Choosing Calm Over Consternation…

As I sit in the quiet of an early morning, here in my sunroom on a day when it isn’t really sunny, I’m struck by the amazing peacefulness I find in the silence. Quiet time is, for me, an important part of my self-care. Finding times when I can be alone, enjoying a cup of coffee, maybe a good book, or a simple view of nature from my deck – those are all “gifts” that I’ve come to cherish.

Moments like this replenish me. They’re not exciting, they don’t arouse my spirit, they calm me for the day ahead – they give my nervous system time to re-set and help me stay out of reactive mode that isn’t healthy for anyone. We all need opportunities for this sort of rest and replenishment.

Photo of a person sitting in a hammock and reading.
All too often, we can get caught up in reactive mode, a useless burst of negative energy, directed at some internal or external source, that we allow to set the tone for some portion of our day.
We all have our reactive mode. It looks like some form of this. . .
  • Something annoying happens that disrupts our day, we get bad news, someone disappoints us or perhaps the weather isn’t conducive to the plans we’d made.
  • We focus on the disruption to the point of discontent – making more of it than it deserves, giving it more time, space or energy than it requires – we make it a source of some unpleasant emotion like irritation, frustration, anger or sadness.
  • We emote about the disruption. This can take many forms, but for me it is often a lengthy rant muttered under my breath and using language I’d never want others to hear coming from me.
  • We recognize some outcome of our choices. For me, it may be a headache or the realization that I’m irrationally worked up over something that isn’t worth the energy I’ve expended on it.
  • We lay it aside, or we don’t. And here is where choice becomes conscious. The first choice (to be reactive) may very well have been a long-practiced habit that reflects our auto-pilot way of being – reactive mode. The second choice, what to do with the consternation we’ve let it cause, is either healing (we let it go) or self-destructive (we cling to the distress we’ve created).

Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!

These reactive mode cycles happen to everyone. However, not everyone can (or will) let go of the consternation. If you’re someone who clings to the distress and irritation, I can assure you, it will take its toll.

If you’re able to shake it off, notice how futile it is to get upset over whatever has incited your distress, and move on with your day, you can recover and avoid wasting too much of your precious time and energy on unnecessary distress. But it isn’t always a simple choice to just let it go.

What are the predictable events that put you into your reactive mode? Learning what those are can help you either prevent the reaction or lessen its impact. For me, I find myself easily thrown into reactive mode by the behaviors of my husband whose actions aren’t born of volition, but of a brain that no longer reasons – he has Alzheimer’s disease. Still, knowing his actions are the result of disease, not of decisions, I’ll find myself intensely irritated by something he does – lately, it has been littering.

In all his years as a cognitively considerate person, he would never have thrown trash on the ground; he would have carried his trash for blocks just to find a suitable receptacle, taking care of the environment was something he valued. Now, every paper napkin, tissue or scrap seems to fall from his hand onto the ground with careless ease and I am left to decide, will I pick up after him or let the behavior go. Either way, I find myself reacting to his action, and making far more if it than the moment deserves, reactive mode.

If I hold on to my irritation, it only impacts me. I get a tension headache, I feel my blood pressure rise, I recognize the misery that is of my own making! If I am able to let go of my upset, I reap the benefits. I can feel my breath move more deeply; I can respond (rather than react) to the situation and go on with my day. It is a choice.

I wish you some moments of quiet today! Some time when you can collect your thoughts, enjoy some beauty of the natural world, appreciate the gift of a singing bird or a dog’s wagging tail. But, if you find yourself caught up in reactive mode, remember you do have a choice.

You can choose calm over consternation, you can make less of the events that you typically would, you can bring some healing into the moment of distress! Recognizing the triggers that tend to bring on your reactive mode can help you let go of the cumulative misery they will bring if you choose to hold onto them!

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About Paula

I help other caregivers – both professionals and family caregivers – acknowledge their pain and learn to practice the many small skills of self-care that can sustain them through the challenges of wholeheartedly caring for others.

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How Can I Help You?

Through Co-Create 4 Life, you will learn a range of well-being strategies from skillfully implementing self-care to holistic approaches to well-being, rebuilding resilience, and battling burnout. Book a free consultation call today to discuss your options.

How Can I Help You?

Through Co-Create 4 Life, you will learn a range of well-being strategies from skillfully implementing self-care to holistic approaches to well-being, rebuilding resilience, and battling burnout. Book a free consultation call today to discuss your options.