“Sometimes there is no time to wait for the sea to calm down! If you have to reach your target, let your voyage start and let the storm be your path.” Mehmet Murat Ildan
Julie Blackwater’s legs were going like pistons, a pure celebration of speed on her morning run. She pumped through the burn in her thighs, keeping her pace to the rolling tunes of rock music. The sun was high overhead; the heat pressed all around her. She gradually slowed to a stop and stooped over panting. Her muscles hummed, tingling as she stretched. Sweat was heavy on her lids, she swiped at them, and flicked her wrist to check her temperature on the screen of her smart watch. She blinked. She was burning up, hotter than the usual. As her breathing gradually dropped to normal, the adrenaline quickly dying out, her senses took in her surroundings. The air was different. She sniffed it, noticing a pungent scent. Her eyes strobed the area as her mind struggled to place it.
The first alarm went off in her head, when she realized her eyesight was hazy. It felt wrong. She keened her vision and picked out the feathery wisps of smoke. Smoke on a summer’s day? She downed the last contents of her water bottle. The cool liquid quickly disappeared down her dry throat, doing little to quench her thirst. She frowned down at the empty container.
Her gaze swept wildly a second time, coming up short of an explanation until she spun to the east. A few yards away from where she stood, a thick wall of smoke slowly crawled its way towards her, its ghostly mass swallowing trees as it hovered closer at a steady pace. The sight rooted Julie to the spot as her thoughts blanked, her frantic nerves struggling to piece reasoning.
Without thinking, she burst into a quick run in the opposite direction, climbing up a slippery slope on all fours until she had gained a few meters above level ground. She paused to glimpse back at it, and that was when she saw it, above the tops of the trees, a blazing wall screamed towers of thick smoke into the sky. The blood in her veins curdled, the shock pinning her in place, but only for a moment.
She cautiously swept a scanning gaze around her, realizing that the wall of fire stretched down south and beyond view. How had she missed it, she thought to herself, snatching the pods from her ears. The crackling of the burning forest and the roaring of the fire surrounded her hearing at once and the pulsating flames, though a distance away, beat sweltering waves of heat towards her.
Stress is a very distinct feeling in the body. We can get hijacked with an unexpected crisis along with a torrent of concerns with worry and regret. Emotions are natural and part of being human. However, when we remain in our emotional mind, upsetting circumstances and negative states can break away on us like a colt out of control galloping for home. When we have overwhelming emotions, just like the horse bolting out of control, they can take charge. Don’t clear away painful emotions, but shift them, and remain solution focused. When something unexpected happens, acknowledge that emotional shock wave that you’re feeling in that moment. You have earned the right to say WHAT! Are you kidding me? You must become aware of what you’re feeling before you can let it go. Acknowledge it, but don’t park yourself and stay there. It doesn’t hurt for you to take a pause, take a step back, and objectively and cleverly find a solution.
This doesn’t mean that you’re just suddenly all together and over the situation, and it doesn’t magically erase what happened, but by bringing a different perspective this now refocuses your mind. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is the brilliant google of the brain. When you focus on a solution, ideas that you may have never thought of before will pop up, sorting and filtering through data on information that you are zeroing in on. In Julie Blackwater’s case, she needed those solutions for her very survival. This newfound strength and understanding is not a perfect science, but you always know that when you take a step back and trust your RAS as well as your heart’s intelligence, you will be OK. Despite the pain, accept that there are always things beyond your control and that you can make some room for what could be an opportunity in looking at your life differently. This insight may not happen overnight but be patient with yourself, as sometimes ideas take time to show up.
“Change the Changeable, accept the unchangeable, and remove yourself from the unacceptable”
In Julie’s case she was in crisis and there was no time for contemplation as the only option was for survival and to forge ahead with creative ideas. When we look at what crisis has happened, sit with some acceptance of it and not try to change it, anxiety lifts. By letting go of wanting things to be how you want them to be and free yourself of controlling events, you’ll spend more time focusing on what you want rather than what you don’t want, and feel lighter and happier. Take a good hard look at what happened and problem solve on what you can do. Immediately let go of what you can’t control about it, and take a giant step back outside of the problem, knowing that you are in the drivers seat with your RAS at your side.
Four Steps to Use in a Crisis: STOP
S: Stop: look at the situation
T: Take a giant step back in your imagination outside of the problem.
O: Observe your feelings, put your hand on your heart and name the emotion. This gesture reduces the stress response in the body.
P: Problem solve, by using your RAS which is the reliable google of the brain, and seek 1-3 solutions. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box.
I invite you to share with me in the “Leave a Reply” section at the very bottom of the page your experiences, and how you creatively problem solved through them.
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