Being trapped between the desire to get out and embrace the world and the overwhelming need to hide from it can be an exasperating experience. For me, it the word impotence is the one that best fits the situation. Knowing I have the strength, knowledge, intelligence and bravado to face any situation, but feeling anxious to the point of vomiting at the idea of simply opening a door if I don’t know what is on the other side of it fosters a feeling of impotence and despair.
The natural inclination for most of us can be to avoid situations that trigger anxiety. We find ways to complete tasks without putting ourselves in a situation that makes us feel unnecessarily fearful or make excuses as to why we cannot do them at all. For me it is taking a step back to let someone else open a door rather than going through it first, creating excuses as to why I am unable to attend that party I sounded so excited to go to three weeks ago or suddenly discovering ways to be helpful in a social situation rather than actually talking to people. Oh look, the drinks are low and I need to go and refill the chip bowls…
When we treat our anxiety by completely avoiding the situations that trigger panic symptoms, are we really helping ourselves or are we self-sabotaging?
The problem with avoidance is that it not only does it not solve anything, but it fuels the problem by creating an image of the issue that is much more alarming and insurmountable than it started out as. The more we avoid a situation, the harder it is to face next time it occurs.
Vicious cycle, really.
Many, many years ago, my beautiful friend Eileen told me about her friend, Sybil. Both Eileen and Sybil worked on the buses in England in a time where men considered themselves to be paying a compliment by slapping a woman on the arse and lewd comments were banter, not verbal harassment. Sybil was incredibly shy, and to work on the buses you needed a strong personality to stand up to the drunks and bums, as well as all manner of testosterone and ignorance fuelled misogyny.
I’ll be the first to admit that mindfulness has not been a large part of my life of late. All the lessons I learned doing my 7 Week Mindfulness Challenge have gone out the window. That being said, I don’t naturally replay conversations over and over in my head any more. I notice when I am doing that and deliberately stop myself. So maybe not *all* my hard work has been undone.
I brought my yoga mat to work today to start getting back in to a mindful mindset and I am trying to eat healthier as well as drink more water. My eating really took a nosedive over the Christmas break.
I’m not one for formal meditation on a regular basis, I prefer having practical techniques to use throughout the day to keep my mind clear and focussed on living and loving every moment of my life. One of the things that helps me quiet the chatter in my head is being aware of the sensations around me. We get so caught up in juggling every task we need to complete that we eat lunch at our desk, make calls while commuting and make mental lists of more things to do while running errands.
While it is important that we perform our jobs to the best of our ability, it is also important to nurture ourselves so we have the energy and desire to keep going. Living a mindful life does not mean we need to check out of our current lives and move to Byron Bay. Though, if that’s your dream then more power to you. It doesn’t mean you have to embrace hummus and hemp (I say while eating green beans dipped in hummus) but again, if that’s your thing, then off you go and live and love that life.
For those of us who simply want to live our existing lives in a more mindful manner before we finally end up shouting “what the fuck is wrong with all of you idiots?” out loud rather than in our heads in the middle of another pointless team meeting, sensory awareness can help you avoid an awkward HR meeting.
Quick and Easy Sensory Awareness Techniques for Mindfulness
Five for Five
Five Mindful Breaths
Remember how I said I do not like formal meditation? That is not because I do not see the value in it, it is more that it doesn’t fit into my lifestyle particularly well. I do love sitting at the beach or near a waterfall and meditating on the sounds and sensations around me, but that doesn’t happen on a regular basis. If I have half an hour free, I prefer to spend it in the company of my loved ones or indulging in a spot of escapism into my favourite fictional worlds.However, focusing in on my breathing has been a very helpful technique for me in overcoming many of the symptoms of my anxiety. If you feel yourself becoming stressed throughout the day, take five mindful breaths. Close your eyes if you have that luxury. As you breathe in, be aware of the sensation of the air flowing in through your nostrils, filling your lungs and exiting from between your lips. Feel your shoulders, stomach and ribcage move as you breathe.
Or ‘In which Taylor Swift unexpectedly overtook Theory of a Deadman in my most played list.’
You know those days where the universe conspires to make sure you learn a lesson. Well Monday, the first day of the second week of my challenge was like that. I needed to learn and I needed to learn fast of end up failing before I started.
Week 2 – Forgive their mistakes – big or small.
In her article ‘7 Things Mindful People Do Differently and How To Get Started’ Elisha Goldstien talks about the challenges in practicing a mindful life and the importance of recognising that we will stumble. The hindrances of life that get in the way of living mindfully can become opportunities to learn. In these times it is important to recognise what you need in the moment and find your fastest route to begin again.
One of the things I struggle with is being hypercritical of myself. If I make a mistake I dwell on it, no matter the size of the mistake. I have conversations in my head about problems that haven’t arisen or judgements that haven’t been made because of my mistake. Like I said last week, I have issues starting things in case they aren’t good enough, I don’t give myself the chance to make mistakes.
In short – very bad with mistakes. Much issues.
I can remember being in therapy one time and mentioning that I felt like I failed at everything I tried. I felt I would never achieve anything or succeed at anything I tried. At the time I was in therapy because I had taken on the small community services organisation I worked for and ended up on work cover having had a break down. Their treatment of me had been nothing short of bullying. I ended up affecting change in their policy but couldn’t face going back in there ever again.
My therapist said to me “Tell me about the things you have failed at.” I couldn’t think of anything. I took the question home to think over more. “What had I actually failed at?” Contemplating this at home made me realise that although I had not failed at anything on a large scale, every set back, every rejection and every small mistake was blown up in my mind to feel like large scale failure.
Telling you about the importance of looking at the beauty in the world instead of the boring train tracks and power lines that seem to clutter everything up last Monday reminded me of a walk I took one lunch time. And in true it-must-be-a-sign-even-though-I-don’t-believe-in-signs-so-it-is-clearly-a-coincidence-I’m-going-to-nod-my-head-and-say-huh-in-an-annoyingly-knowing-way-about kind of way I came across an article on Pinterest about the 7 things that Mindful People Do Differently.
I’m not sure that this story fits neatly into any of those boxes but to me it certainly illustrates how our attitudes change the way we experience life. And it is the beginning of a challenge I am setting for myself, and for you. But more on that in a moment. For now to the story…
It was a sunny day and the route down to the boardwalk I like to use takes me past a vacant lot, lots of trash, a dual lane highway, mosquitoes breeding in stagnant puddles… you get the idea. With my eyes firmly fixed on the green field ahead and my face turned to the sun (in a feel-the-warmth-on-my-face way, not a blinded-because-I’m-an-idiot-who-stared-at-the-big-ball-of-burning-gas kind of way) I felt the stress of work slip away as I walked in the sunshine with Ed Sheeran playing through my headphones.
As I walked through the trees I could easily have focussed on the abandoned shopping trolley, the trash in the water or the muggy mangrove air. Instead I saw blue wrens hopping across the ground, the fluffy seed pods floating through the dappled sunlight and the homeless man sitting on the boardwalk shooting up 20 feet ahead of me.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes work feels never ending. And on just the odd occasion, I feel a little stabby too. One of the good things about my job is that I work alone a lot of the time. One of the bad things is that I work alone a lot of the time. It’s a vicious cycle. The introvert in me loves the solitude, the extrovert misses the company.
I spend hours on end in a windowless office staring at a computer screen coming up with new ways to tell the same story over and over with the end of the day always far too far away. It can make me a little despondent, tired and stir crazy. My hour long lunch break seems especially long on days that I’m working alone. I’d much rather have a shorter break and head home earlier so I can relax.
Not so long ago it occurred to me that I am looking at my break all wrong. I have an hour for lunch. That is inordinately long for a lunch break, especially for me. I’m used to not getting a break at all in my old job. I have a whole hour where there are no demands on my time. No children to look after. No boss to please. No husband to pay attention to. Nothing but my time in the middle of the day. So I started to do things that allowed me to enjoy my break time, instead of using it to mill around eating the minties we put out for clients and wishing I could go home sooner.
Last night was a long night. I won’t horrify bore you with the details of the darkness that kept me awake most of the night, suffice to say that I was almost a zombie when my hubby’s alarm woke me at 6 am. So now it is 6:30 and instead of being irritated that his alarm woke me when I was finally getting some sleep, I am grateful that he cares enough to help me find beauty in the morning.
Awareness of the colour of the light coming through the curtains was gradually penetrating* my foggy exterior but I had yet to rouse myself to look outside. Hubby came in and told me that the sunrise was spectacular and I should have a look at it. He pulled aside the curtains and after seeing the gorgeous golden sun stream through our window I couldn’t resist going outside to soak it in.
The sunrise making everything glow, the cool breeze on my face, the kookaburras heralding the dawn and the dew tickling my toes made me thankful just to be in that moment and chased away the night time terrors.
*still not a good enough reason to use the word penetrate**
**bonus cookie for those who can identify the movie quote
I’m properly mental. Not in the licking-windows-and-owning-57-cats way. More the suffer-from-a-generalised-anxiety-disorder-and-refuse-to-grow-up kind of way.
One of the things about that is that I have issues with perfectionism. Not that I’m perfect in any way or that things I do are perfect, more that I have trouble seeing anything I do as good enough, relinquishing control or starting things if I don’t think they will be as good as I want them to be.
I was practicing mindfulness at the beach yesterday while waiting for my daughter to be out of therapy (it’s not just me that is proper mental in my family)and a thought popped in to my head that I should have a section for mindfulness on my site. Then I thought that I couldn’t do it because I don’t have my proper camera with me. Then I thought about the fact that I haven’t found the voice I want to use to write this site. And then… Well you can see where this is going. But the end of the story is that I realised that it is my issue with perfectionism that is stopping me from really starting this site. And that I am not going to find my voice unless I actually start writing.
So here is. This is me starting the first post for Brunch Fuelled Vagabond. Even though I am convinced it is not going to be good enough.
And it about something I think we should do more of. Really experiencing the world we are living in. And the moment we are living in. Mindfulness.
Often when Ash is at her psychologist I will take a walk down to the beach, do some yoga or just sit and enjoy the sound of the waves crashing and children playing. Today I decided to turn left (much like Donna in Doctor Who but without the drastic earth changing results and creepy beetle).