All of us have to deal with times of crisis in our lives. We all face the very real individual challenges of loss, illness, relationship difficulties, failures, financial setbacks and misfortunes. Then there are the collective issues we face like economic instability, climate change, political unrest, war… and the list goes on.

In times of crisis like these, a certain amount of anxiety and stress are normal and inevitable. They are our body’s natural response to facing uncertainty and threats. 

However, we don’t have to get totally overwhelmed and debilitated by anxiety. We can help ourselves stay mentally strong in these times by regulating our emotions in healthy ways, maintaining a resilient mindset and taking effective action to help us through.

We can do this by using the four steps of the R.I.S.E method. If the pressure is on in your life or you are going through something really hard right now, my wish for you is that these four steps bring more confidence, calm and courage into your life.

 

How to R.I.S.E to your challenges

 

The ‘R.I.S.E’ method is a set of four practical steps that you can use to respond effectively to any challenge or crisis in your life. Here’s a quick summary of the key steps, and then we’ll go into each one in more depth.

R = Recognise and regulate any difficult emotions and thoughts  

I = Inhabit the present moment through mindfulness

S = Stay connected to your values 

E = Engage in action guided by your values

 

R = Recognise and regulate thoughts and emotions 

In hard times, difficult feelings and thoughts will probably arise as a natural response to what is happening. We don’t want to pretend we’re not feeling them or thinking them, we don’t want to try to struggle with them, numb them or escape them.

It’s especially important to acknowledge your feelings and give yourself compassion for what you’re going through. Continuously struggling with difficult emotions only tends to prolong them and make them bigger over time. It also often leads us into unhelpful habits like substance abuse and other addictive behaviours which can drain our strength during tough times. 

So see if you can let go of the inner struggle with difficult emotions instead surround them with your compassionate awareness instead (free audio here to help you learn how). By meeting your emotions with compassion and acceptance you can sooth your nervous system, calm your mind and are able to think more clearly and act more effectively.

When it comes to regulating our thoughts in times of challenge or crisis, probably the most important thing you can do is stay focussed on what you can control. When faced with a crisis it’s natural to feel some amount of stress however we often cause ourselves a lot of excess suffering and stress by continuously worrying and ruminating about all kinds of things that are not in our control.

While that might be a fairly normal thing for the mind to do, it simply is not helpful. For example you cannot control what other people are doing, you cannot control how governments are responding to world events, you cannot control the future of the world or how events will unfold.

In fact, the more you focus on things you cannot control, the more overwhelmed, anxious, disempowered and frantic you are likely to feel.

So the most powerful thing you can do when you’re facing any great challenge is to focus on what you can control and accept that for now, the rest of it simply is as it is. What we can control is our behaviour so think about what you can do to make a positive difference (more on that to come).

As we focus on what we can control, we let go of what we cannot. So instead of wishing things were different or fighting the way things are, here we wage peace with life as it is. This is not resignation but the simple acknowledgement that “right now it’s like this”.

 

I = Inhabit the present moment

If you’re continuously feeling caught up in thoughts of worry, rumination, stress or overwhelm, continuously bring your focus back to the present moment to find more balance, calm and steadiness of mind.

Research shows that we tend to overthink in times of stress and this ramps up the fear circuitry in the brain and makes us more reactive, anxious and less able to cope. So when your mind is spinning, you can pull out of the turmoil by taking a mindful moment.

An easy way to do this is to bring your attention into the body and take a few deep slow breaths… feeling the breath in the body as you do this.

Every time you feel like you want to find your centre again, come back to the present moment.

 

S = Stay connected to your values

What is a ‘value’? Our values are the principles that give our lives meaning. Some examples of values are compassion; creativity; loyalty; bravery; family; gratitude; love; learning; playfulness; determination; adventure; family; freedom; harmony; grit and kindness. 

We all have our own unique values and according to psychologist Barb Markway, our values stand for our most meaningful ideals that inspire us to keep going when the going gets tough. 

By staying connected to our values we can respond with wisdom, clarity and integrity to what is arising instead of reacting to it. So in the tough times think about who you would like to be in this situation and what matters to you most. 

We cannot control the circumstances of our lives but we can always choose who we want to be in the middle of it all. No matter what happens, we always have this power.

 

E = Engage in actions guided by your values

One of the most empowering things you can ever do in difficult times is take positive action – action guided by your own core values. Whatever your unique values are, connect with them and let them guide your actions.

Perhaps considering “What is one small positive step I can take right now? How can I look after myself and others? What needs to change to make things easier or better?”.

Research shows that focusing on what you can control and taking action shifts you from a state of helplessness to one of hopefulness and empowerment. In a time where you might have otherwise felt paralysed or depressed, taking action restores your calm, clarity of mind and inner strength.

Put these steps to work and see how they might be able to support and strengthen you. If you have questions, reach out on socials and if you find these steps helpful in your life feel free to also share your story too!

If you’d like more support in your journey to living by your values, performing at your peak under pressure and becoming mentally strong I’d love to help you guide you through. You can join me in the Headstrong course or join us on the free 5 day mental strength challenge coming up soon.

All the best and big love, Melli

Learn the Art of Mindful Living with Melli O'Brien: