Where your focus goes, energy flows. You’ve probably heard this phrase or something similar before. However, focusing your energy can be challenging when your attention is scattered in many directions. Your life can seem like one big blur.
Factor in uncertainty and it’s even more difficult to find focus and feel in control. Trying to make changes when you feel you don’t have control can perpetuate an energy-draining downward spiral.
How do you navigate the commotion of unexpected circumstances and keep your energy flowing?
The brain has 2 states - reactive and receptive.
When we’re stressed, we’re reactive. The amygdala goes into alert. The amygdala is an ancient part of your brain designed to protect and when in alert, it prompts the fight, flight or freeze response.
When we’re calm, we’re more receptive. More reflective. We’re physically more relaxed. When we’re calm, the hippocampus is able to function. It’s the part of the brain that is creative, open to new ideas and able to problem solve.
Worth noting is that the amygdala can’t tell the difference between a real or perceived threat. This means if you are anxious about a situation that is uncertain or unknown, your amygdala can be triggered into action to protect you as if the threat is real. You may end up in a state of amygdala hijack, where your amygdala is stuck ‘on,’ hyper-focused on the threat. Anxiety is increased and your energy is drained. However, simply naming the threat reduces the alert state of the amygdala. From this more calm place, you’ll begin to see available options and actions.
We are experiencing a lot of upheaval in the world right now - a pandemic requiring isolation and physical distancing, unemployment, financial strain, weakened economies, child/eldercare and healthcare challenges, racial injustice, political unrest, border and travel restrictions - the list goes on. An overload of ‘threatening’ circumstances. Here are four ways to bypass the overload and find possibility.
1. Name the threat in order to calm
2. Override overload with curiosity
3. Establish daily practices to influence mood
4. Sidestep the threat with tiny steps
If you can see your life in segments and figure out where and how much control you have in each segment, you will help calm your amygdala. In essence, you’ll be naming what it perceives as a threat - the lack of control and inability to influence and make change. By being able to see the areas where you don’t have control, you can release the energy associated with trying to make change where you can’t. Or be creative about what action you may be able to take knowing you don’t have much or any control over circumstances.
Feeling like you have choice is enough to create forward momentum and improve your energy. Segment by segment you can observe the aspects of your life to see what might be possible. You may decide to leave things be in one area while generating readiness for action in another area.
Make time to reflect and become curious. Ask yourself:
There aren’t any ‘right’ answers to these questions or perfect choices. Only those that feel right for you. A helpful practice is to ‘try on’ a choice. If you come up with an idea but aren’t sure, then let it rest for a while. Sleep on it. Or go for a walk. Or journal. Or sit outside in a calming surrounding. Perhaps a variation of your idea arises. Try that one on. Notice how your body feels as you think about your options. Are you calm or tense? Trust that you will know the right choice by paying attention to your body’s reaction.
Worry is like praying for what you don’t want. When life feels uncertain and out of control, pay attention to where you focus your attention. Sometimes easier said than done. Did you know that worry and present moment awareness are incompatible? Yoga, meditation, a walk outside listening to nature and belly breathing are practices that help you bring your attention to the present. Your amygdala settles down and your mind calms.
Life is a practice of accepting uncertainty and becoming more comfortable with not knowing.
When you stop resisting not knowing, you’ll find ideas surfacing when you least expect it, because your creative hippocampus will be able to do its job.
Choose a super simple small action. Tiny steps allow you to sidestep your amygdala and move past without waking it up. Try this question: What is the smallest step I can possibly take? So small it almost feels silly? Do that. Congratulate yourself. Then come up with another tiny little step. Do that. Say yippee!
Every tiny step will make the next one a tiny bit easier. And bit by bit you’ll make progress while bringing a greater sense of awareness and control to your life. The larger circumstances may still be uncertain, but in some aspects of your life you’ll feel a little more grounded and confident to make choices and take action where you can. What’s most important? Keep moving. Keep taking steps. You’ll be amazed at how much change you can initiate with microscopic movement. Moving into possibility despite the uncertainty.
The result: More energy. More accomplished. More joy.
For help figuring out how and where you can take action in your life, try my mini course Finding Possibility In Uncertainty. You'll be guided through a simple five-step process to take your first step and keep moving from there.
Even in uncertain and confusing circumstances, you always have options and beneficial choices available to you. It’s a process you can repeat over time to determine your next action as circumstances change. Use this link to learn more about the course.