Being Present to Lower Stress
Shared by Dr. Bryan Stephens
Being present is something I have been working on with my daughter. I have noticed increased feelings of stress and anxiety with her as well as she is quick to sadness when thinking on the past. I work with her on many things to help overcome this (gratitude’s, breathing techniques, physical play, etc.) but the main focus recently has been on being present in the here and now. I have come to realize that her times of sadness come most often when she is thinking of the past and some losses we experienced over the past few years. Even when thinking of fun things we did in the past, she then becomes more gloomy when realizing that experience already happened. When she is actively playing and focusing on her current tasks, she is much happier.
It seems odd when you first hear it. How do past memories lead you into thoughts of stress and depression? Often times we think about things we could have or should have done differently. “I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have said that. I should have done or said this instead…” The list is extensive. These nagging doubts bring up a stressful response and can push our brain more towards emotional response instead of rational thought. This can even happen when thinking about the happy memories as I mentioned above. Eckhardt Tolle explains that even the good memories can leave us with a feeling of emptiness, loss, and general dissatisfaction with the present if we dwell on them too much. I heard it summarized best by “In college, I felt so free. I had a million friends, zero wrinkles, and boundless energy. I guess I will never feel like that again. My life is basically over.” I know I have been guilty of thoughts like this in the past and am understanding more the effect they have on me now. It is this lesson I have been trying to impart on my daughter to help her through it faster than it took me to learn. It is the same reason I am sharing it with you. I hope that you can break through it quickly and decrease the stress and anxiety that can follow.
One easy way that I help get her focused on the present is something called box breathing. While drawing a box in the air with your finger, breathe in on the vertical lines and breathe out on the horizontal lines. It can help center your attention and avoid the wayward thoughts. I hope that if you are struggling with not being present, that this tool helps get you back on track.
Tolle, Eckhardt. The Power of Now.
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