Thursday, 7 August 2014

Day 1: Latte Mum's trip to Mindfulness

I struggle with anxiety. I always have.

There are many reasons why - most too personal to share - but it has ramped up a notch since my little family has come along; more to worry about, more to care about, more at stake. Not surprising really and I know many others feel this way. Luckily I feel great most of the time, but when the bouts of anxiety hit for seemingly no apparent reason, I can feel like a bundle of buzzing nerves. It has been hard to admit, but while I've been managing this side of me for a while now, my increasing worries and anxious thoughts are starting to get in the way of me fully enjoying my wonderful life.

So I decided to do something about it. With PND ruled out, it was agreed I needed some tools that would allow me to better control the frantic thoughts that often swirled in my head. It was suggested I bring the practise of "Mindfulness" into my life.

Thus my personal project begins.

Never heard of Mindfulness? Neither had I. It is a form of meditation I guess, but one that has been heavily studied and researched, and is scientifically proven to treat depression and anxiety. Mindfulness is described as "observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself, and learning to observe unhappiness and stress as merely black clouds in the sky as they drift past without affecting you". I can't even imagine thinking like that, but I'm currently working my way through the book Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, and honestly, I am completely blown away by it. If you click on the link above, you can read about some of the insights that can be found within the book. What jumped out to me is that clinical trials have shown that the Mindfulness practise (based on mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) halves the risk of depression in those who have suffered the most debilitating forms of the illness, and is at least as effective as antidepressants. Mindfulness seems to promise that it's possible to look at life with a fresh perspective, to focus on the here and now, to pick and choose what thoughts you'd like to focus on, and to stop the endless cycles of anxiety and franticness that is so easy to fall into.

Just by way of personal example, this is one of my regular thought cycles: hubby is late home from work - what if he's had a car accident - that's unlikely, I'm sure he's fine - but what about the story I read in the paper yesterday about the young man who died in a car accident on the motorway - oh god, I bet that's what's happened - a policeman is going to knock on my door any minute - how will I cope... and so on and so forth until I hear the garage door open moments later.

As I've been reading the book, I've thought of many people I know that have similar sorts of thought processes that would no doubt benefit from learning these Mindfulness tools too, which I guess is another reason I've decided to share how I'm finding it with you all in case you too want to get on board.

So, the program for week 1 (there are 8 weeks in total) has asked me to commit to 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted meditation per day (already I am thinking I'm going to fail - where on earth am I going to get that time from, 2am?!) and to also study a raisin in focused detail for 10 minutes before eating it (quite an amazing exercise if you want to see what it's like to have just one thought in your head at a time). Today is day 1, and I have had the most ridiculous day with the kidlets (and not in a good way). I am covered in splotches of yoghurt, mashed potato, blue playdough and sticky finger prints. I have had zero time to go to the toilet let alone meditate, particularly now that Master 2 has dropped his daytime sleep and has ramped up the "What's that?" questions to 2000 per day. The little miss has the sniffles, and has needed constant cuddles and tissues (poor little thing, is there anything worse than a sick baby?). All I've actually wanted to do today is shut myself behind a closed door with my laptop and surf Pinterest with a bottle of wine at the ready (which I didn't do by the way). I have just not been very Mindfulness-ness today at all, and honestly can't see how it's going to be possible to slow my frantic life down.

But, despite all of this I've forced myself to do 8 minutes of meditation just after I had dinner. It's only half the meditation I was supposed to do but figure it's better than nothing. It was a very easy exercise and I do feel better for it. No humming or weird yoga poses, just an exercise about focusing on your breath and trying to bring your wandering mind back to the inhale and exhale and the here and now. For the next 6 days I'm also supposed to sit in a different chair than I normally do - to help me see things from a different perspective, and to focus (like I did with the raisin) on a normal menial task (which I've decided will be toothbrushing). I could/should do another 8 minute meditation now but have decided I need to paint my nails, as that is actually what will put a smile on this face! Will endeavour to do the full 20 minutes tomorrow. Baby steps.

Watch this space...

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