“Calmness is the cradle of power.” ~Josiah Gilbert Holland
I was interested, recently, to find that our local supermarket had set up an area with ten self-service checkouts. For years I‘d accepted the normal method of bagging and paying for my stuff. No stress there. But they’d installed some new technology and I was keen to give it a try.
All new things bring with them hiccups or small difficulties of some kind. The self-service area was no exception.
Sure, I did receive the correct change. And, it was definitely the fun experience I looked forward to. However, a queuing area hadn’t yet been established, so people just jumped into a vacant self-service spot as soon as one became available, oblivious to the fact that others were waiting.
Here was the dilemma.
Should I have called out in a loud voice, “Hey you! What about the queue?” (angry response) OR “Excuse me. Do you mind going to the end of the queue?”(polite response) OR continue to wait in line without commenting. (I could either churn myself up internally or mutter to the person next to me or to myself.)
Being a bit shy, I was not fond of using the angry or polite responses. I was actually churning inside over such a small thing. After all, it only meant I’d be held up a few minutes.
Have you been guilty of getting anxious inside over something as trivial as queue jumping?
The Secret to Replacing Agitation with Calmness
So what is the secret?
I’ve given it the name: reaction awareness. Let me explain.
When you are in a situation where you feel your insides churning, become aware of your reaction to that situation. By observing what is happening in this way, you are in control. You have the power to calm the negative reaction welling up inside you.
Reaction awareness allows you to replace a churning reaction with a calming one. You’ll actually lessen the severity of any negativity that arises.
How It Works in Practice
Okay, you’re aware of your reaction, but how can you lessen the negative results of each particular situation, on your body?
Reaction awareness consists of two techniques.
One technique deals with developing calmness as soon as a stress or annoyance arises. Of course, not all of the ideas listed below are ideal for each situation. Your choice will depend on where you are and what has happened.
On the other hand, you might select just one that you’ll use every time because you know it would be the most comfortable and useful response for you.
The second technique involves the regular practice of activities that over the long term will become part of you, like a habit. These activities will strengthen you so that when situations occur in the future, you’ll be ready and well prepared for them. You’ll be equipped to handle yourself better.
Quick Techniques for Immediate Use
- Use breathing. Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself. Turn away from the situation so that it’s out of sight for a minute or two.
- Reduce surrounding noise. Turn off loud music and change to calm, quieter sounds.
- Ask someone to massage your shoulders. This is where tension is stored. A quick massage can release the tension and relax you.
- Count to ten. This was the technique popularized when I was a kid.
- Drink water. Make a warm drink with lemon to soothe you, or have a glass of water.
Activities to Practice Over Time for Long-Term Benefit
- Use breathing exercises. The most basic is to inhale, then exhale, using the nose, both to the count of four. Yoga enthusiasts will know various breathing exercises they can use. Or consult a practitioner for the ones that will give you most benefit.
- Sit quietly. We are conditioned to thinking we must be doing something every moment of every day. If we’re not sending a text message, we’re “tweeting” or “liking” someone. Just sit and quietly read, practice mindfulness, or enjoy a short time of shut-eye.
- Walk or jog outdoors. Choose a place with trees, grass, or flowers, because they send a calming message to the brain.
- Have “me” time. You are important so treat yourself as important. Do something you love doing but rarely have (or make) time to do.
- Recognize the triggers. Know particular situations in advance when you’re sure you’ll flare up or need calming. Two of mine are feeling very cold, or feeling thirsty/hungry. Know the triggers that create agitation for you, so you can be better prepared. You’ll gain that state of calmness quicker.
Because the last five listed above are ideas to be used over the long term, it’s important to practice them on a regular basis. You might like to select just one or two and master them.
Try them. See which ones calm you down. Your body will thank you because calmness, rather than an uptight feeling, will be the norm.
Why Should You Use Reaction Awareness?
It’s healthy. Your body doesn’t respond as angrily as you might without using it.
According to Josiah Holland, calmness is the place from which power emerges. In other words, by using this technique, you are developing an inner strength—an inner power and confidence—because you are in control of each situation. You haven’t let your emotions take control of you.
Using reaction awareness is definitely not a sign of weakness. The confidence it creates in your ability to handle awkward or difficult situations by reacting calmly enables you to face each day with your head held high. You exude that special quality not many people have, of inner peace and strength.
Many times each week, you’ll find yourself in situations where you can either forget all about action awareness, or use it. The choice is yours. Remember, you are in charge of your life and your health.
When you practice reaction awareness, you’ll be prepared for anything—almost. In whatever situation you find yourself, you’ll be replacing agitation with calmness.
As you deal with every issue, you’ll become more confident. You’ll become a source of strength and calm for others around you.
Calm man on a cloud image via Shutterstock