A while ago, I started to read a book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I read half and when I got busy with school, I put the book away and forgot about it. At the time, I did not fully appreciate the significance that the message of that book would have on my future.
Four years later, I began suffering through extreme anxiety and panic attacks. For an entire semester, I did not leave my bedroom except to pee. I could not eat solid food and I could barely sleep. If I knew that the messages from that book would help me learn to live with my anxiety, I never would have put it down.
The book preached the importance of living in the now and focusing on the present moment rather than worrying about the past or the future. It spread the message of maintaining mindfulness in everyday tasks to keep oneself in the moment. The “power of now” is the beauty of understanding
what is going on with yourself and your surroundings in the moment and determining what you can change to make yourself feel better. While I was dealing with my anxiety, keeping myself in the present moment when I could feel myself being taken over by my thoughts allowed me to distract myself long enough for the thoughts to subside.
Over the last year, I have developed a list of a few strategies for staying mindful and focusing on the now.
If I am sitting in class and begin to get anxious:
- I focus very intently on the lecture and take detailed notes
- I doodle in my planner
- I excuse myself to fill my water bottle or splash cold water on my face
- I start working on a homework assignment (shh don’t tell my professors)
If I begin to get overwhelmed by thoughts:
- I write down everything running through my head
- I focus on one task I have/wanted to do and complete it
If I notice myself focusting too much on the past or future:
- I put on music and focus on the instruments or lyrics
- I do something productive like completing an assignment
- I complete an easy hobby while watching TV or a movie
- I journal/work on a scrapbook (my personal favorite)
These are just a couple of strategies I have developed for situations where I find myself most anxious and I have found different things work for different people. Experiment and see what works for you.
What helps you when you are feeling anxious? Have you tried these techniques before? How do you keep yourself in the present moment?