Article courtesy of Mental Health Association in Indian River County
VERO BEACH - You feel overwhelmed, you’re experiencing difficulty in controlling your worry, and tend to expect the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern. Maybe you experience these feelings outwardly, demonstrating irritability or apathy, maybe you carry this within your body and can notice the tension within; a tightness in your chest, your heart rate speeding up. Right now, even the smallest sudden sound or request could send you through the roof. We’ve all been there in varying degrees...I am talking about stress and anxiety.
Currently, we all are experiencing an increase stress in some way. Some common factors which you may experience directly and can contribute to the development of anxiety or panic include: stress at work, new stressors from online schooling, family stress, stress within a personal relationship, financial stress, trauma and trauma reminders, and/or stress from an existing or newly diagnosed medical condition.
Throughout the world, each of us or someone we care for are facing at least one of these influencing factors. Unfortunately, no one can avoid stressful experiences. The goal is to learn to manage the stress more skillfully while keeping in mind that the key element must always be to become aware of the worry or your stressors. Enter: Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing. Mindfulness can help us to become less reactive to stressors by providing some space between what happens and our reaction and this is where our freedom lies. And guess what? You were born with tools to get started: your five senses
Breath. Try the 4-7-8 method. This technique forces the mind and body to focus on regulating the breath, rather than replaying your worries. It can slow a racing heart or calm nerves.
First, let your lips part and exhale completely through your mouth.
Next, close your lips, inhale through your nose as you count to four in your head.
Hold your breath for seven seconds.
Then exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.
Practice this pattern for four full breaths.
Sight. Try this: distract a racing mind by finding as many things in your line of sight of similar color. Then try to count how many of those things there are. You can even take it a step further and challenge yourself to find colors in order of the rainbow. Alternatively, you can play a simple memorization game. This is an easy one with no real rules. Just think of your line of sight as a frame, the way you would if you were looking through a camera’s viewfinder. Concentrate on the SPACE between things, the order of the landscape in front of you from left to right and then from right to left, the change in light throughout your ‘frame’, etc. Try to memorize the scene as if you were going to paint a picture and describe it to someone else in the future.
Sound. Close your eyes and listen. Hard. Notice the humming sound that Nothing makes. Notice how it becomes louder as you allow your mind to focus on it. Notice the other sounds that surround you. Are the birds chirping? Are the trees singing along with the wind? Has the air conditioner clicked on, causing the papers on your desk to flutter just for a moment? Focus on the sounds. Notice the patterns, the rhythm of the world around you.
Sound is the perfect object of mindfulness, as we hear only the sounds of this moment. We don’t hear the sounds of the past or of the future. Sound can be utilized as your anchor to the present moment by simply noticing the soundscapes around you. You don’t have to interpret the sound or identify what might be making the sound. Just observe it and let it be as it is.
Taste. Take a bite or drink of whatever suits you. This could be a piece of chocolate, a sip of coffee or tea, a scoop of ice cream…totally your choice. Don’t swallow just ye…instead, concentrate on the sensation in your mouth. Is it hot? Is it cold? Is it smooth or rough? Focus on what you’re tasting. Is it bitter, sweet, savory or refreshing? Now swallow. How does it feel moving down your throat? Can you still ask your taste buds to recall the taste just a little? Do this process several times and really savor the act of eating or drinking.
Touch. Wherever you happen to be, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Bring your attention to your sense of touch, starting at the bottom. If you are barefoot, notice how the ground feels on your soles. If you have shoes on, wiggle your toes and notice how you can draw your attention each of them as they touch the shoe surrounding your foot. Next, observe the fabric as it touches the skin on your legs or how the air feels on them if they are bare. Now, bring your mind’s focus to where your sitting and how your sitting. If you’re seated in a chair or couch, feel the contact between your body and the chair’s surface. If the chair has arms, touch it, is the material smooth or textured? Perhaps you are seated on the ground, legs crossed. Become aware of your posture and limbs. Lastly, note the sun on your skin or the temperature of the room. Is there a breeze or a stillness? Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax your muscles. Unclench your jaw. Sit.
When life becomes overwhelming or you find yourself feeling anxious, try these five things that are right at your fingertips and always within reach.
The purpose of all of these is to calm you down and center your mind. Try them and practice them.
Interested in more resources from the Mental Health Association in Indian River County? Visit www.mhairc.org/resources because, “It’s OK To Get Help.”