Today is Memorial Day.
For many, it marks the beginning of summer. Some schools have already dismissed, the academic year officially over. It’s the unofficial first camping weekend of the season. It’s a day of picnics and barbeques, of gardening—planting and nurturing vegetables and fruits that will nourish us in the moment and through the next seasons as well as planting beautiful flowers to appreciate and enjoy mindfully.
Memorial Day weekend—the weekend, not the “Day”—is this, yes. The dedicated day, however, is beyond this. Today is a day that we remember, honor, and appreciate soldiers who sacrificed their lives standing for the freedom they valued for everyone. It began in 1865 at the end of the Civil War and continues today as an honor those who have continued to preserve our way of life for 153 years and counting.
Anxiety and rumination are evil partners conspiring against our wellbeing. Anxiety works its way into our entire being and settles in for the long haul. All types of anxiety disorders do this, as does “ordinary” anxiety, the experience of worry, doubt, fear, etc. that isn’t quite diagnosable as a disorder but is disturbing and bothersome nonetheless.
Anxiety affects us in many ways including the way we think that the thoughts we have. Anxiety is connected to experiences such as overthinking and ruminating. We chew on them repeatedly, the way a cow chews on grass in its original form and in cud form. The more we chew on, or think about, our worries, fears, stresses, and the like, the more we’re paying attention to them. And the more we pay attention to them, the harder they are to swallow. So, like a cow and other ruminants, we regurgitate and ruminate.
Several years ago, when my anxiety was stuck in its intense phase, I decided to give mindfulness, the act and state of being of living fully in the present moment rather than stuck inside our mind, another try. Yes, another try. In my quest for the holy grail, that one thing that would miraculously poof away all of my social anxiety and generalized anxiety, I had tried many things many times. Mindfulness as a technique for soothing so many things, including anxiety, is something that was and continues to be hailed as effective in decreasing anxiety. Yet for quite some time, it eluded me.
Sometimes, the best way to overcome our mental health challenges is to, rather than focusing on the problem(s), turn away from them. Shifting our focus and perspective can empower us to transcend, to rise above, any problem we face.
Perhaps a clarification is in order before going forward: Changing focus isn’t about avoiding or ignoring or even getting rid of problems. Avoiding, I learned from my own life experiences as well as through working with others, tends to make problems bigger. Fighting problems to make them disappear doesn’t work, either. Some things, such as mental illness, brain injury, and chronic health problems, don’t fully disappear.
Communication is a vital part of wellbeing, mental health, and a quality life. Unfortunately, it can be complex, difficult, and overwhelming. Communicating is deeper than exchanging ideas. It’s a tool (and a skill) that fosters the connection that is vital for wellbeing and life satisfaction.
It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of anxiety and avoidance. Avoidance is a common human behavior that has good intentions but can spiral out of control until, before we realize it, we’re trapped, boxed in by anxiety and blocked from fully living (see What is Avoidance Doing to You?) Avoidance is fear- and anxiety-based. Whether we avoid one situation, such as making or taking phone calls, or almost every situation, such as anything that takes us out of the house, we are letting anxiety limit our lives. Let’s explore how to stop avoiding.
Many of us want to but don’t know quite how to reduce stress. It’s perhaps surprising, but true: the idea of reducing stress can actually cause anxiety rather than alleviate it. We do have legitimate reasons for clinging to stress despite wanting relief from it. Sometimes the mere idea of relaxing causes anxiety because we’re afraid that our performance will decline or that seeking stress relief will cause us to be judged as weak. Stress can come to be a badge of honor, too. High degrees of stress can show the world, and ourselves, how much we are achieving or how much we care about loved ones, and more.
Using mindfulness to create a perfect reading space can boost your wellbeing. Wellbeing is perhaps one of the most important concepts for our lives. It encompasses so much: physical health, mental health, balance, energy to live with purpose and intention are among the important aspects of wellbeing. Wellbeing is the ability to create, maintain, and enjoy a quality life according to your values and definition of such a life. Positive psychologists call this life worth living.