Pursuit of Peace: how to stay calm no matter what life throws at you in midlife
You may have thought that once you got to middle age, life would get a little calmer and you’d be able to handle whatever life threw your way. You’re more settled, kids are grown or almost grown, there “should” be less “on your plate.”
Plus, you’ve been around the block and should how to handle things, right? But, for many of us, there are NEW challenges, NEW things keeping us busy, NEW stressors – things like aging parents, aging homes, aging bodies.
Notice a pattern? A lot of aging. So, yeah, we may not have the same kinds of stress we had in our 20’s or 30’s, but we still have stress and overwhelm. And we can still experience anxiety or depression, even if we never experienced these things before. It can totally cause emotional exhaustion.
That’s why I’m sharing what I’ve learned about finding that peacefulness that we need to remain calm and handle what life throws at us.
Guess what? It’s not that hard. It’s not something that eludes certain people. It’s not something that is saved for the special ones. It’s not just for the people who go on silent retreats or those with a strong religious belief system or the ones who “do all the right things.” Being able to handle what life throws at us is actually available to – and can be achieved by – all of us!
What is peacefulness though?
Peacefulness is NOT
Peacefulness does not mean that you aren’t affected negatively by anything or that you don’t ever feel anxious, fearful, or overwhelmed.
Peacefulness is not the avoidance of feelings.
And, it is not the feeling you get after a few glasses of wine. 😉
Sometimes referred to as peace of mind, inner peace, or inner calm, peacefulness is:
- A sense of being ok or having faith that things will be ok.
- Acceptance of things the way they are.
- Appreciative of the moment/the present.
- Recognition of the joy in the journey.
- Acknowledging obstacles as opportunities.
Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.”Wayne Dyer
How I Maintain a Sense of Peace
(even when things seem out of control or overwhelming)
There are several things that are proven to help us maintain a sense of peace, no matter what life throws at us. Adding four specific things to my regular routine has helped me immensely.
#1 – Practice A Calming Technique
One of the best ways I have found to regain my sense of calm is breathing. When I’m feeling anxious, which usually happens when I have a lot going on, I’m not focusing on what’s at hand, and my thoughts are all over the place, I take deep breaths.
Breathing works for anxiety because it “automatically slows your heart rate. The effect on anxiety is almost instant” (Psychology Today).
There are a lot of different breathing techniques and it’s something I’d like to learn more about. (Stay tuned while I investigate – I’ll be sure to report back to you all).
Another calming technique I use when I have a lot of stress and I’m feeling super tense is the body scan meditation. This is where you focus your attention on each part of the body, from toes all the way to the top of your head/scalp. As you become aware of holding any tension, you purposefully relax that area.
There are a ton of different calming techniques that work. Taking a walk, listening to music, doing something creative, being in nature, or even petting your dog.
And, the more you practice these things, the easier it becomes to get to that inner sense of calm when life throws you a curveball. You know what it’s like – you feel it in your gut, throat, or chest. But, when you pull out one of your tools for calming, that feeling can change almost immediately.
#2 – Meditation
Meditation helps us with redirecting our thoughts. When you practice meditation regularly, you learn to become aware of your thoughts when you’re not in meditation. It helps us to notice those thoughts that we aren’t intentionally creating, but those that are running through our minds uncontrollably.
So, when you are thrown that curveball, your thoughts oftentimes will go to fear, worry, anger, etc. But, if you’ve been practicing noticing your thoughts, you are more likely to think something like, “ok, yes, this is something that might be stressful, but I can handle this. Being calm will help me get through this situation.”
If you’ve never tried meditation, you might think it’s not for you. Or, maybe you’ve tried, and didn’t feel like it worked because you couldn’t stop your thoughts.
During meditation, it’s natural for thoughts to come into our minds, and when we notice them, we gently bring our focus back to the breath or another “anchor.” This is how we “train” our brains to notice.
There’s one time of day when I notice my thoughts going crazy. You might relate – it happens in the shower. My thoughts have a mind of their own – thinking about what’s in store for the day, a conversation I had yesterday, something I forgot to schedule, dinner preparations I need to take care of, etc.
I’ve gotten so much better at recognizing when this happens and then I bring my focus back to the present. When I do, I can enjoy the shower, the warm water, the alone time, and the smell of the shampoo. Being present this way allows me to feel gratitude and be in the moment.
#3 – Practice Gratitude
When we forget all there is for which we can be grateful, negative thoughts can take over. We might be thinking that life isn’t fair, comparing our situations with others, and feeling like the “grass is greener” for everyone else.
There are several ways to practice gratitude. Just like the other options, what works for you may not work as well for someone else.
I’ve incorporated gratitude into my daily journaling. I write down one thing that I’m grateful for and then list five specific reasons I feel gratitude for that one specific thing or situation.
You can also write down 3-5 things you are grateful for in the morning or at night. There are even gratitude apps that help remind you to practice being thankful.
Remembering how fortunate we are, even in hard times, reminds us that there can be joy in everyday things and not just experienced when we achieve a goal, go on vacation, get to our goal weight, etc.
Right now, I’m appreciating that I get to sit on my comfortable (not pretty) couch with my little dog sleeping next to me. It really is the little things.
Another reason that gratitude helps you find your inner calm is because when you focus on positive things, those are the things you will notice more often. In contrast, if you focus on the negative aspects of your life, you will be more likely to notice the crappy, stressful, or irritating things around you. What you focus on – you will find more of.
#4 – Acceptance (vs. resistance)
So, I absolutely HATE the phrase, “It is what it is.” I don’t really know why, but I do. I always thought, “well it might be the way it is, but you can change what it is and it can be better.”
Well, that may be true in some situations, but not all situations. And, it IS applicable for finding peace in your life. Sometimes we just need to accept that things are the way they are. Resisting things that you cannot control only leads to turmoil.
When we complain and whine or allow ourselves to become agitated and irritable because of events, situations, or circumstances, our thoughts and feelings will likely be negative.
For example, if your partner quit his or her job out of the blue, and you know that it will cause hardships and stress on your family, you will probably be angry. That’s ok. But if you continue to blame your partner for being irresponsible, continue to worry and stress out, and wish things were different, it will be hard to move forward, keeping you stuck in the yuck.
I try to remember this – when things like this that happen that I wasn’t expecting and are kind of like a kick in the stomach, I allow myself to feel the feelings that come naturally. But I also intentionally remind myself that I can learn from all experiences. Then, I move with the situation, rather than struggle against it or try to “swim upstream.”
Additional Resources to help you stay calm no matter what
Meditation: This is a quick guided meditation that I found to be super helpful in my pursuit of peace. On your Insight Timer app: Peaceful Morning Exercise from Maria McDonald
Reading: A few things that may be getting in your way of finding that peaceful feeling – Why You Aren’t at Peace Right Now – Eckhart Tolle.
I truly believe that at this point in our lives, we do have a wisdom that can help guide us to that feeling of peace. But, I know a lot of women feel overwhelmed by not only the day to day responsibilities of life, but the fact that the years have gone by quickly. They feel “old” and miss their youthful selves. (If that’s you, you might like this post.)
If you are one of those women or are looking for more calm in your life, try some of these and let us know how it’s going for you. We’d love to hear your recommendations too! (Comment below or share with us on the Midlife Pursuits Facebook page.)
As always, feel free to email me anytime to chat or with any thoughts you have for future content!