In a recent yoga class, the teacher asked what it would be like to face conflict with ease. Such a good question!
Is the current level of conflict in our society stressing you to the point of shutting down?
The concept of ease feels very remote these days. As a response to stress and conflict, my clients report a lot of intentional and unintentional numbing. This numbing ranges from confusion, exhaustion and depressive symptoms to actions like over-sleeping, binge eating and drinking/drugging. It makes sense.
What would it be like for you, right now, if you could face the conflicts in your life (and surrounding you) with ease?
Because, honestly, that’s what the parts of you that are numbing, unfocused and shutting you down are probably trying to do. Right? You ultimately want to escape the conflict and to feel better! Unfortunately, when you numb out, the pain still exists underneath. The seemingly sensible action of numbing that tries to avoid what hurts actually sets you up to experience more hurt, less joy, and sometimes deep shame.
Without a sense of ease, it’s easy to lose yourself.
When parts of you take over to “save you” through avoidance of some kind, you are really not able to face conflict – or anything else for that matter. The parts of you that try to save you from constant stress will also unfortunately shut out sensations of joy, productivity, clarity and connection.
So what can you do to respond with ease when you feel angered, upset, violated, embarrassed, incredulous, bullied, hurt, shocked, affronted or intimidated?
It’s a good idea to take care of your nervous system and give yourself lots of breaks when you feel flooded, panicked or overwhelmed. But it’s not a good plan to consistently step back and avoid anything that feels difficult or conflictual as if you can simply “rise above it all.” This behavior is similar to what is known as spiritual bypassing, the tendency to use spiritual ideas or practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues. moving into a pseudo calm that ignores very real problems and issues.
While it may feel good for a moment, avoidant behavior during times of conflict is not true ease.
I have 20 tips to get you started on a path toward ease. But first, let me define exactly what I mean by ease in these situations.
Merriam-Webster defines ease as “freedom”, specifically “freedom from pain, discomfort, care, labor, difficulty, embarrassment or constraint.”
This freedom or ease then leads to a sense of naturalness – you can be who you are in any moment. Loosening the constraints inside you just enough to be authentically you is a stance of ease. In this way you have choices and freedoms rather than being captive to your fear and pain.
So let’s get to work to claim your sense of ease!
- Every day take a moment write down all of your current feelings – the strongly felt and not so obvious.
- When you feel strongly about something, say it outloud to yourself. Nod your head to show you get it.
- Sit quietly for at least one minute each day, simply noticing that you are right here.
- If you’re able to, place one hand on your heart and the other on your cheek. Breathe.
- Notice if you have any fear inside. Imagine the strongest, kindest person you know holding that fear with compassion. (This may be YOU!)
- Remind yourself each day that your feelings are a normal part of your body.
- Picture conflict coming toward you and then picture yourself staying present while you also take take two steps to the side to avoid directly experiencing the negative energy.
- When you are flooded with anger, fear or frustration, allow yourself as much time as you need to get back to feeling like yourself before you take any action.
- Move your body in as many ways as possible every single day.
- Literally shake it off. When the jitters come on, shake your body vigorously. Then offer yourself the hugest hug you can.
- Remember you can do hard things. Create a support group with at least one friend to remind each other as often as needed.
- Use your voice. When you feel stressed, allow yourself to audibly sigh, grown, moan, hum. Seek out the vibration in your body that feels most soothing. Repeat.
- Write down your core belief for your life. (For example: I stand for compassion.) Remember it when you feel conflict and allow your stance to be your safe guide.
- Check your language. Notice if your own inner voice is fueling your stress. Kindly ask it to give you a break.
- Offer yourself at least one pleasure daily. This may be as simple as a smile in the mirror, a bubble bath, reading a joke or taking time for a hobby.
- Play with perspective. What would it feel like to be in the other person’s shoes, or observing the conflict as a bystander, or watching it from above, or from 50 years ago, or in the future?
- Notice the smallest things in nature – birds, bugs, dirt – imagine the fungal layer under the ground. Notice the fluidity and variation in nature. Where do you fit in?
- Read words that inspire you rather than hopelessly inflame you.
- Create a playlist that expresses your more difficult feelings and one that feels totally peaceful.
- Embrace that you are human with humility, responsibility, compassion and love.
Experiment with one or all of these ideas. Allow them to guide you to your own ease, using methods of staying present naturally during this time.
Your own style and personality will guide you as you practice ease.
Soon you can create a list of personal ease-making behaviors, supports and skills. As you do so, you will begin to trust not only yourself but your capability to survive and thrive even in difficult times.
Remember that you don’t have to do this alone. It’s never a bad idea to reach out to a therapist, mentor, coach, spiritual advisor or someone you trust.