The Skill of Awareness
Halloween is just around the corner and we are moving into the holiday season.
You may notice that you can go the whole day without noticing. You are in what I call Autopilot. Much of the time we are so in our head, we forget to be aware
When we experience stress, we assume that something fundamentally is wrong or that a disaster will happen. We become disconnected. We avoid situations. We stop taking care of ourselves. We get irritated. We mentally ruminate. We judge ourselves negatively.
For those who have OCD, you have more obsessions and do more compulsions
For those with an Eating Disorder, you might restrict more, or binge more, or purge more. If you have a Body Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB), you will spend more time in a “trance” state.
Awareness can be a VERY helpful tool to protect us against these behaviors.
What is Awareness?
I particularly love the second definition.
The goal is to take more interest in your surroundings or notice the atmosphere of your brain.
Eg: “I can’t do this” (test, get up, stop a behavior that is problematic, get a new job, go to a party etc).
Thoughts without anxiety= no big deal
Thoughts with fear/anxiety: Must be a sign of trouble to come
Being well informed allows us to identify what is a thought and what is a fact, despite what emotion or feeling it is coupled with.
Often, we have thoughts about events of developments that have not even occurred yet. We try to use our thinking as a way to confirm certainty or find the solution.
Let me ask you…
How successful and productive is your thinking about this not-yet-occurring situation?
Could there be peace in not going over every last detail of the possible disaster?
Are we using up THIS present moment to find solutions, without recognizing that RIGHT NOW is still and quiet and safe?
One of the main reasons we mentally ruminate is FEAR. It’s everywhere.
If you have fear, it may not feel safe, but your job is to watch how caught up you get with it. Become more aware of the unrealistic and irrational places it takes you.
You can practice awareness simply by bringing your attention to your surroundings. The 5 Senses Meditation is an easy way to practice this tool.
One of my most favorite ways to managing this is with the following meditation.
The more you practice it formally, the better you become at it.
The better you become at this awareness practice, the more you are able to use it during your busy day, or when distressed, or even panicking. It is an amazing tool. I hope you enjoy it.
Find a position that is comfortable
Put your feet flat on the ground
Slowly close your eyes,
Soften your eyebrows, your jaw, your shoulders, your stomach, your hands, your feet.
Bring your attention to your breath
Notice the rise and fall of your chest
Imagine that your breath is like a swinging door. Each time you breathe in, the door swings to the left. Each time you breathe out, the door swings to the right.
Continue to follow this pattern, just keeping your minds eye on the swinging door.
You may find that your thoughts wonder off. That is ok.
Just gently bring yourself back to the image of the swinging door as you breathe in and out.
Continue to breathe, allowing your breath to decide its own rhythm, and while watching the swinging door swing back and forth gently and evenly.
It is important to remember that it is natural for your thoughts to go off towards something completely unrelated. You may notice that your thoughts often go to very scary or disturbing subjects. You may start to go over all the things you have to achieve later today, or in your life.
When you become aware of this, just come on back. Come back to your breathe, as your anchor. Gently come back to the swinging door.
You may find that you have to do this “coming back” quite a lot. Again, this is totally normal and healthy, showing us that your brain is alive and well. Try not to be hard on yourself for this. The goal is to learn the great discipline of coming back to our present moment and not get caught up in thoughts that are not helpful.
Continue to practice this, noticing your breath and the swinging door.
Slowly, bring your attention back to your body
Slowly open your eyes
Congratulate yourself for trying as hard as you did.
May this practice bring you strength and compassion with the thoughts that you have.
I hope you have enjoyed this episode of My Anxiety Toolkit. My name is Kimberley Quinlan.
This podcast is not intended to replace correct professional mental health care. Please speak to a trained mental health professional if you feel you need it.
Have a wonderful day