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Staying Grounded in the Midst of Turmoil

Anyone who grew up with trauma - particularly who grew up in a chaotic home, knows what it is like to feel like you have no control over your environment. Children who grow up with an alcoholic parent or a parent who has anger issues learn how to sense the parent's moods coming on and try to avoid them as a way of protecting ourselves. We often become adults who look out for others or help them deal with crisis, because we learned how to at an early age (Although the coping mechanisms we adopt to survive unpredictable emotional chaos are not always healthy ones). All of us deal with chaos at some point in our lives - the unexpected, the unpredictable - damage from a storm, severe financial loss, health challenges, broken relationships, intergenerational trauma, racism - things we have no control over. Some of us seem to get more than our share of these challenges, and it can truly become overwhelming. Poverty can also contribute to stress when you can't afford basic necessities, or you don't have any savings and you get hit with the unexpected. But there are some small things we can do to help us stay grounded during these unpredictable times. We may not be able to change what is happening around us or even TO us, but we can control how we react. This is a practice to help you find calm within yourself. It is best practiced when you AREN'T under severe stress, so that it becomes natural, and when you are feeling particularly overwhelmed, these techniques will become automatic. Begin by noticing your place in space. Feel your feet on the ground. Feel your body's contact with the earth. Take a breath. Bring awareness to your breath and begin to breathe with intention. It is said that, "It takes just one intentional breath to change our perspective." Taking a moment to breathe can give you the space to step back even if just for a moment. If you are in crisis - this breath might allow you to make smart choices from the place where you are. As you practice breath awareness, slowly start to draw out your exhale, gradually making it longer. It may be helpful to count as you breathe, to give your mind an anchor - something to focus on. "Inhale 1-2-3-4. Exhale 1-2-3-4-5. Inhale 1-2-3-4. Exhale 1-2-3-4-5-6." Begin to find a rhythm for the breath. Become aware of how the breath makes you feel. Feel expansion on the inhale. Feel a softening on the exhale. Maybe a softening of tension - a release.

After the initial crisis passes, if you have time - Go out and walk in nature. Get near water, if possible. There is something incredibly calming about watching the waves. If you aren't near water, see if you can find an app or video on the internet where you can watch waves - such as this one on YouTube: But the great thing about the breath is that it is always there - wherever you are - and you can learn to control it. This is pranayama. I hope this practice helps.

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