an eye in the storm
Caring, Self-Care

Becoming the Eye of the Storm

Between the pandemic, wildfires, hurricanes, political tension, and everyday stressors of our lives, it seems like we are in a chaotic whirlwind called 2020. These turbulent times can make us feel uncomfortable, uncertain, angry, fearful, disappointed, or any combination of the mentioned emotions along with a slew of others. That is external chaos and it’s is out of our control.  

We can only control ourselves and how we react and give meaning to the chaos. Let’s look at these times as a hurricane and, in the following paragraphs, gain a sense of how we can be the eye of the storm (a calming force) for ourselves and others until brighter days come.

Fighting Fire with Fire?

Our raw emotions can seem like a fire boiling our blood or drawing us to tears. Whatever our experience, our emotions are powerful. These emotions can make us feel like chaos not only exists outside of us but is one with our being. Imagine a time where a situation arose that was hectic or negative and our emotions thrust us into a frantic internal state. How did that impact the situation? Did it change the circumstances or make anything better?

We all instinctively know the answers to those questions. In turbulent times, fighting fire with fire doesn’t work – it just consumes us. Our emotions are meant to be felt and used a GPS. The problem comes when we start to give subjective meaning to emotions we experience, turning them into a feeling which changes our state or becomes the lens through which we see everything.

During these times, it’s important we find ways to feel deeply and release our emotions in constructive ways. We must catch ourselves as we give meaning to what our emotions signify. Why? Because that meaning we give them determines what feelings linger, it determines our state, and can alter our attitude.

Attitude is Key 

Attitude is defined as ”a feeling or opinion about something or someone, or a way of behaving that is caused by this.” Note that attitude can be a “feeling” which is our mental opinion or meaning we give an emotion that comes up. With that in mind, our attitudes have the power to shape how we perceive reality, how we see people, and even how we show up. To be the eye of the storm, it’s vital that we keep a positive mental attitude. According to Positive Psychology the characteristics of a positive mental attitude we must cultivate are:

  • Optimism: Being hopeful and confident about the future even when things seem bleak
  • Acceptance: acknowledging that things don’t always turn out how we want them to, but we can learn from everything.
  • Resilience: bouncing back from adversity, disappointment, and failure.
  • Gratitude: actively, continuously appreciating the good things in our lives
  • Consciousness/Mindfulness: dedicating the mind to conscious awareness and enhancing the ability to focus.
  • Integrity: the trait of being honorable, righteous, and straightforward, instead of deceitful and self-serving

Stay Grounded

The third and final element we get to master as we become a calming force in chaotic times is staying grounded. This simply means we find a way to free our mind of thoughts and be still. This can be done through mediation, visualization, and other breathing practices. There are a plethora of ways to do these practices and the key is finding a practice that fits us personally.

3 elements to becoming the eye of the storm

In a Nutshell

Turbulent times are bound to happen at some point in our lives. Right now, it seems as though the whole world is experiencing subtle and not-so-subtle chaos. In these times, the only thing we can control is ourselves. Becoming the eye of the storm helps us bring a peacefulness to our inner state and allows us to show up as a calming force for others. We become that force by remembering the following:

  1. Don’t fight fire with fire: We get to feel our emotions as they come up and remember the moment we give a mental meaning to them or lament over them, we feel it internally.
  2. Attitude is key: It’s important we cultivate and keep a positive mental attitude if we want to remain calm in turbulent times.
  3. Stay grounded: When we stay grounded through meditation, breathwork, or visualizations we keep a peaceful inner state.

By Mona Nyree Stephens, contributing author

We invite you to discover inspiring and effective ways to care for yourself and to serve others.  Now more than ever, caring is what we all need most. Caring for our self.  Caring for others around us.  Life now demands caring, resilience and compassion like never before.  So, become a Custodian of the Caring Movement and help create the world we need right now, the world we want for our future generations.

UCA resources available to help include the Turbulent Times Resources Center,  radio show, publications and online store offering members huge discounts and always free shipping.

Self-Care, Sharing Caring, Unified Caring Association

Getting Better at What We Care About

getting better care about

Getting-Better-at-What-We-Care-About

There are many things as aspects of our lives that we care about: caring for our family, our performance at work, or even our physical fitness and health. But we can often find ourselves with little desire or in a struggle to improve. There are many ways we can strive to be better at what we care about. One of the best ways to begin a self-care or self-improvement journey is with mind, then follow with action.

Growth Mindset

Growth mindset is an idea where a person can adopt a practice where their most basic abilities can be continually developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talents are just a starting point, continually learning and growing is the ‘maintenance’ so to speak. This perspective often fosters resilience and a love of learning which can lead to success. This means that the brain is always growing, building new neural pathways, more resilient, as well as getting stronger.

A Tale of Two Zones… 

In his TedTalk Eduardo Briceño breaks down how to get better at what we care about. He begins talking about two zones that we must go through to get better at one or more skills. The first phase, the learning zone is the desire for improvement and is where the growth mindset lies. To do this “… we do activities designed for improvement, concentrating on what we haven’t mastered yet, which means we have to expect to make mistakes, knowing that we will learn from them.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about)This is in contrast to the second zone called the performance zone. The performance zone is where we execute our task, exercise our skills, “…do something as best as we can…[and] concentrate on what we have already mastered and we try to minimize mistakes.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about) Briceño mentions that often those who are perceived as highly effect and successful deliberately set the intention to alternate between these two zones. The goal for getting better at what we care about is to be clear about what we want in each of these two zones: learning and growth followed by the maximum benefit and success during implementation. Rinse and repeat.

Seems simple, right? The struggle is that many of us don’t improve even if we work really hard. According to Briceño this is because most societies have the mindset that we must stay in the ‘performance zone.” We can see this in many companies where results are the way to be successful, or in classrooms where getting the ‘A’ or ‘100%’ is all that seems to matter. We seem to be missing the learning and experience of failure that makes it possible to get better at what we care about; “…this hinders our growth, and ironically, over the long term, also our performance.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about) The learning zone consists of what “…Dr. Anders Ericsson calls deliberate practice. This involves breaking down abilities into component skills, being clear about what subskill we’re working to improve, …giving full concentration to a high level of challenge outside our comfort zone, just beyond what we can currently do, using frequent feedback with repetition and adjustments, and ideally engaging the guidance of a skilled coach, because activities designed for improvement are domain-specific, and great teachers and coaches know what those activities are and can also give us expert feedback. It is this type of practice in the learning zone which leads to substantial improvement, not just time on task performing.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about)

Often we see a trend of our abilities plateauing during our first five years of an activity. This happens when we think and feel we have become ‘good enough’ and stop spending time in the first zone — the learning zone. We move on to the second zone — the performance zone — where we often remain. While in this second zone we are just doing to get things done as best as we can. If we are practicing mindfulness and taking notes (literally or mentally) we can then go back to the first zone and work on learning and strengthening in the areas that did not work out as well as we had hoped during the performance zone.

To set ourselves up for success we need to do four things according to Briceño: 1) adopt a growth mindset, 2) want to improve a specific skill, 3) have an idea or plan on how to improve said skill, and 4) “…we must be in a low-stakes situation, because if mistakes are to be expected, then the consequence of making them must not be catastrophic, or even very significant. “ (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about) If we are able to keep the stress and stakes low for a good amount of the time, we can develop an environment that allows for nurturing a growth mindset. A good take-away from the two zones and how they interact to help us get better at what we care about is to think about it like washing your hair: wash-rinse-repeat. (Click here to watch the full TedTalk video.)

Brain Chemistry 

Ok so we have a good idea about growth mindset and how to continue getting better at what we care about. But what is actually happening with the brain? The key is in how our brain has been evolving from the purely animalistic, instinctive and reactionary wiring that focuses mostly on survival even if our nobel goal is to emphasize the positive and intentional things today. How the brain remembers negative experiences is often through the body producing cortisol during a stressful event. (That T-Rex ate Bob, it was scary, and I remember that! I also remember my friend Bob. He was a cool dude.) “The bad feeling of cortisol has its own survival purpose. It alerts you to an obstacle on the path to meeting your needs so you can navigate your way to good feelings. But once you do that, your brain finds the next obstacle. You will feel bad a lot if you follow your survival brain wherever it leads.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2016/12/21/how-to-train-your-brain-to-go-positive-instead-of-negative/#66ccd9005a58) Fast forward to 2020 and we have a brain that is tuned into looking out for obstacles, and has become very skilled in remembering negative experiences.

It probably takes about three times repeating most positive experiences to make as deep of an impression in the mind as one negative experience. This is based on practices for building self-esteem and self-confidence such as through pep talks like repeating positive sayings to yourself multiple times while looking in the mirror. Doing this will ingrain a pathway and memory in the mind based on positivity, effectively training your brain to look for the positives and not the negatives. A suggestion is to “…spend one minute looking for positives, three times a day for forty five days…Any positives, no matter how small, will build the pathway that seeks and expects positives.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2016/12/21/how-to-train-your-brain-to-go-positive-instead-of-negative/#66ccd9005a58) This will create a healthy habit, and promote the development of a healthy brain.

…And Heart Happenings

Having healthy and learning minds helps us cultivate strong emotional bonds with others and ourselves. It feels good to be successful in endeavors we care about. Previous blogs we have written talk a lot about how positive feelings are good for our us, such as Caring Through the Gift of Time and Volunteering for Health. We see this when we achieve a goal — we and those who support us often are smiling.  We feel the positivity. When a positive outlook is adopted a higher frequency of success is achieved. This in turn creates a positive circuit the feeds itself, and generates more connections during our learning time. An example of this is the saying ‘you’re on fire!’ when someone is just having successful achievement after successful achievement. The excitement is palpable and the momentum is fast.

From what we have been reading and blogging about, this is the ongoing goal of a growth mindset. Most of the time we are happy when we are learning and growing. And one thing is for certain: change is inevitable. This means that it is important to continue to get better at what we care about.

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