How To Center Yourself In Times Of Stress And Chaos

If one chooses to pay attention to the news of our day, we find extreme division, confusion, heart break and losses. I am noticing in my psychotherapy practice that a greater and greater number of people are anxious and upset in response to what is happening politically and environmentally, frequently staying triggered in the trauma/fear response of fight, flight or freeze. People are not having time to recoup before the next onslaught of events unfolds that gives rise to uncertainty, fear, grief and anger.

Chaos is defined as “complete disorder and confusion.” Chaotic times often re-trigger old traumas and add to an extra sense of disorientation, lack of grounding and emotional overwhelm. Many people refer to our current state of affairs as chaotic. It is exactly in these stressful times that we need to deepen our own ways of centering.

 So how does one practice “centering?”

“Centering” refers to an ongoing process of surrendering and bringing acceptance to the ups and downs, every mood, every feeling, every reaction as part of a spinning wheel.  There is a softening, accepting, embracing — and a remembering to gently bring ourselves back to the center of the wheel. 

Here is a list of suggestions for practicing centering in the midst of these chaotic and stressful times:

1. Clarify your focus for living each day. I call this your personal theme or mission. Using positive language, write your mission statement.  This intentional proclamation will serve to be the center of your wheel.

2. Take time to nourish your theme. This is the act of focusing thought and action every day on your theme. This demonstrates your commitment to live your intention into actuality. 

3. Limit your news intake. Be informed, yet not obsessed.

4. Take a time-out from the topics that “neg you out.”Learn to bracket.  Make specific times for the news or problem-solving and then make it a practice to focus on other areas of your life. 

5. Reduce exposure to triggers. Notice what triggers your negativity. Play detective and make a list of what brings you down. Then, experiment with intentionally limiting your exposure to these triggers. 

6. Bring your lens of awareness inward.  When you are overwhelmed, intentionally re-focus your lens to simply be aware of your experience you are having through your senses — seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling — as portals into the present moment.  

7. Refresh your energy field daily.  Bring this intention into action whether it is by listening to uplifting podcasts, reading, movement, nature walks or having a great nap, etc.  Make a date with yourself to re-charge your own inner battery.

8. A dose of daily conscious enjoyment. Do something every day that you simply find enjoyable. I like to suggest doing this early in the day, so that the experience of enjoyment has a chance to permeate into the rest of your day. 

9. More gratitude.  When we are noticing all that we “receive” in our lives, gratitude naturally flows.

10. Spend time in nature.  Nature is often synonymous with beauty, which naturally lifts the spirit effortlessly.  

11. Take time to feel your feelings. Make it a practice to slow down and find some safe times and spaces to simply feel what is building up inside of you — tears, anger or whatever is arising. 

12. Share with others about what stirs your heart.  Rediscover that you are not alone. Turning towards like-minded friends and community serves as a way to allow some love into where it hurts inside. 

13. Up your self-care.  Breathe deeper, exercise more, make healthier food choices, be with good company, be creative in some way, notice beauty, be kind to yourself.”

14. Transform your angst into action. Take your heavy heart into action and service.  Look for opportunities to make a difference, no matter how small or big. 

Deva Joy Gouss, LCSW, is an experiential psychotherapist in Atlanta for thirty-three years. Working within group, couple and individual settings, she also integrates energy medicine, polarity touch, yoga, trauma resiliency therapy and the power of ritual. For over two decades, she gives monthly workshops from Marrying Yourself to Nourishing Your Love for Couples. She is author of Toolbox of Hope: For When Your Body Doesn’t Feel Good and Rearranged, Never the Same: The Nature of Grief.

7/9/2022 4:00:00 AM
Deva Joy Gouss
Written by Deva Joy Gouss
Deva Joy Gouss, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Atlanta Georgia for over thirty years. She and her husband give weekend couple retreat workshops called Nurturing Your Love. She also facilitates many other kinds of trainings and workshops including Council of All Beings, Tribe Time, Marrying Yourself, Y...
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