Having a nervous breakdown was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Before reaching the absolute end of my stress threshold, I never thought that finding inner peace – especially for a highly sensitive person prone to anxiety – was possible. In fact, the concept was so alien to me that the words “stillness” and “serenity” weren’t even in my personal dictionary. Peace was a completely foreign concept to me.
But if you’re at the same place that I was a few years ago, you’ll realize that something in your life must absolutely change. You’ll realize that there is no way in hell you can continue down the same path you’ve gone, that is, unless you want to enjoy the rest of your life! And you will come to understand, eventually, that the tension, pain, sadness, stress and dread that you feel right now is a catalyst of change in your life. This change is the impetus you need to grow more and live better.
Finding Inner Peace Among Turmoil
Demand, pressure, aggression, betrayal, disappointment, maltreatment, unwelcomed surprises … life is unpredictable and oftentimes chaotic. Here are 9 things I’ve learned about finding inner peace in an insane world:
1. Expecting that life and people should be different
Here’s the truth: you can expect, and expect, and expect, and expect … but what happens at the end of the day? You feel worn out, resentful, bitter, stressed and hopeless. What a waste of time, energy and effort! When I realized how much of my unhappiness stemmed from expectations, I was astounded. And hear this: our expectations are usually unconscious, in other words, we aren’t aware that we are demanding so much from other people and life itself. Why are expectations burdensome? Expectations change nothing at all: they are like brain farts. Can you change other people? No. And that’s just life.
Solution: Would you prefer to resist the truth of this present moment, or would you prefer to become a lover of reality? Try to pinpoint what lofty and unrealistic expectations you have for other people. Here are some examples, “My husband should spend more time with me like he did when we were first married,” “My boss should care more about my feelings,” “My friend should not be such a loud-mouth; I wish she could be different,” “I should be more successful,” etc. Notice the prevalence of the word “should” here.
2. Holding on to grudges and resentments
Grudges + resentments = self-righteousness … and feeling righteously indignant is extremely ADDICTIVE in a toxic way. When we obsessively store away past wrongdoings from others we are essentially telling ourselves, “I have the right to be angry at this person. I have a right to distance and separate myself from them. I have a right to perpetuate my own misery.” But on your deathbed will you really care about who is right and who is wrong? Holding on to grudges is not only infantile, it is also poorly spent time focusing on the details of life.
Solution: Visualizations and rituals can help you to let go of past hurt and start a fresh chapter in life. For instance, you may like to write down what someone did to you on a piece of paper. Once you are done, burn that piece of paper until it crumbles to ash. This is a powerful way to symbolize “letting go.” Alternatively, you may like to focus on cultivating forgiveness by focusing on how to forgive yourself first.
3. Choosing NOT to experience your emotions
None of us like feeling uncomfortable emotions, and so it’s very common for us to suppress or avoid them. Unfortunately, this creates emotional repression. Here’s the thing: hiding your feelings isn’t the same as dealing with them. Just because your feelings temporarily disappear doesn’t mean that they are completely gone. In fact, the longer you suppress them, the bigger they grow.
Solution: Choose to consciously sit with your emotions without resistance or judgment. If judgments come, let them rise and fall away. While it may be very difficult at first to experience your emotions, you will thank yourself sincerely in the long run. Note: remember to find a quiet place to do this and breathe deeply.
4. Getting lost in the past or future
Time travel isn’t real honey, or at least, not in my world! The reality is that the past and future don’t exist in this present moment; all that exists right now is NOW. While this does make sense to most people, most of us don’t take it to heart. By getting lost in past regrets or future fears we completely lose touch with the grounded present moment. Inevitably this = heartache, tension and overload … the stuff nervous breakdowns are made of!
Solution: Use your emotions as triggers, or alternatively use the uncomfortable sensations in your body as wake-up calls to ground yourself. Is your heart racing? Take that as a sign that you are drifting off into the world of your mind. Use these grounding techniques to bring you back down to ground control.
5. The obsessive need to control
As a control freak myself I know how much it sucks to constantly be in a frazzled, wired state. If you have the obsessive need to control everything you will be a master planner who tries to predict and coerce every situation into what YOU want or feel you can handle. Of course, this equals humongous loads of stress and anxiety.
Solution: The obsessive need to control is closely tied to being a perfectionist. Take a look at this article on perfectionism to get an idea of how to reduce your need to control.
6. Wanting to be liked by everyone
Wow … I could write an entire book on this topic. Wanting to be liked by everyone is such a big issue that it’s like an epidemic. In a world where we’re taught to gain our self-worth from external achievements and how popular we are, it’s almost inevitable that nearly all of us fall into this trap. We let our fear of what other people think control our lives: others perceived thoughts become our prison cells. We have such a poor foundation of inner self-worth and love that we almost always seek it from sources outside of ourselves. When we override our authentic selves in order to be more likable and acceptable, we give away our personal power. This is very dire indeed.
Solution: Learn to accept being unacceptable to others. Learn to embrace the absolute worst: being disliked. This doesn’t mean being an ass, but it does mean learning to honor your needs and wants. I like to picture the very worst that could happen if someone disliked me, e.g. “My conversations with them may be awkward, they may gossip about me …” etc. etc. But can I deal with that? Yes! And so can you.
7. Playing the martyr or victim
Adopting the role of a martyr or victim in any circumstance is an act of self-sabotage on an unconscious level. What is a victim? A victim is someone who believes that they have no personal power and that they are a casualty of fate. They are defined by self-pity. What is a martyr? A martyr is a person who sacrifices themselves unnecessarily for others, using this as a form of manipulation. They are defined by self-sacrifice. Both of these roles sustain chaos and stress.
Solution: Think about the beliefs you have about yourself, others and life. Victims and martyrs are sustained by a barrage of unrealistic, illogical and harmful beliefs such as, “I can’t change my destiny,” “Humanity is always selfish,” “My self-worth comes from how much I give,” and so forth. You may like to read this article for additional help.
8. Being slow to forgive yourself
Refusing to forgive yourself of any perceived failure, flaw or deficiency is the product of low self-esteem. The absence of self-care is a major cause of every form of stress and unhappiness.
Solution: Learn to become your own best friend. Start the journey of learning how to love yourself more.
9. Energy vampires
What defines an energy vampire? An energy vampire is a person who feeds off your mental and emotional energy. Energy vampires are often deeply wounded people who tend to leech off others in an attempt to heal themselves. However, we are not always in the position to help these types of people, particularly when they are not willing to help themselves. While I’m not too fond of the phrase “energy vampire” it is the closest phrase that describes people who enjoy drama, chaos, playing the victim, and “feeding off” the reactions of others. Energy vampires tend to restrict your self-growth and bring you down more than raise you up. These people are like black holes: they drain your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual energy leaving you like a hollow husk of your former self. If you are not grounded and if you don’t have the soulful capacity to tolerate energy vampires, the end result can be grim. Energy vampires can be friends, family members, lovers, offspring or even colleagues.
Solution: Examine all of the people you come in contact with on a daily basis. After all, it’s said that we are the end product of the five people we interact with the most in life. Are the people in your social circle supportive and encouraging, or are they jealous, demeaning, dramatic or cynical? If it’s not possible to cut away these people from your life right now, I recommend keeping your distance and taking regular breaks from them.
Here’s What You Can Do Now …
Re-read this article, particularly the “solution” parts of every point and think about how you can implement the advice into your life. Change can start in this very moment if you allow it.
Finally, I recommend that you take time out every day to enjoy stillness. Find that space of silence within you and permit yourself to be cleansed by it. You are this stillness at your very core.
Any recommendations or experiences on finding inner peace? Please share below.