It’s not a productive or healthy way to be in the world, but it happens.
I’ve got a good example for you….
After the attacks on the World Trade Center, September 11th in New York City, people were pretty shaken up.
Every day on my block on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, there was another moving truck. It was wild to see so many people exiting the city so quickly, but it was understandable. People were scared.
A dear friend was suffering from the mental stress of the possibility of another attack on the city and she was having a hard time functioning. She could barely get to work in the morning, and she was afraid of everything because her thoughts of another terrorist attack were consuming her.
She was so stressed out that her gorgeous curly brown hair was falling out in clumps. High stress, and prolonged stress, leads to adrenal fatigue, and that contributes to hair loss.
One day I met my frazzled curly-haired friend downtown for lunch. She told me she couldn’t travel on the subway anymore.
She said, “What if there’s another attack on the city and I’m on the subway…. I won’t be able to get out…. I might suffocate down there, I could get trampled by other people… I can’t be underground when it happens again… I just can’t do it. I don’t want to die underground!!!”
I told her that I understood what she was going through, and that she was correct. There certainly could be another attack in New York. We live in a city that is a high profile target. The truth is, the next time the entire city could be destroyed. Even though New York City is considered one of the biggest cities in the world, it’s relatively small in size.
Her eyes grew wide with fear.
“But,” I said, “before you freak out, I want you to follow my line of thinking here. We’re sitting at this restaurant and there is a glass of water on the table. What if I knock over that glass, and it falls onto the floor, shatters, and goes into my foot! I’ll have to go to the hospital to get the glass removed. But, I don’t have any health insurance, so it may cost me a few thousand dollars. I don’t have a few thousand dollars lying around. So I won’t get treated and then my foot can become gangrenous, and I’ll have to get it cut off, and then I’ll have one foot, and I won’t be able to work anymore! I won’t even be able to stand in the kitchen to cook. I won’t be able to pay my rent, and I’ll get kicked out of my apartment, AND I’ll become homeless!!”
She exclaimed, “Oh my God, Bea, that’s awful!”
I said, “Yes, Oh my God is right! But… what is the truth here?”
She blinked her big brown eyes and stared at me blankly.
I said, “The truth is… the glass is still on the table. None of that stuff I was thinking about has actually happened. Yes, the possibility of that can happen – just like anything can happen at any time. But, if I live in the world of potential future catastrophes I can’t possibly live happily and healthfully in the world right now.”
The kind of emotional stress my friend was suffering with, that was making her hair fall out in clumps, was in her mind. She was stuck up there, spinning around and around and around, because she lost sight of the truth. The truth can help you find your way, and set you free from stress and anxiety.
It takes practice to get out of your head and get into the world. Especially, after a traumatic event.
It seems many of us are either in the future, fretting and worrying about what could possibly happen, or we’re stuck in the past and depressed about what already happened, and we can’t move forward from it.
Not being present is not a healthy way to be in the world, and it can drain the life out of you.
Here are some quick tips to help you get present:
Breathe: When you grow anxious and find yourself rushing ahead into the future, the first wise thing to do is focus on breathing and slowing the breath. If you think it sounds too simple, try it right now. Focus your attention on following the inhalation of your breath from your nose all the way down into your belly. And, then follow your breath up and out of your body, exiting out of your nostrils. Do that ten times. It’s very calming and relaxing. Breath is life. When you follow your breath, you are following the flow of life.
Meditate: There’s a reason why meditation has been around for thousands of years. It works! Learning how to calm your mind can keep it from spinning out of control. Meditation keeps us present by training the mind to NOT chase after thoughts. Whether they are anxious thoughts of the future or depressing thoughts of the past, meditation can help release the need and desire to attach to those thoughts. Thoughts are just thoughts, and they will come and go, just like your breath comes and goes. Take a class, find a teacher, and get some meditation, rather than medication, into your life.
Seek the Truth: What is happening right now at this very moment? You are reading a blog and learning information about staying present. You’ll get all the information you need at exactly the right time that you need it. That’s the truth… keep your eye on it.
Catastrophes are going to happen, it’s a part of life. But, if you’re not present in between disasters, you’re going to miss out on a lot of living while you’re here.
When you find your mind spinning out of control and taking you to events that haven’t happened yet, try the three simple techniques above and see if it helps to set you free.
You deserve a beautiful happy and healthy life – get present and give it to yourself.