In a crazy cascade of strange events, my husband I have found ourselves unemployed at the present. Not unlike many…MANY other Americans. As the unemployment numbers go up, so does our collective anxiety.
Like most people, at the beginning of this all consuming pandemic- I found myself glued to the news, eager to hear the answers from the professionals and government agencies. Well, It became clear- we truly are “all in this together”, as things go, even the people who are SUPPOSED to know what to do demonstrate cluelessness. I decided a few weeks ago to steer clear of the news, at least for now. I cannot purposefully feed into any idea which increases anxiety. While I do believe the media has changed much for the better in the past decade, it’s no surprise that media conglomerates (holding a very large portion of wealth in America), make money from scaring individuals. People hear something on the news, get scared, then come back time and time again to see if the situation has changed for the better. Humans are addicted to fear and the media is cashing in on it. I have alerts set for any big changes in news headlines, but to sit and watch, I just cannot do.
The days without income continue to increase proportionally to the rate at which our savings is decreasing and I am not worried one single bit. Its not because of my faith in God or because I am on really good medications (helloooo xanax)- medication would be a lot easier but I have discovered, there is very little life value in taking the easy route. I am anxiety free during a time that seems to require worry because of the steps that I have been taking for years now to find stillness in my life. Im telling you, if you find yourself riddled with anxiety and the thoughts in your head will not relent, you have to hear me!!! You must gain control of your mind, and not allow your thoughts to control your life. Your life depends on it!
Mindfulness is the term most used to gain control of the motion picture running through your brain, like trying to herd a group of cats. If this particular word is too frou-frou or too philosophical, then call it something else: Mind Training, Taming the Ninja Brain, Anxiety Awareness, Thought Control. Whatever!
I have listed below some tips to get you started. Like all of the great things in life, being in control of what you think and choosing which thoughts to “believe” (yes! your thoughts LIE TO YOU CONSTANTLY) takes time. I beg you, start small, just start- today.
- Visual Cues – When I first started trying to gain this superpower- and it IS a superpower- I found it to be very difficult. I would fail miserably, discover myself lost in thoughts, for only God knows how long, and I would beat myself up. I started wearing a pink tie around my wrist. Every time I notice the twine, I would smile to myself and be grateful for the few seconds of reprieve. Visual cues can be anything: a message on the mirror, a photo in a particular place, and affirmation that you post somewhere. Just make sure it is noticeable to you. When you do observe your cue, smile and take a deep breath, rejoice in joy in knowing you have just begun a journey to freedom and bliss.
- Locale – Visual cues will begin to reveal some space between your thoughts but for me, I needed more. So, I started to spend my time at the kitchen sink and in the shower with mindfulness. I tried my very best to remain present in those locations for the duration of these activities. This is a practice and just like anything that makes a difference, requires time. You will begin to notice space, and space between thoughts is the greatest gift anyone could receive. Life is dramatically enhanced in many ways by this one small skill. You can choose any location or activity which will help you remember to stay in the moment.
- Yoga – I am listing yoga because it’s the practice I use to feel calm. I started doing yoga in 2007, so I have some experience. My practice began as an opportunity to have an easy workout and to stretch. As with all workouts, my mind would constantly ask me “are we done yet?”. After years of practice, the length of my practice never crosses my mind. I simply sit with the pose and breathe, aware of only my movements and sensations. Now THAT is something I am simultaneously proud of and grateful for- it is hard to communicate the level of pride I have in this accomplishment. Any exercise or workout could be useful in the same way, as long as you keep your mind on the experience and not off in the gazillion places the mind can tend to go.
- Mediation – This simply is the practice of watching your thoughts and becoming aware of the mind-body connection. There is no wrong way to meditate. You sit comfortably and watch the show your brain puts on. See how long it takes to gain the ability to laugh at how silly your mind can be! The more you meditate the more you get to practice bringing your focus back to stillness in your brain. Its a life changer!
- Play with Children! – Stay in the moment while playing with children – especially toddlers. If you dont have any, someone has one you can borrow. Kids are so good a living in the moment without a worry. Children’s natural curiosity and wonder, if it could be harnessed by grown ups, would no doubt bring about a world of love and perfection. Afterall, how much progress comes from worrying about a situation? None.
I am a typical person- just a plain ole human being. I am a mom and a nurse by trade. I don’t have a ton of letters behind my name and at a few points in my life, I found myself really close to living on the fringes of society. I was a bartender for many years and an alcoholic for even longer. The only training I have had has been of my own making. Life has shown me what works and I want to share it with the world. There is but one rule, go easy on yourself. Work of this magnitude requires time and patience, but is worth every ounce of effort. My journey is not over, my search continues. However, I have reached a plateau where I can call on joy, I can choose how I feel. While those are wonderful superpowers I have accumulated over time, no triumph I have experienced is as great as the amount of love I have gained for myself. Self love is EVERYTHING.