Getting Unstuck: One Practice that Can Help
When we think a situation is hopeless, feelings of sadness, fear, and anger may arise, along with physical sensations of tiredness and heaviness, causing us to want to isolate which only inevitably spirals us into deeper feelings of stuckness, anxiety or depression. When we’re really stuck, we experience intense anxiety, depression or engage in our addictive behaviors. This then affect our ability to work, our relationships, and our general enjoyment in life. At times it really feels like no one can help us, we can't help ourselves, and it's never going to get better. The feelings and thoughts of hopelessness seem to invade every cell of our being.
The following is a 3-minute practice from The Now Effect: How a Mindful Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life that is meant to support you in getting “unstuck.” I recommend doing this 3-minute practice at least twice a day to increase your awareness of these different aspects of experience, steady your mind, and begin to become present before moving forward with a behavior that will support you in moving out of depression.
- A – Awareness - First, spend 1 minute bringing awareness to thoughts, feelings, and emotions. In other words, take a moment and just notice what thoughts are in your mind. "I am tired", "I am weak", "I have too much to do", etc... Then name the emotions that are there. For example, fear, sadness, shame, guilt, anger, excitement, happiness. Then bring attention to the body, notice your posture, if there is any tension anywhere, just acknowledging whatever sensations are there. The purpose of this is to break you out of the auto-pilot cycle your thoughts, feelings, and sensations are in, and bring more awareness to each of them. (1-Minute)
- C – Collecting – Second, collect your attention onto the breath. As you breathe in, notice the breath coming in, and as you breathe out, notice the breath coming out. If you like, you can also say to yourself, "in", as you breathe in, and as you breathe out, say to yourself "out". If you can, bring the breath into the stomach and notice it rising and falling with each in and out breath. The purpose of this piece is to begin to steady the mind. (1-Minute)
- E – Expanding - Third, expand your awareness now into your body. In this practice we are not thinking about sensations in the body, but actually experiencing them. Just noticing and sensing into whatever sensations are there. Examples might be warmth, coolness, achiness, dryness, wetness, tingling, pressure, tightness, holding, etc... Just actually feeling the sensations as they are, without judgment. We're not trying to figure them out or analyze them, just really sensing into them. (1-Minute)
Practicing twice a day allows you to get the hang of it and eventually use it when experiencing more distressing situations. If you are not doing it regularly, it's difficult to grab for it when you're really not feeling well.
Know this practice isn’t always easy so bring an attitude of kindness toward yourself.
Also, be aware of the judgmental thoughts that arise saying "this will never help me,” or “I’ve tried something like this before and it doesn’t work.” When these arise, notice the net effect of them which is to take your further away from being here. Just notice those as thoughts, let them be, and begin to redirect your mind toward this practice.
When time goes by and you don’t practice, recognize that that’s in the best and right now you’re present. This is a choice point. In this moment choose to practice or make a plan to. This is an act of wisdom and kindness in itself.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.