The Way Home

The Way Home

The other day I reflected on survival resources. Not outer ones that address our physical needs but inner ‘resources’ that help us find our way back…home, to balance, to sanity.

We live in a time of global Unknown where our health, careers, food, money, and even toilet paper can be sources of stress and anxiety. Things we took for granted are quite suddenly not as dependable.

For the most part I’m handling this time with calm, groundedness. There are moments where tears come for the suffering of the world, where I take a journey down the bumpy ‘what-if’ road but I find my way back. So I questioned myself…how do I find my way back to that place of calm, grounded, peace?

 As I asked the question I started seeing scenes from underwater caves…of my first dive into a high-flow cave system, of a dive in Mexico when one of our team members had light failure in all three lights, when a guy leading our group out of a cave took a wrong turn (but we quickly steered him back to the correct line)…of one of my first open water dives as a newly certified diver diving with two guys I didn’t know and coming up in a maelstrom and them leaving me to my own devices underwater to find my way back to the boat or the shark dive that had the entire hungry shark cast coming to me as I struggled against the current (also a newish diver and left by my dive buddy).

Those scary times and more all gave me experiences in problem-solving, working together, learning to remain calm when things around me were stressful. Those times prepared me for this time we are all experiencing now. I have successfully navigated situations that required me to momentarily suspend the fear and make a plan to make it through to completion of the experience.

These steps can be applied to any situation in life. And I credit PADI, the dive training agency for my open water diver and eventually my instructor training, with the simple solution: STOP, BREATHE, THINK, ACT.

As that newly certified diver surfacing in six foot seas and lightning popping all around, the first thing I thought was, OH SHIT! The next thing I thought was…Stop, breathe, think, act.I stopped, looked around. A boat was close enough to swim to even though it wasn’t the boat I was a guest on. I took some deep breaths and then decided to swim to that boat to rest. Even though they didn’t want me to board their boat because I wasn’t a paying guest, I not-so-politely told them to get out of my way and let me board to rest. I rested, calmed myself even more and then made a plan with their dive master and the boat crew which I had to swim back to. I got my compass out, took a heading, dropped back down underneath the six foot seas and made that lonely, hard, against-the-current swim back to the boat.

That dive stands out because things happened that were unexpected…the current changed from a slight current to a raging current coming from the other direction. The surface changed from a slight chop to six foot seas. Clear skies changed to lightning-filled raging heavens. I took the conditions at the beginning of the dive for granted. Was paired with two guys I didn’t know who were there until they decided to leave me while I was doing a visual check at the surface. What I expected to remain the same didn’t…in any way. So I had to adapt and remain calm to find my way back to the boat…to home base.

During this current time, the Unknown is really all we can be sure of so I offer the PADI dive reminder….Stop….Breathe….Think….Act.

Remember how you have successfully navigated past stress and trauma with healthy coping strategies. If you haven’t used life-enhancing methods, now you are being given the opportunity to develop them.

Stop….whatever you are doing when you start to spin-out or get anxious about the future just pause your thoughts and actions. Sit down and then….

Breathe….take some nice clearing breaths focusing on your body.

Think….you are in a temporary state of heightened anxiety. Until you are calm and grounded, abstain from decision-making. Spend some time breathing and thinking about ways you can navigate this moment….not the month or the year….this moment. Make a plan for the next half hour, hour, half-day, day.

Act…once you have a well-thought plan, then take action.

When we find ourselves spinning with anxiety we can practice good self-care by developing strategies that will lead us back home to our self. Call upon all of who you are and all the past experiences where you learned vital life skills and coping mechanisms….and if you never learned them celebrate the opportunity to learn them now.

 

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