How to handle Life's Shitstorms (an excerpt from my book)

Here’s the thing about a shitstorm. Most of the time we don’t even see it brewing. We are minding our own business and wham, just like that unpredictable car accident that blindsides us from out of nowhere, we are left unprotected, out of sorts and reeling. “What just happened?” “ If I only knew this was going to happen, I would have…”. What would you have done? Would you have prepared? What if there was no preparing? What if the shitstorm simply included you in its path as a result of your relationship with another person, or you were at the wrong place at the wrong time? Then what?


Most of the time we are taken by surprise by life’s shitstorms, rarely are they ever planned.


That is because the situation most often involves another person, place or thing. As a result, we are at a loss of control over the situation. We immediately react by going into a state of shock and disbelief. This shock can take on many forms such as denial,  sadness, embarrassment, fear, anxiety,or outright anger. Our physical sensations let us know we are under attack from our emotions.


Our stomach begins feeling nauseous, our faces become flush, our palms become sweaty and our hearts race. Many times we don’t even recognize these physical sensations because we are stuck in our heads, and detach from our bodies.  We lose our mind-body connection. Our thoughts begin to hijack us, creating all sorts of judgements and assumptions about the situation. We begin to make up stories, dramatic stories, with villains, plot twists and tragic endings. Our subconscious kicks in and conjures up all of the horrible things that have ever happened to us. We may also begin to franetically flip through our mental roladex for  the stories we’ve heard about someone else who has miraculously lived to tell their horrific tale. We  begin to lose sight of the present moment. Our adrenaline overpowers us and subjugates reason.


The amygdala, or the almond shaped bundle of neurons buried deep in our brains, sends out danger messages or cautioning signals to other parts of the brain. We are on full alert.

As a result of having experienced shitstorms in the past our amygdala  thinks it  knows exactly what to do. It sounds the alarm, prepares for attack and creates the armour that it thinks we need.  This is completely understandable, since we haven’t had time to prepare for the attack.


How do we respond rather than react?


To respond means to be in touch with or to answer to something. To react means to act in opposition or against some force. Their definitions are diametric. So if you wish to remain present in the shitstorm, free from all of the overwhelming negative feelings, you must first choose to  respond rather than react. Because reacting is giving in to our emotions without reason leading to a loss of control.  When we respond, we add meaning behind our actions. Responding is guided less by emotion and more by logic. When we do this, we are able to logically come up with a reasonable plan of action. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well, it is anything but easy. In fact it takes a fair amount of self control.


How to make the mindful difference in Responding Rather Than Reacting

Become Aware: First you must notice and become aware that you are in a stressful situation that is escallating and that you actually have a choice

Breathe & Get Grounded: Anything that helps you get in your body and out of your head. Consciously taking big deep breaths is probably the easiest and most direct way to bring you back to the present moment and get you back into your body.

Big Picture Thinking or Take A Panaramic View: Take a moment to think about how this specific situation alters your overall wellbeing. This should make it easier to respond. This helps you eliminate perceived threats by placing a space between the situation and an overall perspective.

Ask yourself, Am I responding or reacting? This can be grounding and create greater perspective. Notice when you are overanalysing! We all do it, we make judgements and assumptions by overthinking the situation.

Pause & Think in context. Always consider the context – what is happening and how can this teach me. What is the lesson behind this situation.

Recognize choices. Often reacting comes when you don’t know or think you don’t have any other option. When you realize that you always have choices, you can remember to consider them and the consequences they may bring before moving forward.

Seek Understanding: When other people are involved, try to imagine walking in their shoes. Eliminate any assumptions you have created and listen more, talk less. will be published 2018...stay tuned