Mindfulness to Help Deal with Overwhelming Emotions
Pretty much everyone feels distressed or overwhelmed at times, but many are feeling it more this year than ever. If you are feeling overwhelmed by memories, feelings, or thoughts, mindfulness techniques can help you feel less overwhelmed and more safe.
Every waking minute of the day, you are bombarded by thoughts. Your thoughts are like an endless record, a sort of background noise that is with you as you face the day. The voice in your head remarks on what you see, comments on your insights, and questions everything. Much of our experience is determined by our thoughts, therefore we experience what we think. We can have a negative or positive experience based on what our thoughts tell us. Because our thoughts are always with us, it is easy to get caught up in believing that they are true. So often our thoughts are mistaken as true, when they are actually stories we tell ourselves. You can't change your thoughts, but you can redirect your attention by using mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to the present moment without judgement. It allows you to disengage from those overwhelming thoughts, so you may be present in this moment. When you redirect your attention and learn to be an objective observer of your thoughts, the unwanted thoughts lose their power over your experience. Practicing mindfulness techniques will make it easier to stay present with what is right in front of you.
Here is one exercise you can practice to help you be more mindful. I recommend finding a quiet space and take your time with this exercise.
Follow the directions below.
The Five Senses Exercise
FEEL – Name 5 sensations that you can feel in your body. For example, I can feel my feet on the floor, my hair against my face, the itch on back.
HEAR – Name 4 things you can hear. For example, the sound of the air conditioner running, cars driving by, birds chirping
SEE – Name 3 things that you can see. For example, a red car, a laptop, a blue bird. SMELL – Name 2 things you can smell. For example, fresh cut grass, asphalt, roast in the oven. TASTE – Name one thing you can taste. For example, your lunch, toothpaste, or morning breath.
The more you do this exercise, the more readily it will be available to you when you need it. For instance, you are under a lot of pressure with work, on your commute, you find yourself worrying about all the things that could keep you from meeting your deadline. This would be a good time to use your mindfulness tools. Interrupt the thought process by using the Five Senses Exercise. Notice the red car in front of you, the green pines lining the highway, the sound of road noise, the smell of fresh coffee, etc. By redirecting your attention using your Five Senses, you have interrupted the thoughts and have redirected your attention to the present moment. Now that you have interrupted your thoughts, you may feel more at ease.
This is just one of many exercises that will help you become more mindful. Mindfulness can positively shape your thoughts and your experience. You will come to realize that you are not your thoughts. Even if you experience negative thoughts you do not have to identify with them. Enhancing your ability to be mindful is empowering and gives you more freedom of choice. You can change your brain and change your life using mindfulness.