The Ebb and Flow of Life

starfish on the beach

Last month I was watching a documentary titled “The Love We Make”, which followed Paul McCartney as he organized the The Concert for New York City benefit concert in October of 2011.

As I watched, there were things that McCartney did that I found interesting. Now, unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years, you know that McCartney is one of the most famous musicians on the planet, recognized everywhere he goes, and one of the richest men in England. He’s also a former member of that musical group that changed the face of popular music. Yet, he seems pretty normal and well adjusted, seemingly able to avoid the pitfalls that a lot of famous performers fall into.

What I noticed is that backstage and in his dressing room,after a lot of activity, such as dealing with other musicians, problems, interviews, he would sit down and say out loud the word “relax”. Another time, you see him stretching his back by touching his toes.

It seems that he’s developed a few ways to stay centered and grounded no matter where he is. In most footage that I’ve seen of him, he comes across as calm, cool and relaxed. I would imagine that he would have to, just to stay sane after years of being chased by screaming girls trying to tear his clothes off.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a Beatle to learn to deal calmly and effectively with everyday life’s challenges.

Here’s the thing: challenging stuff will happen. Things will go wrong. Money will be tight or seemingly non-existent. Your car will die or at least want to. People will upset, frustrate and disappoint you. There will be traffic. You may get sick, lose your job, get divorced, or get a bad meal at your favorite restaurant.

As I’m sure you know, the quality of your life will not be determined by what happens to you, but by how you respond to what happens to you. You can learn to stay centered and grounded while dealing with the inevitable ebb and flow of life.

Keeping your head above water means staying present. It’s easy to get angry, lash out, or go off into what ifs and “this is so terrible” and “it shouldn’t be like this” etc. The way to stay sane is to stay present and deal with what IS.

Here are a few things you can do when it feels as if life is coming at you ready to tear you apart:

  1. First and foremost: AVOID OVERWHELM. You know the feeling: don’t know whether you are coming or going, feel like a chicken without it’s head, unable to think clearly. Most of the things below can help you stay present and out of overwhelm. However, you must take care of the basics. You know what they are: eat right, (don’t skip meals) get enough sleep, daily exercise, and a little quiet time for relaxation or meditation.
  2. Stop and breathe. Before you react, just stop, then breathe. Example: my kids spills water on her homework, I want to say “Knucklehead! You are the master of disaster!” Instead I stop, breathe and say, “It’s all right, lets get it cleaned up.”
  3. See. Look, watch and see what is in front of you. What is really going on? Is it really a disaster? Is it really “horrible” or “terrible”? Most of the time it’s not.
  4. Think, then take an action. What can you do? Make a phone call? Write a list? Ask for help? Do something constructive, even if it’s making a plan.
  5. Write something down. An idea, reminder, a curse word. Keep a journal.
  6. Use empowering self talk. Be your own coach. Practice language patterns that are supportive and empowering such as: I can handle this, I’m in control, I can deal with this, or It will be ok.
  7. Walk away. Sometimes you just have to walk away, take a break, get something to eat, take a nap. Hey, maybe even drink a beer.
  8. Laugh. You’d be surprised at how effective this is. Make sure it’s appropriate though.
  9. Sit down, stand up or move. Changing what you do with your body, (your physiology) can change your state instantly, especially if you find yourself paralyzed. I do my best thinking walking around in circles.
  10. Get perspective. Some day you will die. Most likely, in a few generations, you will be a photo hanging on the wall remembered by only a few. Life is short, and most problems that you worry about never happen.
  11. Look for the lesson. Ask What can I learn here? What is the reason for this happening now?
  12. See the beauty. I have an uncle that is a Vietnam war vet.  He remarked one time on how beautiful that country is.  Amidst all the horror and death, he was able to be choose his thoughts and be present to beauty.
  13. Give yourself permission to release. Need to cry? Go for it alone or with someone you trust. No shame in it. Need to shout and scream? Cool. No one else need hear. Need to hit something? There’s safe and healthy ways to do that: punching bags, yard work, baseball bat on an old trashcan. We all need to vent at times. Remember there is a time and a place.
  14. Reflection. What could you have done better? Need to clean things up, write a letter, apologize? Perhaps just sit with your challenge and try to get some detachment.
  15. Carry on. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Honor your journey. Cultivate the idea that it’s good to be alive.

To listen to a podcast of this blog, check out my podcast TedinYourHead Episode #80

Ted A. Moreno


15 replies
  1. Kyle
    Kyle says:

    This is great Ted. I’m going to really work on the stop and breathe first with my kids that’s one of my biggest challenges right now, not letting them drive me crazy!
    Thanks for your insights.

  2. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    I noticed that in many of your posts that it comes down to centering one self I can say without a doubt it is the thing that I re-do the most luckily my re-set button works. What works for me is reminding myself that centering start with an inner conversation that at first seems one sided. The picture I use is riding a brown tricycle my grandfather made for my special leg braces which required wide shoes. With blocks on the pedals and straps for hold my foot in place. I discovered a self powered freedom that carries me to anywhere. Sometimes it’s difficult for people to see that the solution is buried along with the fear or doubt that keeps us bound so the next time ride the tricycle or whatever gives u hope & courage.

    • Ted A. Moreno
      Ted A. Moreno says:

      You comment has much wisdom. We need to develop self awareness so that we can choose to reset or start that empowering conversation. It also takes practice, but like riding a bike, you never forget how.

  3. Jason
    Jason says:

    Ted, a wonderful post that couldn’t have come at a better time. We just moved this past weekend, and I also had a recent major change at work, and felt like I was drowning. I read the first point in this post and realized that is exactly what I needed to do. There is an old Buddhist saying that when the student is ready the master will appear. So very true. Thank you so much for sharing your insight.

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