Some suggestions and a meditation I have recorded for calming the mind
We are in our third month of lockdown now and no doubt there are many concerns about how much longer does this go on, what happens when it ends, what are the consequences post lock down for a world that has come to a virtual standstill? Perhaps you are struggling with information overload and simply can’t take any more uncertainty – all the various theories out there – the official and unofficial narratives, the arguing, debates that turn hostile. The best thing to do in this scenario is turn off the news and try not to engage too much with social media!
Or perhaps corona is small in comparison to your personal circumstances that may already have been difficult and you now feel marginalised and overlooked, as you don’t have the right to a voice about your concerns. If this is the case you are not alone. There is so much else going on that has been ignored or swept under the carpet in a corona obsessed world but that does seem to be changing now.
Following are a few simple tips for quietening the mind including, at the foot of this post, the first recording that I have published online! I certainly needed some calming techniques myself this past week to navigate the tech that was time consuming and frustrating but in the end fairly simple in order to do this by myself.
So, what can we do when the mind is overactive with worry, fear, catastrophizing, imaginary conflicts and judgements? The first thing to do is not fight it with more negative self talk, this simply fixes your attention on the issue and adds more stress. Another don’t is to try and cover it up with positive thinking; by attempting this we set ourselves up for feeling like a failure, which of course adds to the distress. Aim to be as kind as possible to yourself, in this way success is more likely. Of course if you have already disciplined the mind to quite a degree it is fairly easy to step from negative to positive but this post is about those times when the struggle to do so is more difficult.
Whenever you catch yourself in mental turmoil then realise that the act of noticing this is a significant step, this is you taking a little step back, be sure to acknowledge yourself for this. This could take the form of, for instance, saying to yourself “I have let my thoughts run away with me again, that’s ok, at least I’m noticing”. This in itself brings a few moments of calm as your subconscious registers the kindness of this. Or you could simply say “stop”, firmly but with affection as if you were disciplining a puppy.
From here decide what is needed; if you are a very long way from even attempting a positive thought, never mind a positive feeling, then focus attention as much as possible on a practical task, such as writing a shopping list or planning dinner, or washing the dishes etc. Another fix in the moment is to slow down, when anxious we speed up so deliberately slow down, perform a task slowly, walk slowly, pause every so often and take a deep breath in and very, very slowly, breath out. Open your mouth and stretch the jaw, don’t close your mouth again, this will prevent the jaw clenching and also slow the thoughts a little.
Another fix in the moment is to focus mindfully on our senses, bring your focus to five things you can see, five things you can hear and then five things you can feel, such as sensations of clothes on your skin, a breeze, the feeling in the body as you breathe etc.
If you have a garden or are near a park then take this further, simply lie down and gaze at the sky, or through the branches of a tree. This is calming not only because of the focus upon nature but the physiological act of bringing your gaze upwards takes you out of the kinesthetic sense and therefore out of some of the emotion which may have been triggered by the thoughts. In the next post I will focus on dealing with emotion and include a short audio walking you through a simple release process. But for now I hope you enjoy the following meditation.