I woke up this morning, had a coffee and started to read Harvard Business Review (HBR) as I do most mornings. Whilst reading I came across an article on building resilience in the face of a crisis, where they touched upon an old Buddist parable which really resonated with me. The parable was called The Second Arrow:
Buddha once asked a student: “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful? If the person is struck by a second arrow, is it even more painful?” He then went on to explain, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. And with this second arrow comes the possibility of choice.”
We have all been hit by the first arrow which we could not control, Coronavirus. It has seen travel restrictions, isolation, supply shortages, delays and financial implications. The second arrow is our emotional and psychological response, and a large portion of us, myself included, are exacerbating the pain of the second arrow by watching anxiety inducing media, worrying excessively and essentially hyper focusing on the impact of the first arrow.
You can’t control everything that happens, but you can control how you respond if you train your mind to be still in response to adversity. We need to manage our minds in a way that increases our ability to face the first arrow and to break the second before it strikes us.
We can do this through mindfulness.
Focus on calming, clearing your mind.
What is really going on around you?
Observe your thoughts.
When you feel anxious throughout the day, take a moment to breathe and observe your thoughts. Chances are you have left the present moment and gone down a rabbit hole of thinking through future scenarios. Are these thoughts serving you? Or are you focusing on a doomsday, worst case scenario?
Unhook the negative thoughts by telling them to “Stop.” Researchers have found that by saying ‘Stop’ straight after a negative thought has helped people to manage frustration, overcome nerves, sleep better and stop dwelling on worst case scenarios. It allows you time to replace them with a lighter, more helpful thoughts.
When we practice bringing ourselves back to the present moment. When we pause and go inward, we deepen our capacity to cope and weather all sorts of adversity, whether global or personal.
- Gratitude journaling. Make a list of all the things you are grateful for.
- Creativity is a great way to express yourself and release stress. If you don’t want to draw or write, you might like to try adult colouring books.
- Mindful breathing for a minute
- Mindful awareness. Each time you think a negative thought, you might choose to take a moment to stop, label the thought as unhelpful and release the negativity.
- Focus in on your senses. Pause and use your senses to name 5 things around you that you can: hear, see, smell, taste and feel.