If there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that no matter what’s happening in my personal and professional life, the world seems to keep turning. It turns whether my world is full of sunshine or rain. In 2016, John Mayer released the song “Stop This Train.” To the tune of an acoustic guitar, he sings “I want to get off and go home again. I can’t take the speed it’s moving in.” And that’s how the world sometimes feels, like it’s moving too fast, and I need a pause button to get caught up.
And so if you do know this song, you know that towards the end John goes on to recite the advice he got from his father, “honestly we’ll never stop this train.” Spoiler alert: he’s right! So, with the full knowledge that even the hard days are gifts if we are here to see them, I started thinking about where to find the calm in the storm. Because the most perfect moment to prioritize ourselves will likely never come, we have to create the space. In doing my own deep dive, here’s where I find my calm. Maybe it will help you find yours too.
I find my calm in prioritizing rest
So I first got introduced to author and poet Tricia Hersey when she was interviewed on my favorite podcast, We Can Do Hard Things. Tricia asks “what would it be like to live in a well-rested world?” And to this, my immediate answer was that the world would be more grounded, and that maybe we’d be more connected to each other and the world we live in.
In her book “Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto,” Tricia Hersey casts an illuminating light on our troubled relationship with rest and how to imagine and dream our way to a future where rest is exalted. Our worth does not reside in how much we produce, especially not for a system that exploits and dehumanizes us. Rest, in its simplest form, becomes an act of resistance and a reclaiming of power because it asserts our most basic humanity. We are enough. This book helped me to think of rest as a right instead of something that had to be earned, and reminded me that I am my best self when I’m fully rested.
I find my calm returning to my breath
So this is wild, but the first thing that happens when I’m stressed out is that I stop breathing. Like, I actually hold my breath. My body tenses up into some kind of flight or fight response, except there’s nothing really there to fight. What am I going to do, fight my inbox? This year I’ve been making more of a conscious effort to be mindful of my breath, especially in moments when I’m feeling anxious, or nervous, or afraid.
Something else I do to help myself return to a state of calm and focus on my breathing is to switch my music to a spa or zen playlist, because sometimes I have to encourage the vibe I’m trying to set instead of waiting for it to occur naturally. And also, when possible, I close my eyes, as a way to momentarily block the outside world, so I can pay better attention to what’s going on inside of me.
I find calm in phoning a friend
Listen, sometimes we just need to let it out, to a person we trust where we won’t feel judged, and in spaces where we can be open and vulnerable. It’s actually very rare in these moments that I’m actually looking for advice and opinions. I mostly just want to unburden myself with whatever I’ve been carrying. Most of time, through this process, I realize that I’m carrying a lot of things that weren’t meant for me to carry. It feels good to let it go.
When having this kind of moment with a friend, it’s okay to say things like “I’m not looking for a solution, I just want to vent.” You can also ask “do you have space for me to vent about something to you? I have a lot on my mind.” And if you find yourself on the receiving end of such a special moment, be honest about whether you can be fully present for that friend or not at that moment. And also ask, “How can I support you here?” Most of the time the biggest way to support is to listen. Get yourself some friends (or a therapist) that you can talk to about the hard stuff. It helps to release that energy
I find calm in nature
It’s no secret that I love being outdoors and surrounded by beautiful views. Get me to the mountains, put me amongst the trees, let me rest my feet in the sand. One of the scariest realizations is that we have this big beautiful world around us, and most of our time is spent staring into the glowing light of screens no bigger than a sheet of paper or a business card. Look up 🙂
In the mountains
This year I spent some time in Patagonia. We hiked a path through evergreen trees that eventually cleared to a rocky, pebble-stone beach. The air was cold against my cheeks, and I was layered in almost everything I brought in my carry-on suitcase. When I came upon the shore, I decided to think of something that was weighing me down. Along the jagged shore, I found a rock with a similar vibe. Let’s just say one called out to me. And I felt the weight of that rock and its meaning. And then I tossed it. I tossed it into the sea. So much of what we carry isn’t physical. So, it felt good to bring it into the physical world and let it go.
In the Pacific Northwest
Recently, I took a long weekend in Portland, and my friend and I went on a waterfall hike. We trekked up a crazy incline with several more switchbacks than either of us expected. But we didn’t mind too much because just about every step along the way came with the most breathtaking view. The water reflected the blue hues of the sky; the terrain was rugged; the trees stretched up to eternity. We took so many scenic photos. The funny thing is that the view from the top of the waterfall left very little to be desired. So the best views came with the journey, not the destination. And I thought it was a perfect metaphor for the journey of life.
Maybe something from my list resonated with you, or maybe you find your calm at punk rock concerts (no judgment!). Either way, we’re not stopping this train. So if you haven’t already, I suggest you become intentional about carving out some calm spaces for yourself. And also think about what makes you feel grounded in this fast-paced world.