When we are in a place of stress and fear it can be very difficult to manage our emotions, we can often find that we spend a lot of our time worrying, in fear, and sometimes blaming ourselves for the situation, even if it is out of our control.
Take the current cost of living crisis, struggling to make ends meet can bring up so many negative emotions and fears; for me it makes me feel even more of a burden because more pressure is on Kim, my wife, to earn the money we need. I start to dwell on the past and blame myself for what happened, often thinking that if I had done things differently then we wouldn’t be in this position.
Because my mental illness is long term, I struggle to see light at the end of the tunnel, and so I have a lot of fears about the future, how are we going to survive?
I, like many others, spend a lot of time in the past and the future, and the problem with doing this is that I don’t really get anywhere, all it does is either make me anxious (living in the future) or more depressed (living in the past). The key is to live in the present moment.
“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”Eckhart Tolle
Now, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about living in the present moment, and like most things, it sounds a lot easier to do than it really is; trust me, if it was simple, I’d be doing it and living a carefree happy existence.
Living in the present shouldn’t be ignored as woo woo, it actually makes a lot of sense. If you think about it, when is the only time you actually take action or make decisions? It’s in the present moment. We can plan for the future, but the only time we start putting that plan into action is in the here and now.
As I mentioned, living in the present isn’t as easy as it sounds; it doesn’t come naturally to most of us, and this is where meditation and mindfulness comes in.
“Meditation is a means for you to move beyond your analytical mind, so you can access your subconscious mind.”Dr Joe Dispenza
Meditation is a calm state of mind, it’s when the body is relaxed, and the mind is focused. I’ve previously written about meditation and how it works in my blog Why Now May be a Good Time to Start Meditating where I go into the different brain states, or brain waves.
Basically, we spend most of our time in Beta, which is where we plan, ruminate, think, worry, etc…. (sound familiar?); we use meditation to move out of this state into a calmer, relaxed state called Alpha, which is where the brain moves out of thinking, we become less judgemental, more accepting, and our we don’t jump from one thought to another. In this state we can actually become more creative and can solve problems easier. Welcome to the present.
Meditation is a bridge that helps us move from the conscious mind, which is all the thoughts we are aware of at any given moment, to our subconscious, which is a filing cabinet full of emotions, habits, beliefs and values that we are not aware of; it’s also where the imagination and intuition live.
Once we tap into the subconscious, then things can really start to happen.
So, how do you meditate?
There are many forms of meditation, so I want you to clear your mind of any preconceived ideas you have about the practice. The main aim is to use something that you can focus on in order to keep your attention and bring your mind back to when it wanders (as it will); the most common practices use the breath, an object, or a mantra (words or saying) as the point of focus.
What I will say is that it takes a lot of practice; again, it sounds so easy to do, but trust me, it isn’t, so don’t start beating yourself up if you find it difficult.
There are books, CD’s, on-line recordings, and apps that you can use, the trick is to find something that works for you, so don’t try one thing and give up because it didn’t work.
Personally, I struggle with meditation because I find my mind can be going at 100 mph, or my mood is so low I just can’t get motivated to do it. I’ve tried using apps, but I always found myself worrying about time, and how long they had to go. I haven’t been able to make a habit of it yet, but don’t let that put you off, as I always say, we are all at different stages and my anxiety and depression are quite extreme.
If you do struggle with meditation, one thing I would recommend is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a very simple form of mediation that anyone can do. You can practice it anywhere and at any time; all you do is take an everyday practice, such as brushing your teeth or eating, and slow the whole process down; you then bring in all your senses to get immersed in that practice.
When you’re eating, how often do you really pay attention to your food? How it smells, the taste, texture. That’s mindfulness.
We carry out so many of our daily practices without even thinking about them, they are ingrained habits. When you brush your teeth, I bet you’re thinking about the day ahead, or have the kids got up yet. Slow things down and bring yourself to the present.
My favorite mindfulness practice is to take photos when out on my walks with Kim and Leo (our Westie). Walking in itself doesn’t stop my mind or slow it down, so I use the camera lens on my phone as a way to focus my attention on what is around me, from the skyline to small bugs and flowers; I even take videos to tune me into the sounds of birds singing; it’s about engrossing yourself in the present moment, it’s why I hate to see people out walking in nature and then talking on their phone; we’re so disconnected from what is around us. Multi-tasking should be a skill, not a habit.
Mindfulness can be anything from listening to music to doing yoga, it anything that you have to think about and focus on.
Mediation and mindfulness are perfect as replacements for alcohol, sugar and the other negative coping strategies you may have for dealing with stress.
Have a go, try different things, and find what works for you, but try to practice as much as possible; you don’t have to do it for hours, even 5 minutes can help make all the difference and make you step out of that stress marathon.
I’ve also added some nature themed mini meditation videos. These are your opportunity to take some time for yourself, to step out of the rat race, and to give yourself permission to prioritize you for a few minutes.
We instantly become calmer when we see nature; while it’s best when we physically experience nature in person, you can feel the benefits from pictures and videos. I hope that these meditations will help you to step away from your normal busy life and find a moment of peace and calm. Here’s an example:
We can’t get rid of stress, but we can all make sure we take small breaks to step away, get back to the present moment and calm the mind before facing the stress again.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.