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.
Here are some steps you can take in these non-life-threatening situations to pull you back into the present moment and out of reactivity.
- Slow down.
- 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.
- Go outside.
- 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.
When 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.
I 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.
Janet is available for in person and remote sessions. Janet is also available to come speak at your events. If you want to talk to her send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 30 minute consultation.
The ability to heal and grow is in each one of us.