It’s easier to go into the future or into the past and ruminate rather than to stay in the moment.
Looking at the world around me a feeling of hopelessness sometimes overcomes me. “What in the world are we doing? How can humans be so cruel to each other? How can we tolerate 20 children shot in an elementary school? And why do we still have wars? Haven’t we evolved at all over thousands of years? How about “the war to end all wars?” And what will happen next?” By this time I’m seriously stressed and anxious.
You can see how the mind can wander from bad to worse and even worse without even meaning it to happen. So how can you stop it?
I asked one of my clients, a veteran, who had PTSD, “How did you survive after you came back from Afghanistan?”
He looked at me, hesitated, then said, “I went to work in the mountains, logging, and I worked every day for many hours.”
I nodded. I thought I knew what he meant, but I didn’t. To help him clarify what he had said I asked, “So how did working hard for long hours help you?” I expected him to say that the exercise increased his endorphins and made him exhausted by the end of the day.
“Oh, it wasn’t working hard that helped most,” he said. “It had to do with that particular job. I had to keep my mind completely on my work each second. My mind couldn’t wander or I’d have an accident.”
“So what you are saying is that you had to stay in the moment in order to deal with your stress?”
“Yes,” he said. “That’s what got me through those tough days when I got back.”
It probably isn’t necessary to go out and get a job logging in order to stay in the moment, but the tip is valid however you achieve it.
1. Find something positive to concentrate on.
2. Read something that will give you comfort or lift your spirit.
3. Do something you love to do such as a creative activity. When I write or garden I stay in the present.
4. Spend time with a friend who accepts you just the way you are.
5. I know when I start to worry and my stress rises I’m usually in the past or in the future. I listen to what that inner worry voice says and then I talk back to it, helping that part of me to look at my worries rationally. I ask myself, “How do you know terrible things are going to happen? Are you clairvoyant? Concentrate on what is happening in this moment. After all, that’s all I have. Only God knows the future and you can’t change the past. Enjoy the time you have now. Why waste your precious time being unhappy?” etc., etc.
There are several self help books that teach you about staying in the now. Read one and practice what it says and you’ll notice your body relax and your stress decrease.