Life is stressful. It’s just the way it is … There’s nothing I can do about it … I can’t take a vacation, I’m too busy … I don’t have time to work out … I can’t get sick right now, I have too much to do.
The stressors of day-to-day living can be brutally overwhelming. Left unmanaged, stress will slowly build upon itself until we find ourselves spiraling out of control: back-to-back meetings, deadlines, difficult coworkers, irrational bosses, school, projects, walking the dog, errands, social engagements, cooking, cleaning, arguments with spouses, crying babies, colds, flus, planning for the next day, and the never-ending to-do list. We wake up, churn and burn through the day, pass out, and repeat. Sadly, it’s become our ”norm.”
We know on some level that we’ve fallen into an abyss and yet we don’t know how to stop the cycle or move out of the state of suffering, so we rationalize it or we blame our work, our boss, our spouse, our parents, or our friends for the events and circumstances of our lives. Some choose to pretend that it’s not really that bad or that this is just the way life is and there must be something wrong with us because we’re not able to cope as well as others seem to be coping. In other words, we inadvertently bury it and keep going which perpetuates the very cycles that got us here in the first place.
How Do We Keep Calm Under Stress?
This is the world we live in and have come to know so well and yet, there has never been such a need for finding ways to maintain our center in the eye of the storm. So how do we do it? How can we be in this world with all of its day-to-day stresses—having a career, commuting long distances, raising children, navigating breakups, struggling with dead-end jobs—and still find it within ourselves to access a state of harmony, live with purpose, and connect to a place of calm, centered awareness? In those ordinary, everyday moments of stress, how can we move from chaos to calm in an instant?
Stress is what ultimately spins people out. Not just the big things in life like a career change or a breakup, but the seemingly little everyday stressors that add up over time. It’s the compound effect of experiencing the same aggravating circumstances over and over again that begins with mild irritation and eventually turn into madness that really wears us down. The imbalance occurs when our output is greater than our input. Meaning, we’re expending more energy than we are taking in, or giving more than we are receiving.
The key is being able to access what the Yoga Sutra 2.46-2.48 refers to as sthira sukham asanam, which emphasizes balancing the polarities of tension and relaxation. It’s about holding steady and calm while maintaining our stance. In this context, we can translate it as being stable and comfortable while holding our position—or, being in life and learning how to resolutely abide in a positive space.
What Is a Positive Emotional Anchor?
From the teaching of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), comes the concept of an anchor. The simplest way to explain an anchor is to think of it as a link to an emotional state. The anchor serves as a reminder or a trigger that puts you into a certain state of being. Of course, anchors can be both positive and negative; however, we’re going to focus on positive anchors.
For example, an athlete will use an anchor to get back into “the zone” so they can regain peak performance in a game. It may be a visual image of shooting the perfect basket or knocking the ball out of the park. A professional speaker will have a routine they do before going on stage to remind them of the positive states they want to be in while presenting. This routine is their way of setting up an anchor—or a positive state. You can use this same concept at any time to help you get out of a chaotic state.
12 Steps to Creating a Positive Emotional Anchor
Here’s a guided visualization to help you create your own anchor to a powerfully calm and peaceful emotional state—or any other positive state you’d like to access in times of stress. If you’d like to use a physical object as your anchor, be sure to have it with you at this time, or you can work with a visual image in your mind.
- First, sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Begin by taking a few slow, deep breaths to center yourself.
- Think of a highly positive experience in the past when you achieved an incredibly calm and peaceful state, or whatever type of emotional state you would rather feel when you’re overly stressed out.
- Have an object like a pendant in your hand or visual image in your mind that will help you remember that feeling.
- Now, think of the experience that brought that calm state into being. See the experience through your own eyes, hear the sounds around you, notice any comforting smells or tastes, and feel into it emotionally—as if it is happening now. Make it compelling and feel yourself accessing the desired state as you hold the object or visualize the image that you are linking it to.
- See if you can find other similar and equally positive experiences to link to this object or image as well.
- Now use your senses in whatever way is best for you to link the object or image to these feelings of peace, calm, and harmony.
- Use your breath to secure the anchor by taking a three-second inhale through your nose, and exhaling for six counts out your mouth while making a “ha” sound. Use the exhale to energize the anchor. You may energize it through visual, auditory, or kinesthetic sense. Do this four times.
- When you see, hear, feel, or sense the connection has been made (you will know this because you are feeling the desired emotional state now), slowly open your eyes and come back into the room.
- You have now created a tangible or visual link to this powerfully calm emotional state that you can use anytime you need to move from chaos to calm in an instant.
- Whenever you’re spinning out and you need to come back to this state, stop, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and touch the object or see the visual image that you anchored.
- Allow yourself to return to the calm, peaceful state and remain there for as long as you need—use your “ha” breaths to reconnect if you need to—and then re-emerge when you’re ready.
Remember that life is what we make of it. How we perceive our environment is what creates our reality. If we look at life through the lens of negativity, then negativity is all that we will see. If we choose to look at life through the lens of positivity, then we will see and experience positivity and be able to live in gratitude. It is a choice and, when we have tools—like the guided visualization for anchoring a positive state—we can more easily and effortlessly navigate life’s most challenging moments. This is where you will also begin to realize the power of the mind.
Now that you know how to consciously change emotional states in an instant, where else can you practice shifting your perspective?
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