The Courage to Relax in the Midst of Chaos

If you’re a living, breathing organism, you can’t escape chaos. Although we crave smooth sailing with everything or most things under our control, we’re gonna bump up against challenges, obstacles, and crazy-making moments; how we handle those moments determines how we feel about them and whether they tear us down or build us up.

When you’re hip-deep in chaos, your lizard brain goes into overdrive and wants to stay in fight-or-flight mode to make the fear go away. If you’ve spent any time swimming in tension and clenching your muscles nonstop, you know it’s not a fun place to be, it’s exhausting, and it’s super unsustainable.

Counter-intuitive though it may seem, relaxing is precisely what you need to do when chaos hits because panicking won’t get you anywhere and will only eat up the energy you have available to you.

The courage to relax in the midst of chaos is the courage to glide to a different drumbeat that’s calm, unhurried, and grounded. It’s to let the frantic chattering of your lizard brain wash over you and tune into the deep, intuitive wisdom of your Soul instead. It’s to stay rooted in your mindfulness practices so you can think clearly and process things with a level head.

When I say mindfulness practices, I’m talking about things like yoga, meditation, prayer, and journaling. I mention these things again and again because they make you resilient and less likely to crumble when life hurls its curveballs at you.

It’s this resilience that keeps you calm in the midst of chaos because you know that all things eventually settle, even when they’re fierce and unsettling in the moment. And because you’re filling your well before the storm hits, you’re well-prepared to weather it as long as you stay plugged in to your mindfulness and strength.

Even if you find yourself in the middle of a storm you’re ill-prepared for, you can remind yourself right that moment to take a few deep breaths to center you before you dive in headfirst. Those few deep breaths can make the difference between flat-out panic and a ring of calm in your heart and mind.

Staying calm in the midst of chaos can also involve reaching out to your closest friends so you see things from a different perspective and maybe pick up a few options you missed in all the panic. Talking things through with a supportive soul can reassure you of your strength, ingenuity, and grit. You’ll be reminded of how far you’ve come, how you’ve made it through other storms, and how you’re most likely to make it through this one as well. The courage to admit what’s going on, of course, makes the difference between gritting your teeth in silence and having a safe space to work through the knots so you come out smiling on the other side.

We grow through the challenges and roadblocks that come our way. Sometimes we have to think on our feet, course-correct, and keep tweaking our approach until things click. This is where grit comes in handy because it feeds the courage to keep trying ’til something sticks and calms the storm so we can move on. Giving up when things get dark and hard happens in the absence of courage to relax and explore a solution to what’s disrupting our equilibrium and creativity.

I’m not saying it’s oh so simple to relax in the midst of chaos−I’m saying it IS possible if you have the right tools at your disposal. The courage to use those tools even when you feel or fear you can’t is what gets you through to the other side, so it’s important to have them in the first place. Waiting until you’re up shit creek without paddles is never a wise decision, after all.

When we’re able to stay grounded as we move through challenges and figure out ways around roadblocks, we expand our capabilities and stretch our imaginations, so we’re never exactly the same as when we started. It’s this expansion that grows us, that gives us a template to handle stressful situations when they blindside us, and makes us believe we can keep going even when we fear we can’t.

When you start stocking your toolkit with the mindfulness practices that work for you, they may not look like anything I’ve mentioned. You might find yourself running, swimming, painting, sculpting, dancing, or simply making collages, and reaping the same benefits as those who do yoga, meditate, pray, or journal. It’s about what works for you, clears your mind, and helps you relax so you’re not frozen in fear or tension. Give yourself the gift of discovering what’s right for you before you’re hip-deep in chaos and scrambling to take a full breath.

How do you relax in the midst of chaos?

Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash