Have you found yourself lost in your thoughts about the future, thinking about what you need to do the next hour or the next day? Maybe you started to feel anxious or overwhelmed about all those things you have to get done, something which may become an issue or maybe there’s something you cannot avoid any longer. If you have a brain similar to mine and lots of other people, you probably answered yes to this question.
Anxiety shows up for many of us when we start thinking about the future. “Dealing or living with anxiety” comes up in several session with clients that I work with. Evidence backs up the idea that when we are in the present moment and in touch with what is happening within ourselves and around us, this helps lower the anxiety*.
There are several ways we can help ourselves focus on the present time rather than being sucked into our thoughts and feeling about what may or may not happen in the future. Mindfulness exercises are one of these ways. Here are three simple mindfulness exercises which can help you be present.
One minute breathing: As the name suggests, this exercise is about focusing on your breathing for one minute. You can do this exercise anywhere at any time. You can start by breathing out slowly and letting your lungs get filled by air effortlessly. As you are breathing out again, notice the changes that are happening in your body. How does your body expand when you breath in? What does the air feel like in your nostrils? Notice that the air feels warmer as you are breathing out.
Notice five things: When you catch yourself lost in thought about the future, notice five things you can see around you (a wall, a chair, a clock, a bag a computer screen etc) , notice five things you can hear (a car engine outside, the noise of the clock, a person walking by etc.) and notice five things you can feel (the chair that I am sitting on is firm, my feet are warm, my eyes are dry etc.)
Two mindful bites: For the first two bites of any meal you eat, pay attention to these aspects of the bites: The smell and appearance of the food, the sound it makes when you bite it and texture and taste of the food as you are chewing it.
You might find it challenging to do these exercises initially because it is not our usual way of doing things. Think of this as a muscle that you have never used or did not know it existed. It might feel awkward to start with but you need to keep practising it so that it becomes stronger over time. As you are trying these exercises you might notice your mind wandering into the future or past. When this happens, gently bring your mind to the exercise at hand and try again. Also, practising with a trained counsellor can make things easier and help you strengthen these skills and others to live and deal with anxiety. If you would like further support feel free to ring us on 1300 364 277 to book a session with a counsellor.
-- Gamze, Counsellor @ Relationships Australia Qld
*The mindful way through Anxiety by Susan M. Orsillo, Lizabeth Roemer 2011
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