking to me. I’m also fortunate enough to have some friends that can usually tell when I need space and will act as my wingman for a breather. If anyone comes up to me and starts to engage me, I just say, “Man, I need to get some air.”
  2. I go outside. Outside is almost always less crowded, and there is something about not being indoors that helps. If I’m at a place where I can’t get away from people outside, like the crowded smokers patios at Kansas City Bars, I hide in a bathroom stall. It takes a truly horrible and annoying movie character to violate the sanctity of the stall with conversation.
  3. The focusing breath. I just close my eyes, inhale slowly through my nose and then exhale even slower. This is actually a trick I learned from practicing the sword, and its a pretty common thing in most martial arts, including ballet and yoga. Its just taking a couple of seconds to breath a nice deep breath, and you’ll be surprised at how well it works to just reset the brain. Try it whenever you’re feeling a bit distracted, too. It works miracles. If it doesn’t work on the first breath, give it a few tries.
  4. Usually at this point, if I’m not feeling better, its a Code Red situation, and I’m going to have to retreat to my home and personal sanctum to sleep it off. This is getting rarer and rarer these days as I peel away the layers of anger and fear that have kept me in hermitude for the last few years.

Long Term emotional health

The key here is to try things until you find the one thing that makes you feel amazing after doing it. This can be anything from vegging out in front of the television, as long as it doesn’t just make you numb, to knitting a swank scarf. Its something that you can do that just lets your spirit rest. For me, its writing, primarily, but there are a few things that I’ve done, and am planning to learn to do more of, that have helped. I’ve got a few suggestions of things you might want to try.

  1. Tai Chi/Yoga – This one is obvious. These activities were invented for exactly this purpose. I’ve done some of both, and plan to do more in the new year, and they really, really work. Also, Tai Chi is really low impact, so big fat guys like me can do it without hurting their joints, and its a pretty dang good work out.
  2. Work out –  Exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you be happy. Its proven.
  3. Painting – I’ve never been much beyond the finger painting stage, but I’m pretty sure the whole experience is similar to writing for the people who paint. Besides, the world needs more classical art. Too much digital is bad for the art world. I can’t believe I just wrote that…
  4. Pandora.com – Music is the Language of the SOUL. Listen to music and you’ll feel the negativity poor out of you and off into the aether. I personally recommend listening to Jonathan Coulton and No More Kings. I think its really hard to feel anything but giddy listening to either of those artists. Personal preference of course.

Sometimes its okay to hide

Don’t forget, that there are times when the world can be too much for us. Its okay to take a day for yourself and just avoid everyone else. They don’t have to live in your head anyway. Take some time and just pamper yourself. These days are important as long as we use them properly. Wallowing in our problems doesn’t help anything, but strategically retreating to analyze the situation can really help us understand why we’re feeling that way. Understanding what is causing it is the key to getting beyond it after all.

I also think its important that I say, if you are having some hardcore depression or other emotional storms, then its 100% okay to get some help.

Even the best of us need a hand sometimes. There is no shame in asking for help.

Hit me up with comments if you have a great technique you use to calm the storms and give yourself a bit of emotional peace.

Check back in tomorrow for the last part of Mind, Body and Soul. I’ll be bringing it all together like a crazy shoalin monk.