Two ways mindfulness has helped me navigate tough emotions
One of the first things my first therapist tried to teach me was meditation. I've always had trouble quieting my mind. Over the last ten years, I've tried many different guided meditations, taken various yoga classes, and listened to a number of enlightening podcasts, but my mind still jumps around like a rabbit being chased by a fox.
The outcome is often just as grim.
In recent months, however, I have noticed a few subtle rewards for all my efforts at mental stillness. My brain has come to my rescue during periods of heightened, uncomfortable emotion and helped me reconcile difficult feelings.
The first event occurred during a routine medical test. I was having a nuclear kidney scan, which sounds more intense than it is. I laid on a metal bed while a machine took pictures of my abdomen. Medicine delivered through an IV provided the necessary contrast for the images.
About ten minutes after receiving the second medicine, I began having chest pain and breathing problems. I felt hot and prickly and very uncomfortable. At first I couldn't get the technician's attention, so I was alone in the room with my increasingly concerning symptoms.
As I began to panic, my mind pushed back three brief affirmations:
My body is healthy. My mind is calm. I am safe.
Even though I felt anything but safe, I latched onto these phrases. My body is healthy. My mind is calm. I am safe. I repeated these again and again and again. I tried to slow my breathing.
It turns out that I was having an adverse reaction to the drug and paramedics eventually came. Even though the physical outcome was frustrating, my brain totally came to my rescue! It helped me so much during that crisis and gave me confidence to face other problems in the future.
Recently, I was upset about a situation and grew quite agitated and emotional. I needed an outlet for all of my negative energy, so I decided to mow the lawn. I rushed into the job to beat the setting sun and realized too late that I was wearing sandals.
My mind was swirling with replays of the day's intense conversations and difficult emotions, but as I pushed the lawnmower, I decided to practice mindfulness. I focused on the way the long, wet grass tickled my feet. I delighted in the smell of freshly cut grass. I noticed the pattern I was cutting with the lawnmower.
For almost an hour, I returned again and again to the grass on my feet, the smell of the lawn, and the pattern I mowed.
These rhythmic sensations grounded and calmed me. By the time I finished, I was no longer upset. I could approach the situation - which had not changed a bit in that hour - with much more maturity and grace.
Years ago, my psychiatrist said: "Our goal is not relief of symptoms, but better management of them."
At the time, I was completely devastated. I wanted my meds to provide complete relief! I have learned that my medication simply makes me capable of thought and behavior management.
I am responsible for refining my cognitive and behavioral skills.
Even though I'm not the poster child for meditation, mindfulness practices are slowly taking a more prominent role in my efforts to quiet my mind. I'm still working to banish that pesky fox for good, but he's much less intrusive than he used to be.
How do you quiet your mind?
photo credit: ViDIstudio on Freepik
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