Why do some people feel anxious?
Feeling anxious is something that most people feel at some time or other. As far as I am aware no one is immune to it, simply because its part of the human condition. Having some low-level anxiety is useful because it can warn us of potentially dangerous situations and help to keep us safe. What is not right is feeling anxious all the time. So what is the solution?
Let’s look at time and feeling anxious…
Time is a strange phenomenon because it doesn’t really exist.
You might take a different view and argue that point, but there is only now, the present moment you are in, no other time exists.
Of course, there is clock time, and we need that because it’s the only way that we can live without confusion and mayhem.
You need to know what time your train is arriving, what time your next meeting or scheduled phone call is, what time to get up, to go to bed.
We need clock time to be able to refer to events that happened in the past as well, to be able to put events in order and context. Just imagine referring to everything as yesterday no matter when it happened, how confusing would that be?
We live our lives by the clock, but we don’t live in time, we live in the Now, the present moment.
Without some way like clock time to reference the future or the past, we would have a really confusing life and pandemonium would ensue, and that would make us even more anxious!
Time as we know it doesn’t exist…
Time is a construct that we have invented to be able to run our world more efficiently. In reality, there is only now, this present moment you find yourself in.
Can you go into the past? Can you go back to this morning and eat your breakfast again? The answer is no, you can’t. Yes, you can remember or imagine eating it again, but that is not actually being back in the past, you’re still in the present while remembering or imagining.
The same applies to the future. Time travel is not as far as I am aware possible yet, so it is impossible to eat tomorrows breakfast. Again you can imagine eating it, but that’s not actually being in tomorrow and eating it.
No matter how hard you try you cannot physically be anywhere except here in this present moment.
However, it is possible for your mind to wander and be preoccupied with thoughts of the past and the future.
Sometimes you’re mentally anywhere but in the here and now…mentally living in the time and space where anxiety happens, even though physically you’re in the present moment.
Just be aware that when your mind is wandering it is susceptible to thinking anxious thoughts.
Mindfulness and not feeling anxious…
Mindfulness has become the go-to solution for many people that suffer from anxiety.
The reason that it is so effective at calming an anxious mind is simple.
When you are being mindful you are concentrating on what is happening right now in the present moment, with no mind space for worrying, and as you already know feeling anxious happens when your thinking slips into the past or the future.
Take a really simple mindfulness exercise…
Eating, or rather not eating a raisin…
The idea is to put a single raisin in your mouth and just experience it fully. Savour the taste and the texture, the aroma, really feel and taste the juices in your mouth.
Whatever you do, don’t chew or eat it just yet. Take time to really experience the raisin.
It sounds really easy, doesn’t it?
Try it and see how long you can concentrate on the experience before your mind wanders.
See how long it is before the urge to chew and swallow the raisin kicks in.
When you have finished the exercise you might be surprised to realise that you weren’t aware of feeling anxious because your attention was focussed in the present moment.
With practice, it becomes easier to do for longer periods of time until your mind wanders…
But why is it so hard to resist eating the raisins quickly?
Simply because your mind isn’t programmed to exist solely in the present moment.
It is constantly scanning for other experiences, for things that happened in the past and then trying to predict what might happen in the future, again mainly based on your past experiences.
Your anxious mind lives in the past and the future.
It’s not happy if it isn’t “doing something” and keeping busy, so it wanders from the present moment and you “forget” what you are supposed to do and swallow the raisin almost like you are on autopilot.
Now is a great place to be…
Anxiety is a result of your mind living in the future, always trying to predict and control what might happen, which it can’t do most of the time. It also spends a lot of time in the past, trying to work out what could have gone better, what should have happened, carrying out post mortems.
Being in the present moment sets you free from all that mind chatter and the resulting anxious thinking.
And you already know how to do that, even if you don’t think you can…
Getting lost in the Now…
Have you ever been so engrossed in something you were doing that you forgot about everything else?
So caught up in what you were doing that time seemed to pass really quickly?
Computer gamers experience this phenomenon, often spending hours playing computer games. Forgetting about everything else. They are so involved in the game that nothing else matters, they are fully in the moment and concentrating on what they are doing.
Could this be a way for them to forget about their troubles and woes – escaping into a place where the past and future can’t trouble them?
Some people experience this effect with their favourite hobby, like sewing, knitting, baking or cooking.
Perhaps there is something you do that allows you to escape from the anxious thoughts in your mind?
So is mindfulness the answer?
Spending too much time practising mindfulness becomes a real chore. And after a while, the novelty of sucking raisins wears off!
It’s far easier to become aware that you are living in the past and/or the future and gently bring yourself back to where you physically are, living in the present moment.
Simply seeing where your thoughts are taking you is often enough to jolt you back into the present moment.
And then what?
All I know is that when I’m present I don’t have all the mind chatter and anxiety that I used to suffer.
Life seems to be calmer and easier.
I still get anxious thoughts, I still feel negative emotions, my mind still takes over and tries to make me worry, but that is simply a signal to me that I’ve drifted away from the present moment into the past or the future.
When I’m aware of that happening it’s time to let those thoughts go and it becomes much easier to concentrate on what I’m doing right now.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Well, maybe you don’t think it is, maybe you’ve tried to control your thoughts in the past without success, but the more you practice the better you get at living in the present moment.
You’ll find life much less stressful as things simply unfold as they are meant to, and not having to try and control everything that your anxious mind throws at you is much a calmer way to live.
If you need help get in touch…
There is no magic solution to being free from anxiety, it takes time and practice.
You need to learn this for yourself, the more you realise how it works the easier it becomes. I am still on my journey, and even though I have come a long way there is always more to know.
My passion is helping people to find their way.
Everyone needs to map out their own route, no one way works for all, but having a helping hand, a guide helps. I know because I’ve had that help along the way, and now it is time for me to pass on what I know and help other people on their journey.
As Confucius said, “even the longest journey starts with the first step…”