Psychotherapist Serge Beddington-Behrens reveals how to thrive during a crisis
The world has been in crisis for many months now and we cannot ignore the suffering the pandemic has caused. We may have lost people we have loved, seen big changes to our lifestyle or had our finances reduced. However, from crisis, we can grow and re-evaluate our lives…
1. Don’t resist the stress. Accept it is there and don’t repress it but talk about how you feel with your friends. If you happen to have a particular stress-related disorder, talking with a psychotherapist can be very helpful as your state of mind will certainly be exacerbated.
2. Keep physically fit. Yoga. Swimming. Jogging. It produces endorphins and they are terrific antidotes against anxiety. Do not couch potato it and sit on the sofa all day filling yourself with the negative energies of the news channels as they will pull you down.
3. Listen to music that both enlivens and deepens you. I choose blues and country music to achieve the first, and for the second, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Also read great literature, i.e., books by the great masters, as they will expand you. This is what I call ‘soul food’ and it is a wonderful antidote to stress.
4. Meditate. Absolutely central. Many online courses exist and what meditation does is calm our restless dashing-about-everywhere, ‘monkey’ mind, and so, a) lets us feel more tranquil, and b) opens a space enabling our inner heart to open.
5. Do things that expand your heart and make it sing. Engage in activities that you enjoy as they build up your reserves of happiness like a squirrel storing nuts! So talk to your good friends, paint, write, go for walks and if you are lucky to have a loving partner or child living with you, see if you can deepen your intimacy with them. All this helps open our hearts and this is so key, as our hearts are such a huge source of strength. Work at opening your heart and resisting the tendency to clench up, for the more open you are, the less likely it is that stress and anxiety establish a foothold inside you. I am not saying do not feel the stress. I am saying, feel it, open up to it, but take it into your heart and experience it there, as your heart has the capacity to transform negative emotion.
6. Spend time out in nature. Absolutely vital. Nature reflects and helps to bring out the deeper nature residing inside ourselves. So ask the sun to shine into you and fill all your cells with light. Ask the breeze to blow away your fears. Stand in water and ask your anxieties to be washed away. I like to lie down on the grass or sit with my back against a tree, and ask all the positive energy of the earth to come into me and fill me with its abundance. Yes, we can and we must, work at feeling abundant, even as we observe parts of ourselves feeling sorrowful in these challenging times.
7. Be grateful for your life. Sit down and visualise all the things you are grateful for and you will find that your store of gratitude fills you up so much that you are much less susceptible to looking at life through the wrong end of the telescope which, sadly, is what many of us are doing today, which makes us more prone to feeling stressed.
8. Be open to giving and helping other people. One of the best antidotes to misery is being there in some way to make a difference to the lives of those around us, be it running an errand for your elderly next-door neighbours or delivering food to people who are struggling. As Bob Dylan put it: ‘You gotta serve somebody’! It is a terrific antidote to being self-obsessed and thus hugely vulnerable to many negative emotions.
Gateways to the Soul: Inner Work for the Outer World, by Serge Beddington-Behrens, is published by Inner Traditions