Monday, July 18, 2016

Facts About Anxiety, OCD and "Living in the Moment"

In anxiety treatment and some spiritual philosophies, being able to be "in the moment" is a lofty achievement. It is said, and is often proven, to lead to a greater sense of well-being and ability to handle tremendous feelings. I thought I'd share a few things about this elusive practice of being in the moment with whoever is reading this. Sometimes, I find it helpful and, of course, want everyone living with anxiety to have as much help as possible.

1. The Moment is the Only Thing That is Real

Before you run away thinking I'm about to get pseudo-philosophical on you, think about it for a moment. We rarely remember the past exactly as it was, and it's gone anyway. Sure, it happened, but it's not happening right now. The future is not certain for anyone. You can plan, and should to some degree, but you can't know what will happen, so unless you're creating safety nets, setting realistic goals or planning fun outings, your ruminations about the future might be unhealthy. You could be imagining catastrophe after catastrophe for no reason! Remind yourself, none of that is real and bring yourself back to what is happening RIGHT NOW. You'll fail at that sometimes. It's much easier to do when the moment is enjoyable.

2. Sometimes the Moment Sucks

Well, if the moment is the only thing we can really trust, what do you do if the moment sucks? Well, there are two things that you can do. Firstly, you can accept that the moment sucks. Yep. Shit happens and it's going to happen to you. However, you can also realize that moments are impermanent. If you're an anxious person, you feel intense emotions that you just want to pass. They always do, in spite of our fears. In these moments, it helps to remember that it will stop, even if it takes a while.

3. You Don't Have to Meditate to Be in the Moment

Meditation is a helpful way to learn to let thoughts come and go. It helps you to focus on breathing and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. However, you do not have to do it to be in the moment. You can be in the moment any time, anywhere. You can focus on the sound of leaves crunching under your feet on a hike, relish the wind in your hair as your rake your yard or breathe in the scent of a loved one during a hug. All of these things and many more center you in the here and now. You don't need 100 scented candles, a special butt pillow, an altar to the old gods and the new or a mandala drapery hanging ten feet high in front of you. You just need a moment in which to be.

4. It's Not Possible to Always Be in the Moment

Don't let trying to live in the moment be another reason to bully yourself. Not living in the moment is not failure. In fact, sometimes you have to take yourself out of the moment and imagine possible future scenarios. Sometimes, you'll really want to think about the past so you can see a loved one again. That's fine. It doesn't matter. Just practice being in the moment when you can so you can use that skill when you really need a break from your fear.

 5. Physical Stimuli Help Me

Everyone has different tricks. For me, and for many others, physical cues can bring me into the moment. Running my hands under cold water, taking a shower, holding an ice cube, standing in the wind, hugging a loved one, etc. These can bring me back. Sometimes, it is only very fleeting and I get right back into ruminating, but I can always grab another hug or sit outside in the cool wind a little longer.

If you're having trouble with ruminating and accepting feelings or just want to be a little less stressed, look into mindfulness meditation or just mindfulness in general. Like all tools for mental health, it has different levels of success for everyone, but it takes very little energy to learn and try.

If you have any mindfulness tricks you want to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section.

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