As the month of April began to wind down, I found myself seeking more mindful and spiritual approaches to coping with my anxious brain.
Tuesday, May 02, 2017
May is for Mindfulness
April was a time for me of staying off social media and journaling—by hand!. This was my way of celebrating The Mighty’s Month of Kindness as part of their year of self-care for 2017. I managed to journal 25 out of 30 days of the month. A victory! It was very liberating and fulfilling to watch the pages fill with all my “stuff”. With each stroke of my pen, I was letting go of the fear and worries that were getting in my way on daily basis.
Speaking of fear and worry...
April was a really difficult month for me. Anxiety and depression seem to creep up and tap me on the shoulder when I least expected it, and though I tried to shrug them both off, they continued to tap, tap, tap until I finally turned around and said, “What do you guys want now?”
They wanted my attention, to say the least; they were like two scared, little girls who had been begging for their mom’s love and kindness, and I acted, at first, like a negligent “too busy” mother.
Pretty quickly, I’d say by the middle of the month, it became clear how much they needed a good strong hug from me and that they needed to be heard. So, I sat down and listened to what they had to say.
They told me how afraid they were about getting older, about the uncertainty that the passing of time brings, and about how they weren’t sure what was going to happen in the future. They kept throwing all these "what if" scenarios at me, seeking reassurance in ways I simply couldn't give, in ways that were virtually impossible. "What if", by definition, has no real answer or no real reassurance because it is the unknown, the uncertain. At first I kept asking my anxiety and depression what can I do? What do you want me to do about all this? And they just kept crying and asking to be hugged…so I held them and soothed them until they quieted and relaxed into my arms.
By the end of the month, I realized that they didn’t want or need me to fix or solve or work really hard at anything. They just wanted to be heard, supported, and validated. Ironically, they needed kindness and compassion, which were the themes of the month and are the things I give to my clients on a daily basis…so why was it so hard to give it to myself?
Fear. I feared that being too soft and loving with myself meant that I would somehow become a weak mess. I would lose control. When, in reality, by turning towards myself with loving kindness actually made me stronger, made me more in control over the things I truly have control over (my behavior) and let go of the things I don’t have control over (other people’s behavior and the passing of time).
So as I leave the month April behind, with its deep, spiritual and emotional struggles, I embrace May, with its promise of mindfulness and hope. Ironically, The Mighty has declared May as the month of Mindfulness, and I am embracing this commitment fully.
My mindfulness practice for this month is very simple:
1. Daily meditation
Ten minutes a day, using the Headspace App (which I really like!), I'm going to allow myself to be fully in the moment of doing nothing but being aware of sound, breath, and sensation.
2. Awareness of "What if" thinking
"What if" thinking typically indicates that I'm about to get pulled into a tornado (or quicksand, depending on which analogy works for you) of anxiety. What if I go crazy? What if fail my test? What if my kids get sick? What if this anxiety never ends? So, for this month, when my brain starts to “what if”, I'm taking a deep breath, stepping out of the tornado (or simply not flailing around in the quicksand so I can float to the top) and grounding myself into the precious present moment. Grounding myself could be as simple as focusing on my breath for a few moments or doing mindful activities like: doing yoga poses, grabbing my kids poster paint and doodling out my feelings, asking for a hug, walking barefoot on the wet grass, going for a bike ride, looking outside at the blooming trees, or taking a walk around the neighborhood.
If you are reading this post and want to commit to mindfulness this month, post what you're going to do in the comments below.