Mindfulness is choosing to exist differently. It means you are very intentional about experiencing the present moment. You also have to experience it without self-judgement. It often looks like savoring your present moment and finding things to be grateful for. When you do these things, anxiety becomes secondary.
If I am being mindful right now, I will notice things around me that I was not thinking about even 30 seconds ago. I notice the air is a very comfortable temperature. I notice the leaves on the tree outside are gently shimmering in a slight breeze. I realize I feel comfortable sitting on this couch. I see the reflection of the window behind me on the computer screen. I accept that the reflection on the screen is an annoyance to me, but I am not upset with myself for feeling annoyed (experiencing without self-judgement). In this moment I am fully immersed in my surroundings and in writing this blog-post; I am being mindful.
Let me show you the difference in how this goes for me when I’m not choosing to be mindful. I am sitting at the computer annoyed that I am writing a blog-post on such a beautiful day. I just heard my phone alert me that I received a text message and now I am wrestling with the urge to go check the message. However, I want to hurry up and finish writing this before my daughter wakes up from her nap, so I don’t think I should get up and check the text-message. I feel my anxiety building up. I feel my stomach knotting slightly, and I just realized I’ve forgotten to breathe for the last few seconds because of the anxiety. I am simultaneously wondering what I should make for dinner and what time everyone will be hungry. My to-do list is running through my mind. Ultimately, I am not enjoying my moment.
What’s so sad about this is that I only get to live through this moment once in my entire life. I spend many moments full of anxiety because I am just not present, and I am moving too fast. Over time though, I’ve been working hard at being mindful and I have noticed my overall anxiety level diminishing. I am intentional about finding something to be grateful for, and something beautiful in every situation. It really works to reduce anxiety.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still days where anxious thoughts run amok and are extremely difficult to control. The wonderful thing about mindfulness though is that when that happens, mindfulness teaches us not to judge it. So I’m anxious, so what? I just sit in it and try not to worry about the fact that I’m worrying. You know we’ve all done that before! We admonish ourselves for worrying about something that is out of our control. We try desperately to talk ourselves out of how we feel, and then we end up more frustrated, and still full of anxiety. I’ve pretty much given up on this tactic and prefer to mindfully acknowledge that I’m anxious, and just let myself feel it.
I hope this helps you and/or your teenager next time anxiety overwhelms you.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT