Do you ever find yourself ruminating about the past? Maybe you are caught in a loop of “if only” – wanting to turn back what happened in the past or stuck in a feeling of why is this happening to me today. Perhaps you worry you made a stupid comment at school, work or with friends or family? You surmise if you had talked more on your date then s/he would have called you back. Maybe you are afraid other parents think you are a bad mother because they heard you yell at your child at school.
STOP. Realize that these negative thoughts are harming you so take immediate action to combat them.
1. Put your thoughts in prospective by considering that you are looking at only looking at part of the picture. You may be focusing on one comment in the meeting and come across splendidly for the rest. Even if you did make a “stupid” comment, did anyone notice? Will they remember next week? We tend to focus in on the one negative thing we hear and exclude most of the positive.
2. We only know our own thoughts. It is frustrating and a waste of time to try to guess at what others are thinking. You don’t know why your date didn’t call and you are torturing yourself by questioning your date’s behavior. Take action instead. Get out – find an activity you enjoy and meet people. Your mood will improve so you will be ready if the right person comes along.
3. We all make mistakes. Try not to judge yourself at a higher standard than you would your friends. If you saw another mom yell at her child in public, you would probably relate well to the frustration she was feeling and even feel empathetic towards her. It makes sense to let yourself be imperfect the way you would a friend.
So, if you sitting at home, feeling anxious and depressed about the past or the future, put all the energy you can into challenging your thinking and force yourself to take action and distract your mind by getting out.
The hardest part of stress and anxiety is often thinking about the “what ifs”. What if I never find someone to love? What if I never find a job? One way to calm these restless worries is the practice of Mindfulness or Mindful meditation.
Mindfulness is a heightned awareness in one’s present thoughts or feelings or sensations without judgment. These Buddhist principles were popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the U.S. in his psychologically based stress reduction program.
You have probably heard that taking things one day at a time can help reduce your anxiety about the future. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of trying to break it further down to the moment. In these mental exercises, one might take an ordinary task, like washing the dishes and try to achieve this alert mental state.
Yesterday, instead of my usual program of cursing the task of doing the dishes and speeding through it, I slowed myself down and adapted to its rhythm– the heat of the running water, the softness of the suds, the circular motion of the rinsing of the plates and bowls and the clanging of the silverware. If my mind wandered to a “what if” place, I refocused my attention on just the task of “doing the dishes”. It was a momentary escape!
What else could I add to my day, as I begin my practice of mindfulness? Stop to pet my cat’s luxurious fur as she sits next to me by the computer, with her black tail curled tightly around her body in a ball? Experience the taste, textures, and smell of the variety of tropical fruits in my salad? Hear the sounds of the city outside my window- garbage trucks, ambulances, and backhoes and try not to judge them?
In trying to make sense of it, it seemed kind of like stopping to smell the roses, which seems like a good idea. And noticing, but not judging the unpleasant stuff, though perhaps more difficult, sounds like its worth a try, too.
This post is also published in www.myculturemagazine.com