Monday, May 2, 2016

Using Intuition to Make Stressful Decisions

I've spent more than a minute talking about intuition on this spiritual awakening blog. You can find several of those posts in the following compilation to help you in your development of your intuition:

Intuition: A Short Guide to Improving Your Inner Knowing

Eventually, though, life will probably give you a situation or two where you have to make a snap decision or a choice under highly stressful circumstances, and you don't have time to ruminate, contemplate, and meditate to unwind ego programming from your divine knowing. You're just going to have to make a choice. As many of you know, your divine knowing is way better at finding the most truthful path through a situation than that old, rusty ego self full of its illusions, lies, and fears. In times of emergency, disaster, or otherwise higher stress moment, the stakes are often extremely high sometimes impacting your long-term health or safety. Clearly, making an intuitive decision is ideal.

But how do you do this when you are really stressed, upset, or even terrified? Let's talk about it.

Slowing Down First

Firstly, slowing down is important. I don't mean in the moment where you have to make a snap decision. I mean in all the rest of your life before it. Most people have lots of time in their lives, but they've been taught to get so busy in their heads and their physical lives that it doesn't look that way. Even if you are super busy, there are spaces to be found to breathe a little deeper and a little slower. This is important.

Because many times are lives are artificially fast. We believe a situation is more stressful than it actually is and that a decision is needed sooner than it is. For instance, you don't like your job. You've been going too fast, gotten lost in your mental stories about how much you hate your job, and gotten so upset that you abruptly quit. Then you get into an economic bind because you didn't have anything else is lined up. Now, you're constantly worrying about money. Now you have to make another decision under more stress to get out of this new situation, and this may mean taking another job that you don't like.

If you'd slowed down and started focusing on what you didn't like about your original job, you could radically change the scenario. In so many cases, people are not liking things about themselves that they blame on the external world. Dealing with that pain inside changes your experience of the job. Maybe you even find out you like it. Maybe you don't. But you can probably tolerate it more the more at peace you are with yourself, and then you can take time planning out a next step into a career more to your liking.

In this way, slowing down and focusing on your inner work removes the need for many fast decisions and takes the stress out of the situation.

Emergency and Disaster Planning

It can't be emphasized enough that we can't predict everything that can happen. But there are plenty of things for which we can plan. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, then you need to have some plans for what to do when one happens. (Since so many of my readers live in California, you may want to check out what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. recommends on the topic of earthquakes: During an Earthquake: Indoor Safety).

This pre-planning helps to prepare your mind and offer some level of clarity if something like an earthquake, flood, fire, or other natural disaster hits. There are certain physiological things that we can plan for too. We can plan for death, which is more than just writing a will and saying what to do with your body. There's a whole set of years of decline that human beings simply have to accept, and making decisions about health choices and goals are important steps to live fully in whatever way your human body allows. This too prepares you mentally for potential physical emergencies, and if you have a genetic predisposition towards certain diseases, this can also be factored in to your preparation.

There are many, many kinds of emergencies, and part of what makes them so scary that we can't hear any of our intuition is the fear of the unknown. That's a big fear, and it doesn't necessarily breakdown overnight. So preparing is a way to side-step that issue (although that doesn't get rid of it) so that you have some level of clarity if an emergency strikes.

Practicing Your Intuition

As I've also mentioned many times, practicing with your intuition is vital. If you are comfortable practicing under no stress, light stress, and moderate stress, the likelihood is that it'll be far easier for you to tune in to your intuition in a time of high or extreme stress. If you haven't started practicing with your intuition, then I really recommend you check out the link at the top of this spirituality blog post. While we certainly can hear our intuitions at any moment, there's a lot of preparation we can do to more easily identify intuition amidst the inner screaming of a totally terrified ego self. Practicing with small moments and small decisions helps you to get a sense of what your clarity is like. I do want to emphasize that intuition doesn't inherently feel good. Sometimes it does, but that is often a function of our ego selves liking the intuition. Sometimes the good feeling is a quality of relaxation around intuition.

However, sometimes--and this is why we practice--our egos don't like what our intuitions tell us. The intuition may tell us that we have to endure some difficulty or pain, and our ego may get really triggered. On a simple note, it may be staying in a job or a relationship that isn't what you want or particularly kind, but perhaps there is a life lesson you need before moving on. I have to emphasize that this isn't justification for staying in abusive situations--I know some egos get stuck in victim roles and try to find ways to justify these things. For them, their intuitions are probably telling them to leave and face the uncertainty of leaving the semi-security of a familiar job or relationship. Either way, intuition leads you where you need to travel in this lifetime, and getting used to listening to and acting on difficult intuitions for your ego is important work and preparation for really challenging situations.


Clarity in Extreme Stress

Interestingly enough, sometimes extreme stress can bring extreme clarity for some people. The stress of the moment completely overwhelms the person's ego. Interestingly, this leaves nothing but a present moment focus and a clear intuition for some people. Then it becomes obvious to go left when you need to turn left or whom to ask for help. It just gets clear what you need to do.

It still may not be easy what you need to do, but the steps reveal themselves as you take them. If this has ever happened for you, you can use that past experience to help you further develop your intuition in far more relaxed moments. See if you can find that quality of focusing intensely on the present moment and going step-by-step through something. See where it takes you. You can do this wandering around a street fair just to see to what events and conversations your intuition takes you. This is another way to practice with your intuition.

When you are in the moment of extreme stress, you do what you have to do, but as you come out of it, a lot of the ego fears tend to come back. And the more upheaval there has been, the more you need to keep tuning in to your intuition to manage the fallout after an event. That's one of the truths of major upheavals; even after you get through something safely, the clean up period afterwards can span days, months, and even years depending on the specific event. So if you were so fortunate as to have razor sharp intuitions during the height of the crisis, the challenge for you may be to continue to tune in to that clarity through the fallout period when all the ego preferences and ideas come charging back.

5 Steps to Using Intuition Under Stress

Every situation is different. It is difficult to generalize for all the high stress and extreme stress situations that can bombard a human being. However, I've outlined some steps to help prepare you to use your intuition in an emergency or deeply upsetting situation. The following steps are sort of linear, but I trust that you will use them appropriately for your situation.
  1. Get Safe. If you are physically threatened, getting safe is key. Ideally, you tune into your intuition to figure that out, but do the best you can. Then check in with your knowing once you are safe. So if there is a flood coming, get out of your house and find safety. Then check in with your intuition to begin to deal with a host of decisions you'll have to make for your continued safety and survival.
  2. Come Back to Your Breathing. Once safe, check in with your breathing. See if you can slow it down and deepen your breathing. Depending on the event that has come up or is in progress, your heart may be racing. All those amazing human biochemicals that come with and are basically what we call fear muddy the mind in a big way. See if you can breathe through some of them and focus your mind on the present moment and what is needed right now.
  3. Get as Relaxed as You Can. This step follows from step 2. Do whatever you can to be as relaxed as possible. If you've had to physically run from something, find a place to lie down and breathe. You may also take a few minutes to meditate. As I said, every situation is different. If you are waiting for news in an emergency room, you probably have a ton of time (this seems to be one of the truths of ERs: you spend a lot of time waiting). So you might as well meditate before the next exam or decision needs to be made.
  4. See What Needs to be Done Immediately. As you're relaxing, focus on what you need to do in the immediate moment. This is a step you may do multiple times, and it often is intertwined with step 1. As you relax a little, list out the steps and decisions you'll need to make. But try not to plan too far in the future. That is likely to be very overwhelming, and it's something to do later once the initial stressful event has concluded.
  5. Go With Your First Feeling. Now that you have had a chance to de-stress a little, look at the decisions you've identified as necessary and go with your gut feeling. This last step can be tricky because we can get stuck in the ego's hysteria, but this is why practice is so vital. The more practiced you are with your intuition, the more you know when it is doing the talking versus when it is your ego. But if you aren't practiced, do your best. The first four steps hopefully will have guided you towards a level of clarity that can make hearing your intuition easier. And remember that intuition doesn't force you to do anything where ego is probably screaming at times to fix stuff or run away.


Find a Friend and/or Expert Who Isn't Triggered

Additionally, having a friend or someone in your life who isn't triggered can be vital. They can help you relax further and talk you through options. In a major disaster, that may not be possible in your local area, so you may need to phone a friend. But undoubtedly, there are people around you that can help, and using that help is really important when we're exhausted, upset, and otherwise under extreme or high-levels of stress.

Learning to Ask for Help

You may also need expert help depending on the decision-making that is required. For instance, if this is a medical emergency, talking through things with a doctor and asking lots of questions can be vital. This, once again, helps you to work through any fears of the unknown that are triggered. You may also talk to multiple doctors if this is a prolonged emergency such as diagnosing cancer and reviewing all options to heal it. Major health issues require a lot of time and care because sometimes the "cures" cause tons of problems themselves. Intuition can help you to make the best decisions for you.

Intuition Is Not Superstition

In this crazy Internet age we live in, there are a lot of superstitious notions about health and how life should go. Superstition inherently uses fear and makes a lot of predictions about the future. Intuition tends to be very present moment focused, and there really isn't a right or wrong to it. It can be a quiet voice that says this procedure is right for you or that idea is not right for you. While it doesn't necessarily seem rational all the time to others, the deeper rationality is often revealed later on.

Superstition will keep you scared and force you to hold onto certain beliefs and look for ways to prove them. And if you look hard enough for proof for something you believe, the ego will find something. The main point is to not give in to fear. That is the path of superstitious nonsense that will have you rejecting Western medicine entirely or doing other foolish things in a vain attempt to get safe without really understanding a situation.

Do Your Best With Your Intuition

When an emergency comes, all kinds of triggers go off in most people. Remembering to listen to your intuition can be hard enough by itself much less doing it. And emergency stress--unless you're an emergency worker, God bless them all--isn't something you are likely to have tons of practice with. So, I want to end this spiritual blog post with this: do your best. We are all human, and some of us have extraordinary stresses and situations that arise in our lives. It is my sincere hope that if you do your best to relax and listen inwards, you'll find the best outcome for whatever the emergency or high stress situation that has arisen in your life.
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