“Thoughts are energy and you can make your world or break your world by your thinking.”– Susan Taylor
It is impossible to see or hear “9/11” and not be reminded of where you were and what that was like as it was happening. Since this edition of the Life Skills Resource Group newsletter falls on the nineteenth anniversary of 9/11, I find myself in awe of the resilience of the human spirit in a world where the only constant is change. There are so many parallels to be drawn between those world events and the current events in our changing world. In so many ways, it really does come down to how we think about things.
At the time of 9/11 I worked for an airline in the reservations center, fielding all the frantic calls about passenger manifests, ongoing airline operations, and everything in between. Anytime there was an air disaster we airline people felt it personally, whether it involved our company or not. There was such a reverence on the sales floor in those early days, and a beautiful camaraderie as we supported each other and tried to reassure our passengers in a situation that felt anything but secure. I remember thinking we will never come back from this. We all watched the news nonstop, like a train wreck that is impossible to look away from. It seemed on that day that everything we knew about our safety, the threat from radical groups and our own strength was shaken. In fact, I am still haunted by the images associated with the unthinkable horrors of the 9/11 tragedy, and I still can’t imagine what it must have been like for those who died and the families left waiting for their missing loved ones to return. The candlelight vigils, the walls of photos, the people crying and embracing one another as we tried to make sense of the nonsensical. The force that sustained us, that propped us up through that awful time, was resilience.
Resilience has carried humanity through some pretty dark times, even though we typically don’t see it until we’re looking back on it. Resilience is perseverance and the often subconscious will to survive and recover. There was a suddenness and shock with the events of 9/11, and the feeling of being punched in the gut repeatedly as the day unfolded. We were knocked over as by a wave, and we had to figure out how to get up and steady ourselves, moving through those early days in a haze of overwhelm and intense sadness.
And today, we’re finding resilience in ways we never imagined, in a continually unfolding and evolving crisis. Have you found yourself thinking, “If we had known that quarantine was going to be for this long, we would’ve freaked out!” And yet here we are, six months into COVID, and we’re hanging in there, struggling together, helping one another, finding compassion and understanding for each other, and even growing through this bizarre time. It’s easy to slip into despair and overwhelm if we let our thoughts take an anxious tone: When will this end? Will my business survive? Can I stay in my home? What if someone close to me gets sick? These kinds of thoughts have a definite feel to them because they are based in fear. How do you experience fear and anxiety in your body? I feel it in my gut, like a twisting or a knot in my stomach. Some people feel tension in their shoulders or their head, and others in their chest. These physical sensations, while certainly uncomfortable, are actually an invitation to switch the tone of your thoughts, and by extension your emotions. When you feel that tightness and the associated panic, you can choose to have compassion for yourself and breathe into that discomfort. In yoga we say, “your breath will save you”. I know that when I feel anxious, I sometimes notice that I’m holding my breath. Just breathe, and direct the breath into your stomach, your chest, your forehead—wherever you’re feeling the fear. Here are some breathing exercises that will create space, give you a respite from anxiety and allow you to redirect your thoughts:
- Sit in a comfortable position, either in a chair or on the floor. Place your hands on your abdomen so that you can feel your belly inflate with the breath. (this is called diaphragmatic breathing) Breathe in for a count of seven, hold for a count of seven and exhale for a count of seven. Repeat for several rounds. Try to extend your exhalation so that your belly and chest are completely empty of air before inhaling.
- Using your thumb and middle finger, alternately hold one nostril closed while breathing into the open nostril. Hold the breath at the top, switch fingers and clamp the opposite nostril and then exhale through the open nostril. Inhale and exhale to the count of seven.
- “Breath of Fire.” Place your hands on your belly and inhale fully. Blow out the exhalation sharply and quickly, then establish a rhythm of quick inhalation and forceful exhalation, following the motion of your belly with your hands.
- “Lion’s Breath”. Breathe in deeply and then exhale with your tongue out so that it makes a roaring sound.
Once you’ve calmed yourself through your breath, choose a loving thought or affirmation. Here are a few to try:
- May I be happy, may I be well, may I find peace.
- I have everything I need and more.
- I choose love over fear.
- I am love, I am strength, I am resilience.
- I am supported. (by God or by the Universe)
What story will you tell about the COVID days or this crazy year in which we’re living? It’s likely that even now, you’re demonstrating resilience though you may not feel it. We will survive, and we will thrive. Write the story that you want to tell rather than accepting someone else’s narrative. It’s YOUR story so if you don’t like it, you can rewrite it!
If you need help accessing your resilience, or if you’re struggling with another emotional need, Life Skills Resource Group has a skilled counselor to help you get there.
Call us for a free phone consultation at (407) 355 – 7378. Namaste.