Stress Management

Finding Balance in the Chaos

Life is full of uncertainty and hardship, but we can train to deal with it
BY Leo Babauta TIMEJune 25, 2022 PRINT

When we’re hit with uncertainty either suddenly or in large amounts, it can throw us off. We can get frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed, and discouraged.

This is normal, and there’s nothing wrong with it. However, it’s my belief that we can train ourselves to stay more balanced when things get chaotic and stay level-headed and calm, which allows us to become an oasis of sanity that others can rely on.

Let’s talk about how to train ourselves to stay more in balance when things get chaotic.

What Throws Us Off

When we get thrown off, it’s like the rug being pulled out from under us—it feels disconcerting, disorienting, and uncomfortable.

At the core of this rug-pulling is uncertainty. This uncomfortable, disorienting feeling can arise when:

  • someone criticizes us.
  • someone acts in a way that we don’t like.
  • we have a lot to do, and we aren’t sure if we can do it all.
  • things aren’t going the way we hoped.
  • we don’t succeed at something
  • we’re struggling with something.

Basically, all the things that frustrate, overwhelm, stress, and discourage us are things that cause uncertainty and disorientation. We each have typical responses to these situations. Maybe we react in anger, or maybe we start being harsh on ourselves. Some people shut down, hide, or seek distraction.

This scenario can play out even more intensely when we’re stressed or frustrated during a particularly chaotic period in our lives.

How to Stay Balanced

The key to resolving this pattern can be summarized in a sentence: Be with everything you experience, and have an attitude of relaxed appreciation.

If you’re sitting outside on a beautiful day, you can be with that experience, and relax with it, fully appreciating it. That’s relatively easy. But what if the literal weather isn’t so pleasant?

If you’re sitting in a rainstorm, you can be with that experience with relaxed appreciation as well.

If the issue isn’t literal weather, but the metaphorical weather of daily life and the pleasant and unpleasant experiences life delivers, you can handle it the same.

If during your day you get thrown off and feel overwhelmed or frustrated, this doesn’t have to be a problem. Be with that feeling as you would with any experience. You can bring relaxed appreciation to the thunderstorm of your overwhelmed feeling or frustration.

If someone is criticizing you or acting in a way that would normally frustrate you, could you be with the experience of them doing that with relaxed appreciation? Maybe you simply need to pause and consider their situation or appreciate the fact that they’re telling you something about yourself that may allow you to grow.

If you’re stuck in traffic, plowing through messages, or in a long meeting, can you be with that experience with relaxed appreciation?

Try it now. Be with this moment fully with relaxed appreciation. It’s always available to you—it’s wonder at the miracle of this moment. It’s a willingness to be with all experience, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant, comfortable or uncertain.

It’s finding curiosity and love in each moment and finding true appreciation for all of life.

How to Train

This won’t come naturally to most of us. So we can train.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Keep this practice front of mind with some kind of mantra or reminder. I like to write it out on a note that I see often, put it on my phone lockscreen, and have a couple reminders pop up.
  • No matter what’s going on, see if you can find a moment of relaxed appreciation and be with the experience fully.
  • When you feel some kind of emotion, be with that fully and see if you can bring relaxed appreciation.
  • When you get thrown off of this practice, be fully with the result of that.
  • Do a two-minute review at the end of each day to see how it went. This will deepen your learning and help you remember to practice the next day.

That’s the training. What would it be like for you to be more balanced when things get uncertain, chaotic, and messy?

Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta is the author of six books and the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with over 2 million subscribers. Visit
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