How to Stay Calm Emotionally?
By Dr. Nutan Pakhare
Life is seldom a linear journey! Most of the time it is like a bumpy ride over craggy rocks, with varied stumbling blocks which impel us to be vigilant and make us keep hold on our breaks more tightly. The result is- a tiring & exhausting ride. The same reflects on our day-to-day living. With different stressors heading our way, whether its traffic or rains (Environmental); an over demanding in-laws or a nagging partner (Familial/ Relational); popping work emails & deadlines (work); or monthly EMIs & bills to clear (Personal/ financial), we often find ourselves juggling them well, but at the stake of our own wellbeing. As long as we are dealing with them like a Super Mario everything seems to us as good and going, until we get hit & crash by our own circumstances. Such falls day-in & day- out do make us feel upset, angry, frustrated, irritated, fatigued, helpless, low on energy, reduced productivity, to even extremes like lack of joy, lack of motivation, loss of willingness to live and even depression.
No wonder, we have an array of medicines to remediate our physical symptoms; psychotherapy & other interventions to help us with mental health related issues; but little to nearly no such setup for Emotional wellbeing! How many of us had a syllabus or even a subject that dealt with Emotional quotients in schools? How many of us had a parent or a caregiver who taught us how to handle failures, rejection & setbacks without being upset or disheartened while growing up? And how many of us even have a daily or a weekly routine that comprises activities that refill our emotional tanks?
Most of the time, we have learnt to keep our emotions at snooze! This suppression, denial, avoidance or ‘showing I’m all fine all time’ attitude without addressing or releasing our emotional energies, makes them trapped into our bodies and manifests into psycho-somatic diseases creating instability. Many Yogic texts too have stated the similar idea. According to Yoga & Ayurveda, Prana vayu (vital energies) flows throughout the body through Nadis (channels subtler than our nerves). This when blocked results in instability & disease.
So let us try to understand INSTABILITY first.
What is INSTABILITY?
Online dictionaries define ‘instability’ as a situation or a quality of not being stable, balanced or predictable. In the context of emotions, it can be understood as difficulty in processing the emotions, unexpected or extreme reactions, frequent mood change, impulsive decisions or indecisiveness, anxiety over small matters, overthinking marked by general lack of confidence and self-doubt.
On the other side of the emotional spectrum comes BALANCE.
Balance can be defined as an ability to manage things or situations in a way that results in desirable outcomes. In the context of emotions, it refers to stable and consistent behaviours, matured decisions, proportionate risk taking, courage, confidence, self-acceptance and a general sense of happiness.
However, most of us find ourselves oscillating between the two.
So what to do? How can we help ourselves?
Nothing is more late than never!
This article is meant for everyone who has found themselves at the mercy of their emotional predicament, but wishes to take charge and improve their lives to better by trying to achieve emotional balance without taking any medication or consulting a doctor!
Yoga & Ayurveda has given account of different practices that bridge the gap between two extreme poles of the emotion scale and cultivate a ground of balance. These practices can be learnt & followed easily and when applied gives immediate results. They include:
Pranayama or breathing exercises: Breath has direct influence on both the CNS & the ANS, both of which coordinate and manage our daily survival. Controlling & manipulating the breath to a certain degree does stimulate or relax the intended system and give desiring results. When feeling anxious, nervous, angry, stressed, worried, fearful or uncertain it is natural that the breathing becomes short and shallow. During such times if one consciously shifts the pattern by breathing long, deep & rhythmic breaths, it will surely make one calm, composed, clear and settled within a few minutes. Practices like Anuloma- viloma; Bhramari; Ujjayi and Chandrabhedan have been studied and proved effective in calming the over-agitated nervous responses. Whereas during low emotional phases such as depression, lack of motivation, boredom, laziness, apathy , and dissatisfaction it is natural to become quiet, unsocial, inactive and dull. During such times one’s breathing becomes passive and irregular. By manipulating the breath into short, quick, and regular successions as done in the Kapal bhatti practice one can instantly feel energetic, warm and active. Other similar pranayama are Surya bhedan & Agnisara which are seen to stimulate the sympathetic NS and makes one active, spirited, and attentive. Try to experiment with this tool and check out how it benefits you!
Japa or Mantra chanting: when a monosyllabic word (eg: OM/ AUM) or a concise statement (eg: Tat Tvam Asi) is chanted in a repeated rhythmic manner it creates a loop of positive energy. This concentrated energy uplifts the body and the surrounding environment. The word/s that are spoken creates the impression (Samskara) of its meaning in the mind. Such impressions then start reflecting into one’s life & deeds. Hence, when powerful and positive words are chanted, they get cultivated as part of one’s personality. Modern ideology of Affirmation works on the similar principle! Try to Japa on some already established mantras or create your own short positive statements (like ‘I can do it’ or ‘all izz well’!!) and use them to support you at difficult times.
Shavasana or guided relaxation: Handling life events and emotions accompanying them can get strenuous, draining and overwhelming at times. During such moments, it is beneficial to take a break and relax oneself. And nothing can beat Savasana here! It is a full body + mind tranquiliser. Doing it for 10-15 mins after a tiring activity helps rejuvenate almost every body system and makes the mind feel relaxed and fresh. For initial practice try referring to recorded speech or music. Many varieties of relaxation recordings and music are available. See to what you respond better and try to include them as a part of your daily routine.
Yukta-aahar-vihar (appropriate/ balanced diet & exercise): When talking about daily routine, one of the monumental concepts of Ayurveda, i.e. Din-charya (Daily routine) & Ritu-charya (seasonal routine) have provided excellent insight to this! According to Ayurveda, a day must be a balance of 4 important necessities-
Eating (consuming energy) (food & water);
Action (energy expenditure)(work & exercise);
Resting (energy saver) (sleep & small naps); and
Care (energy optimisation) (warm Bath, Brushing teeth, scraping tongue, abhyanga/ massage, etc.)
Any of these in excess or in lack can lead to disagreeable outgrowths. Along with that, this daily set of activities must be modified suiting the seasons & one’s body type. When these 4 activities are properly followed, it leads to healthy & peaceful living.
Prana-dharana or Meditation: This one is my favourite! And I enjoy doing it any time of the day whenever I feel a bunch of upsetting emotions, to help myself gain proper perspective of my emotional needs and the situations in conflict. Prana-dharana, as the word suggests, means focusing (dharna) on one’s breath/ breathing (prana) without manipulating it and allowing the mind to wander without any censorship. The main purpose of this activity is to give oneself that time, space, attention and acceptance that we mostly forget to give or don’t permit ourselves to enjoy! In Prana-dharna one is simply sitting in one’s company and tries to witness oneself as a loving friend or a guiding teacher. Such moments with self helps to develop strong self-concept, clarity, & courage which in turn help in dealing with difficult situations without burn out.
Shravan – manana- nididhyasana: It is true that –“Experience is a great teacher”, but one cannot have all the experiences and it is not even wise to go about having every experience- good & bad! Hence, what is reliable are the second hand experiences and the account & testimonies of those witnesses. Such references are of great help and history is filled with such scriptures that provide useful wisdom. Reading or listening to such knowledge (Shravan), pondering upon them (manan) and trying to live by them (nididhyasana) can provide remarkable insights. Such wisdom can prepare one to remain calm & stable during any life adversities and overcome them with Dhairya (patience) & Shaurya (courage).
Prayer: There are many narrations available on the magical working of the simple task called “prayer”. To pray is to talk to God and through that to get reconnected with one-self, and thus there are many ways to pray! However the essence of any prayer is Faith, when rest all like logic, reason, courage and ability has given up, faith works as a driving force that can keep one moving during the hardest times. Praying during ebbing times sparks hope, positivity & forbearance. Praying during highs allows one to remain grounded, humble, compassionate and in-touch with one true self.
SOS: S-O-S as in maritime radio communication stands for a short and quick passcode signal that means “Save- Our- Ship” during the time of distress or emergency. Similarly, an SOS signal for emotionally distressing situations can be any activity that can help an individual to come out of that fright and feel ease. It can be anything, such as calling a friend & talking about it, drawing or doodling, writing, going for a walk, or sharing it with a parent and asking for guidance. It can be anything provided it lifts the mood/ situations without spoiling it further. So take some time out and try to enlist & apply your SOS!
Exercise: Try to explore each idea and journal it out how it works with you? Document your before & after thoughts, emotional state, body responses, or anything new that you experience about yourself while doing these activities!