“Storms draw something out of us that calm seas don't.” Bill Hybels
Whether you feel like you’re drowning in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, a mid-life crisis, or yet another bi-monthly crisis, there is an end in sight. Every storm, no matter how strong it is, ends. Your personal storm, too, will end. The problem with storms, however, is that they’re unpredictable. No matter how many times the weather man claims there won’t be rain, there ends up being rain.
Life is also unpredictable, and when two chaotic fronts meet like that, a vicious storm is likely to follow. While we can’t control the weather, we can take steps for finding calm in our lives.
1. Find Your Fronts
When a cold front and warm front meet, you’re likely to get a storm. Your storm might not have grown out of hot and cold fronts, but it was created out of two or more opposing forces.
It’s important, even in the midst of all the chaos, to know what these fronts are. Maybe you’re having financial troubles. Your fronts might be your debts and your income or your spending habits and your budget. Maybe you’ve come into conflict with your family, and your fronts are your family and yourself.
Sometimes your fronts might not be as obvious. Even in these cases, it’s important to try to name them. Just putting a name to these forces can give you a lot of power over them. It’s especially important to name yourself as a front when relevant. Knowing how you either had control in helping start the storm or how you fall into the bigger picture can help bring a reassurance that just like you were caught in it, you can end it.
2. Don’t Forget the Umbrella
You might have heard this advice before if you’ve read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. In his book, he talks about concepts called your circle of concern and your circle of influence. While Covey goes into a bit more depth with this idea, we’re going to simplify it.
When you stand under an umbrella, you have this little circle around you that stays dry. You can choose to do whatever you want within that space, or you can choose to close the umbrella entirely. The umbrella works to protect you from the rain outside. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about the rain. All you can do is hold your umbrella over you and keep going.
This is your umbrella of influence. Just like you’re unable to control the rain outside, anything you can’t currently control about your own storm is on the outside of your umbrella. The things you can control and have influence over stay with you inside of your umbrella.
To find that calm, you have to focus your energies on what’s within your umbrella, not the rain and the wind on the outside. Direct your thoughts and worries to what you’re able to control.
It can help to spend a few minutes with this exercise. Draw or print out a little umbrella, and write down everything you can’t control outside of it, falling down the page like raindrops and bouncing off of the umbrella. Then, write down everything you can control under the umbrella, and focus on those.
3. Let it Rain
“The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Before there can be calm, there has to be chaos. Before there can be a rainbow, there must be rain. As hard as it may be, it’s important during this chaotic time to let it out. Your rain might look or act differently than someone else’s. Maybe you need a long, hard cry. Maybe you need to scream and vent and complain. Maybe you just need to write about what’s going on in your head. It doesn’t matter what the rain is, it just matters that you let it out.
You need to know that it’s okay to be struggling. It’s okay to not be okay. The first step to getting better is to let it out.
4. Seek Shelter in a Storm
In this case, that shelter is your family or your friends. It’s your support group. It’s the people who raise you up and know how to make you feel better. You need to find these people, and invite them in.
It’s all too common when we’re not feeling at our best to draw into ourselves and block people out, but you need someone there to help shelter you from the storm. You can’t just walk out into a hurricane by yourself and you can’t tackle the storm inside your head by yourself either.
If you don’t know who in your life is there to support you, reach out. Reach out in like-minded Facebook groups, open up to some trusted coworkers, or find an activity to surround you by more kind-hearted people, like volunteering.
Surround yourself with good people and the winds whipping around inside your head won’t sound so loud anymore.
5. What Remains in the Puddles
It’s important that as your storm is ending, you don’t immediately move on and forget about it. As hard as getting through it was, there was value in it. A storm that destroys a village also restores barrier islands and brings new plant growth further inland. It can be hard to see these positives in the middle of something so traumatic, but it’s important to recognize them.
After it rains, you get to go splash in the puddles. And it’s these puddles that you need to focus on. See what remains after your storm has passed. What’s hiding in your puddles? There are always lessons you can learn and things you can take away from the passing storm, and it’s important to do so. Go splash around in the lessons the chaos has taught you and get a good look at yourself and who you’ve become in the water left over.
Remember, your storm has an end, and it’s coming.