If it seems like the people around you are more volatile than usual, you’re not alone. Over the past month I’ve stood on the sidelines as multiple relationships around me caught fire in various ways. The stress of over a year’s worth of pandemic concerns and the whiplash of relief to restriction is applying pressure to our already-overburdened psyches. The impact of that is so varied: some of us lash out, some of us crumble, some of us isolate, some of us take risks. The potential for lasting damage to our valued relationships is all too real and when people are in a heightened emotional state, their ability to communicate clearly and empathetically begins to falter.
So, what’s a witch to do?
One: Ground, Center, and Shield
The energy and space we have the most control over is our own. The first and best response to a new explosion of interpersonal drama is to take a step back. Think of it as a spiritual ‘deep breaths while counting to ten’ moment. Along with helping us create space for our emotions, grounding, centering, and shielding stabilizes our energy and protects us from any ill will that may be flung in our direction.
To Ground and Center, place your feet firmly on the floor. If you can step outside for a moment, even better. Take a few deep belly breaths and relax any points of tension you notice in your body. Close your eyes or bring them to a half gaze and draw your awareness to the soles of your feet. Imagine roots spreading out and down into the earth. Visualize them passing down into the darkness, through crystal and cavern, through the flowing waters deep beneath us, and into the warm earth all around. Feel your connection to our shared planet, our beautiful Mother. Invite some of the earth’s green life-energy to rise up through your roots, passing through your feet, into your legs, hips, belly, and torso. Allow that energy to pool in your heart before continuing its rise all the way to the top of your head. Feel the nourishing growth-energy of the earth healing and shoring up all the places it touches.
Then, draw your awareness to the back of your head, neck, and shoulders. From those points, visualize branches reaching out and up into the sky. Feel them spreading up into the atmosphere, touching the clouds and the clear sky above them. Feel your connection to the openness of the sky, and the universe beyond it. Invite some of the sky’s brilliant silvery light to flow down through your branches, into your head and shoulders, pooling in your heart, spilling down through your torso, hips, legs, and feet. Feel the bright, enlivening energy of the sky reenergizing and lifting all the places it touches.
Allow your connection to last as long as is practical or needed for you. Then, gently draw your roots and branches back into your body. Return your awareness to your physical body. Wiggle your fingers and toes, roll your shoulders, and reconnect to the present moment. Take a deep breath in, let it out on a sigh, then gently open your eyes.
To shield, simply visualize a barrier forming around the outside of your aura – the egg-shaped bubble of personal space around you. Choose a barrier that’s both easy to imagine and can be protective or repellent. For me, fire is the easiest visualization. For other people it can be stone, briar, or a mirrored surface. Once your visualization is clear in your mind’s eye, direct some energy into the shield to hold it in place.
Get up and go for a walk, if possible, even if it’s only for ten minutes or so. If going outside is not an option, put on some music you love and dance around your space. This accomplishes a few different things: it gives us different stimuli to concentrate on, which supports breaking the thought spin cycle. It reconnects us to our bodies more firmly which allows our gut instinct and nonverbal body communications to be felt more clearly. Movement also often lifts mood and generates more energy which gives us more bandwidth with which to eventually respond.
Three: Determine Your Optimum Outcome
Once you’ve grounded, centered, shielded, and moved, it’s time to think. Sit with the situation and figure out what your best possible outcome is. My favorite problem-solving method is to move through the Elements:
Earth: What do I need physically? How can I keep my body safe, nourished, and protected?
Air: What do I need mentally? What is best for my mental health and outlook?
Fire: What boundaries do I need to set or enforce? How best can I protect my energy?
Water: What do I need emotionally? What kind of support or space would be best for me right now?
After you’ve figured out your best outcome, determine if it’s realistic. For example, my best outcome might be ‘successfully convince Uncle Frank to get vaccinated,’ but if I already know that Uncle Frank is beyond being reasoned with at this point, I know that my best outcome is not realistic.
Four: Align to Your Best Self
We are many things to many different people, and we shift which traits are present depending on our situation and company. This largely happens involuntarily, but we can also deliberately choose to align ourselves to one set of traits or another. Take a moment to draw the best of yourself to the present. Summon your strength, your empathy, your kindness, your spiritual connection, and your joy. Allow the traits of your best self to flow through you and become your dominant traits for a while.
Five: Design Your Response
Considering your Optimum Outcome and aligned to your Best Self, determine your response. This might be setting a new boundary, inviting someone to have a longer conversation, shifting someone from your innermost circle of friends to a more acquaintance-level connection, or even severing a connection completely. Decide whether your response includes direct or indirect communication. If you do find that a serious conversation is in order, plan your aftercare and support prior to having that conversation.
Then, sit back and think about what timing is most appropriate. Sometimes it’s good to give people time to cool off. Sometimes it’s better to communicate immediately. If you have a little time till you think you should respond, consider putting down the problem you’re working on and coming back to it the next day for more perspective.
So, how are you staying centered right now? What works best for you when the people around you are in conflict? Hit me up in the comments. You never know when your answer is exactly the piece others are looking for.