Life is like the ocean, sometimes it is calm, and sometimes it is stormy and intense. When life gets stormy, we often feel overwhelmed and react. When we react we often are coming at it from an automatic pilot rather than from a place of choice.
Given that life has its ups, and downs, no matter what, just like the ocean, we can equip ourselves with the tools we need to navigate it. Like a skilled sailor navigates a boat during an intense storm. So what are the tools?
Being in the present moment can assist us to see what is happening and to have an awareness of what is going on and what our impulses are before we act.
One way to cultivate this presence is with mindfulness practice. When you find yourself in a stormy moment, close your eyes, and take 3 deep breaths. Then feel your feet and the sensations of the feet touching the ground. Spend a minute attending to these sensations.
Taking a moment to come to the present may open up the space for you to reach into your deep wisdom so that you can choose an action rather than react and cause yourself further sorrow.
- “I’m not going to get it all done!”
- “What if _______ (worst case scenario) happens?!!!!”
- “I’m not good enough…”
The mind is like a factory of thoughts. It just doesn’t stop. When you begin to practice Mindfulness, you begin to realize how the mind just won’t stop.
The problem with stress and anxiety is that the mind doesn’t stop generating torturous thoughts about what might go wrong, what is wrong, how we are not good enough or how we won’t be able to handle one thing or another. Most of these thoughts are unhelpful and useless.
Mindfulness helps us become aware of our thoughts but more importantly it allows us to decrease the power of thoughts, and therefore, our stress and anxiety.
Tip#1: When you become aware that your mind is engaged in torturous, unhelpful thinking, bring your awareness to the present moment by finding 5 things with each of your senses (except taste). As you find each thing, spend a few seconds paying attention to each:
- 5 things you see
- 5 things you touch
- 5 things you hear
- 5 things you smell
Doing this each time you feel stressed, anxious, worried, caught in negative thinking, you will weaken the power of the thoughts, gain mastery over your mind, and feel empowered.
I am very excited to embark on my dream of creating the Vancouver Centre for Mindfulness Therapies. As a psychologist, my passion is to make a difference in the lives of others. I am starting my dream by offering Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programs in the community. This program was developed at the Centre for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where I have received my training.
Stress, Anxiety, physical or emotional distress and illness have been shown to benefit from this mindfulness program. For more information click on Registration.
Dr. Erika Horwitz, Registered Psychologist