Strategies to bring yourself back into the present moment.
There have been many times in my life when it felt like I was losing my mind. Moments in time when the world feels overwhelming and I feel at a loss. Have you ever experienced this, a time or times where you feel like you are losing your mind? Times that the world feels like it is falling apart. Times where you just do not know who you are anymore and when you just feel lost and confused.
When moments of crisis hit and you find yourselves in a place of uncertainty you may even forget you have the tools in your very own emotional toolbox to fall back on. It is in those times, when you feel like you are losing your mind, that you go to your “go to’s”, in other words, you react. The reaction, most likely, comes from fear. Fear, many times, comes from uncertainty. This may be linked to the stories you have developed and believe about yourself based on your previous lived experiences. The fear may also come from a deep worry about how this event, which has caused you to lose your mind, is going to impact you in the future.
Essentially, you get pulled out of the present moment and into a reaction, which is a learned behavior from the past.
The present moment is the moment you are living now. This moment may be so painful, scary, raw, new or unknown to you that you do not want to stay there, in that moment. You forget to breathe; you start to tell yourself all sorts of stories and develop many doom and gloom scenarios of what “will” happen next based on what you have just experienced.
I want to take a moment and slow down here to deconstruct what is going on when you leave the present moment. In reality, what has just happened? Let’s look at these types of life crisis with a bit of neuroscience. The first thing that happens is you go into fight or flight mode. Your amygdala becomes activated, your adrenaline dramatically increases, cortisol is released and your brain tells you that if you do not fight for your life right now you will die. If you were truly in a life-threatening situation, this is exactly the response you want as it will give you the best chance of survival.
However, in “normal” everyday ups and downs these moments are not life threatening. In my experience, both personally and professionally, the big reaction occurs because the subconscious mind does not know the difference between the present and the past. If the feeling and/or emotion triggered is very similar or the same to something old, you react with the old learned coping skills. You react to the feeling you are experiencing in the present moment, in an old way, and the fight or flight response is activated. Once it is activated the neurochemicals kick in to do their job to save you. However, this big reaction is usually out of proportion to the situation at hand. When you finally do calm down, many times you feel badly about how you behaved or reacted and this just gives you more reason to feel lost.
are some steps you can take in these non-life-threatening situations to pull
you back into the present moment and out of reactivity.
Take a purposeful pause.
Take 3-5 abdominal breaths.
Talk yourself back into the
present moment by orienting yourself to your surroundings. For example, you can
say things like I am in my bedroom, the walls are gray, the carpet is blue, I
am wearing a red sweater, it is sunny out, it is 12:01 in the afternoon.
You can get physical distance
from the trigger or upsetting stimuli.
Place your hand on your heart
and feel your heartbeat.
Take a walk.
Sit or lay down.
Cry if you need to.
Do not respond right away.
Doing some or all of these steps will give your nervous system a chance to calm down, recalibrate and get back into balance.
You have all you need inside of you to take good care of you.
There may be moments that are not pleasant or fun in life. This is the way life is. Every crisis you live through has the opportunity to bring growth if you allow for it. If you get stuck in the muck, if you let your anxiety and fear run the show it is like putting up roadblocks to your own growth potential. Those unpleasant moments may in fact be terrible times but usually they are not life threatening, they are not forever moments and in the end you will be ok.
you take the time to steady yourself, it is as if you are rescuing yourself
from going over the edge of a cliff into the abyss of the unknown. Coming back
to the present moment and being in present moment awareness allows you to
rescue yourself. When you do this, you are throwing yourself a lifeline and
pulling yourself back from the edge of a cliff. This is empowering. You empower
yourself every time you take steps to come back to the present and out of
reactivity. This is how growth and healing happen.
invite you to have compassion for yourself. Forgive yourself. In the end love
yourself, you are worth it and no one can ever love you more than your own
ability to love yourself.
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The ability to heal and grow is in each one of us.
The commitment to self care must be a daily job. You would not blow off your work day and make excuses not to go, therefore, you can not blow off your commitment to yourself.
This idea was sparked after having a conversation with a friend of mine. She is a spin instructor, in addition to her regular 9-5 job. We were together on a Friday night and she said she had to be at work to teach spin at 8:30 the next morning. And my thought was her job is to exercise. She can’t decide not to go because she doesn’t feel like it, there are students who are counting on her, who specifically wake up early on a Saturday morning just to take spin class with her.
Exercise is something that I have never had a great love for. It is an aspect of my life that I do because I know my body needs it, it keeps me in shape, in less physical pain and allows me to enjoy yummy food without calorie counting(too much). Let me state this again, I actually do not like exercising. It is not something I feel compelled to do, most of the time my body does not crave it. Usually, if given a reason to miss my regular work out days I will easily let working out fall to the side for another activity, commitment or appointment somewhere.
I have been exercising regularly, a minimum of 3 times per week, at my gym for 15 years. So on the outside it looks like I am committed to myself and I suppose, in a sense, I am. Have there been weeks where getting to the gym has not happened at all? Yes. Have there been months at a time where I was not able to work out due to an injury and wound up in physical therapy instead? Yes. Have there been vacations when I did not make working out a daily priority? Yes. As I said I am good at finding reasons not to exercise and I am sure many of you can relate.
This conversation with my friend sparked a different perspective. This perspective is that my commitment to my self care must be made daily. I must renew it each day. A daily commitment to myself to exercise, as if I had to get up each day and go to my job to exercise because people are counting on me to be there. The person counting on me is me. And is one thing about my personality that you should know is that when I give someone else my word I stick to it. If I can stick to my word for someone else, I asked myself, aren’t I important enough to stick to my word for me?
Yes, I can honor my word to myself. I can make a commitment to myself. Then how do I approach this commitment to make it achievable. I do not want to sabotage myself and set myself up to fail. That only leads to a lot of negative self talk, I told you so’s, etc.
I decided to begin a silent experiment with myself that very evening when I spoke with my friend. I will share it with you and I invite you to do the experiment too. This experiment is about making a daily commitment to yourself for your own self care. For me it is exercise, for you it may be something else like; good food choices, meditation, journaling, practicing a craft, reading something up lifting. You get to pick.
Here is the catch. When you make the commitment it is decided on daily and only for the next day. Break it down. Your commitment to your own self care is the job you need to do for you. It is a daily practice.
If I say I will exercise every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the next year I am bound to miss one of those days. When I do, I will view it as letting myself down and that can cause a spiral of letting go of the commitment all together because once we “screw” it up we have to start again and many of us don’t. It is like the New Year’s Eve resolution that lasts a week, month or even two. And we say, “I tried.” Try is a kill word to yourself. The deeper mind hears the word try and says to itself, “I don’t have to.” In hypnosis one of the laws of the deeper mind is the harder you try the more you can’t. You say, “I tried to get up early but I hit snooze 4 times and did not get up early, but I tried.” I say you did not try, you gave yourself an out by saying try. Try is a failure word to our deeper mind. It tells the deeper mind that you really don’t mean it, it really does not have to happen, you can actually skip it and fool yourself that you made an effort. Instead, we must use different words in our self talk vocabulary. Words and statements like; I will, I am going to, the effort I am putting into this is, my intention for the day is, my commitment to myself is, it is important to me to accomplish this task. Can you see how the energy and meaning of words and statements like these are different from, I’ll try?
Here are the daily commitment steps, and they are really very simple.
Step 1: Remember this is a daily practice. Step 2: Everyday you pick what that self-care activity will be, for the next day only. It may be the same thing each day or it may be something new. Step 3: Everyday you pick the time for the next day that you will do your own self care. Step 4: Say it out loud to yourself. When we do this we are stating our intention out loud not only to our self but to the universe. We are then using more of our senses. Speaking it lets us hear it. Everything we say has a vibration and we feel it. Saying it out loud to yourself, or someone else, makes it real. When it is real we are less likely to blow it off. Step 5: When you wake up the next day keep the commitment you made to yourself the day before, at at the time you set, do it!. It is your job. Step 6: Once you follow through and keep that commitment, thank yourself for for doing it, for following through. Feel proud. Step 7: Pick tomorrow’s commitment.
Life changes daily, if we are firm and inflexible we are bound to not take care of the self. That is why when you decide day to day about your commitment to yourself you set up a scenario where you can succeed. When we then follow through with the commitment we feel good. We tell our inner self that she/he is worthy, important and loved. It is your daily job to take good care of you physically, emotionally and spiritually. No one else can do this for you. Make it happen, you can do it, one day at a time you can accomplish anything.