Sometimes when I get stressed and upset, I think of squirrels. They are extremely high-strung creatures. Have you ever carefully observed them? A squirrel might be grazing for seeds in the lawn. He hears a slight sound then a second later the squirrel scurries up the nearest tree to safety.
When the squirrel notices a cat, he not only scrambles onto a tree limb, he remains emotionally upset for a very long time. I’ve heard squirrels scolding cats for 20 to 30 minutes. Even when the cat leaves the area, the squirrels continue chattering for several more minutes.
Yesterday morning I had a close call in traffic. My car was almost clipped at a usually quiet intersection. This triggered me to become very emotionally agitated. It took several minutes to calm down. The memory of squirrels scolding cats came to mind. I smiled, took a few deep belly breaths and felt calm again.
It’s important to be calm when driving or performing any task that has the potential to cause injury or death. A mind that is distracted by fear or anger is unable to concentrate properly enough to safely control a motor vehicle. An extreme example of an unsettled mind behind the wheel is “road rage”. The person suffering through road rage is a menace to him/herself and everyone nearby.
In today’s hyper-fast changing world, it’s challenging to remain mentally calm. People in positions of power and influence try to manipulate us with visions of fear and hatred. We try to adapt to new technological devices. We face new social norms that either shock us or please us. The list continues on and on. It’s quite a chore to rediscover the inner calm we all require in order to thrive and stay healthy.
It is a calm mind that is more likely to be a wise mind. This is why it’s smart to utilize our favorite calming techniques when we feel a stressful situation developing. Most of us have learned how to do this more or less effectively. It could be as simple as taking very slow, deep breaths, or doing a mini-meditation, or thinking about squirrels scolding cats.
A technique I used before going on the air for my radio shows or before public speaking was to pay attention to my level of stress and calm. If I felt too stressed, it was more difficult to perform at my best. If I felt too relaxed, the shows were much less compelling. When possible, I took a few minutes before going on the air to do a mental body scan in order to find the right balance between stress and comfort.
I visualized my body’s muscular system and paid attention to where it felt tense. From head to toes then in reverse from toes to head, I consciously released the tension. As a result I felt inner and outer calm. This caused an automatic smile and deep confidence. For public speaking in front of a crowd, which is something I don’t like to do, I make sure to be prepared, yet not over-rehearsed; accept however the audience judges me; then do the body scan.
At the end of a stressful day, it’s good to decompress and calm the emotions. A short walk outdoors or a mini-meditation works wonders. Before bedtime, a little bit of humor hits the spot. The old saying, “laughter is the best medicine” is really true. A little bit of happy laughing calms the mind and enables deeper sleep.
When all is said and done, balance is the key. We need and often love thrilling experiences in order to stretch our boundaries and to temper our fears. It is equally important to rediscover peace and calm in order to further appreciate our unique lives.
The Blue Jay of Happiness contemplates a reminder from the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. “You accept that this civilization could be abolished and life will begin later on after a few thousand years because that is something that has happened in the history of this planet. When you have peace in yourself and accept, then you are calm enough to do something, but if you are carried by despair there is no hope.”