Mindfulness & Me - #MHAW15
Digital team's blog
For #MHAW15, Simon tells blogs about mindfulness and how it helps him in stressful situations.
Like lots of people who suffer with anxiety, I often find myself stuck in a jumbled web of thoughts, unable to stop and deal with one thing at a time. When I need my awareness to deal with a specific situation clearly, in the “here and now”, it can become overloaded and this often brings on a panic attack.
My occupational therapist was the first person to ask me if I’d ever practiced grounding mindfulness. I hadn’t, but the idea intrigued me and I managed to get into a very basic introductory group a few days later. I immediately felt myself “click” with the concept.
I began researching mindfulness for myself. I bought a few books, and read some essays on the internet about the psychology behind it. I have to say mindfulness has since become a real godsend and I find it hard to believe that something so simple is only just becoming popular.
Without the skills mindfulness has given me, something as simple as a trip to the optician would almost certainly make me fall back into my old ways self medicating to give me the initial confidence to go, or I would simply avoid going out altogether. Here’s how I use it to manage things now... (I've put the strategies I use in italics).
Before walking in, I know I'm going to walk up to the desk to give my name then be asked to take a seat. A quick challenge of a few negative thoughts: the receptionist will have no predispositions about me so I have absolutely no reason to feel a nuisance or rushed. In I go. I take a seat in the waiting room and feel a slight paranoia telling me that the other people there are looking at me.
So, mindfulness comes into play. I take notice the temperature in the building is slightly warmer than outside, then I listen to what's going on around me. I can hear a faint tapping of a computer keyboard, an employee talking on the phone etc. When the door opens and another customer comes in I can feel the gentle breeze of cooler air drift into the room.
It's becoming a little overwhelming listening to everything going on around me and I begin feeling edgy so I need to reel my thoughts in a little further. I put my feet flat on the floor, feel the soles taking the weight of my legs and relax my thigh muscles. With my hand on the chair arms I slowly rub the material to feel the texture and softness. By doing this and consciously slowing my breathing down I've managed to become calmer, and no one around me has a clue I've been doing it. Excellent. I breathe deeper, in through my nose and try to notice the smell of the room.
During the eye exam I feel the weight of my arms resting on the chair arms, I sense the cooler air in this room and notice how it feels entering my nostrils. Now for the hard part. The optician takes their light-pen and comes to within a few inches of my face to shine the light into my eyes. I'm really not comfortable with this. I'm still feeling the weight of my body on the chair in various places and now I focus on my jaw hanging lose and relaxed. I take my tongue and slowly move it from left to right along the back of my lower teeth, feeling any grooves and trying to pick out each tooth. Soon I find myself trying to work out if my teeth are symmetrical and before I know it, I'm concentrating so hard on this the anxiety dissipates.
And that's it, a once anxiety-provoking, stressful everyday situation successfully completed all thanks to a single concept called mindfulness. For me, it really does work.