Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen. Now, slow down and deepen your breathing, and when you breathe, try your best to make your hand on your abdomen move up and down more than your hand on your chest. Just focus on your breathing and how it feels to draw in the air and exhale it. You can even say to yourself “inhale” with each inhalation, and “exhale” with each exhalation. Try this for ten minutes and see what it feels like. Do your best, while you’re doing this, just to let anxious thoughts come and go, and simply focus on your breathing. Rate your anxiety on a scale from 0 to 10 (where 0 means no anxiety and 10 means extreme anxiety) before and after this exercise, and see if you notice any difference (3).
Anxiety before: _______________
Anxiety after: _________________
Bring mindful compassion into your awareness. Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is the Floating Self. Accept that it is there. Don’t think about it – don’t let the feeling turn into thinking. Don’t judge or analyze. Don’t make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of the emotional pain but also of “the one who observes,” the silent watcher. The silent watcher is your Anchored Self.
Now that you have accepted your Floating Self’s lies and neediness in the Red Zone, you intentionally forgive it. Bring compassion towards your Floating Self and flood it with the kind of love you would to a friend, family member, or child who is hurting. This acceptance, forgiving, and loving releases the strong grip the pain bodies have on your Floating Self. They “pop off,” as it were; they cannot withstand the light of your compassionate awareness.
If you are earnest and intentional with this powerful tool, you will immediate gain some mental space. It may not be a whole lot, but it is enough! Don’t think about the mental space, just recognize that it is there. Bring gratitude into the new detached state of mind.
From this new foundation of space, make a decision! What shall you decide? You have this power to re-engage your life situation with whatever attitude you choose. Here are some simple suggestions:
- Write a to-do list and start focusing on one thing at a time.
- Go for a walk or run, 20 minutes minimum will help the body and mind reset.
- Write a journal entry about your feelings. Getting them down on paper is hugely therapeutic.
- Write a letter (or email) to someone to express your gratitude for being in your life.
- Write a letter (or email) to someone who needs to hear boundaries from you.
- Reach out to someone and risk being vulnerable with them by sharing your current struggles. We do not have to carry our burdens alone!
Instructions for Mindful Observation
- Start by paying attention to the sounds that you hear: Shine a spotlight on your attention on sounds. Listen attentively, carefully, and with curiosity, as if all the sounds you hear were new to you. Just see what you notice.
- Bring the spotlight of your attention to the sensations of sitting: Notice what it feels like to be sitting down, notice where the chair or cushion contacts your body, and pay attention to any sensations, whether you notice pressure, warmth, pain, hardness, or any other sensation. Whatever you notice is perfectly okay, just pay attention.
- Now bring your attention to what you see around you. Start by looking down at the floor, and notice what you see there. If you have emotional reactions to or thoughts about what you see, simply allow them to come and go, and bring you mind back to what you see. Slowly raise your gaze from the floor, and look at the walls and furniture (if you’re in a room with walls and furniture). Pay close attention to each object you look at. Try your best to look at it with curiosity, as if you have never seen it before.
- Challenge your own negative thoughts. Don’t just accept them.
- Learn to control your breathing. Deep belly breaths.
- Face your fear. You need to be willing to be uncomfortable. Things are better than you think. Go for 10 to 15 min and then leave. Next time you can stay longer…
- Talk to therapist. Counseling is a wonderful tool.
- Medication can be really helpful. You are not meant to feel this degree of social anxiety. Being open to medication can make a difference.
- Tweak the way you’re coping can lower your anxiety.
- Feel you are in control of your life. Engage in life-giving experiences that make you feel that you have more control in your life. Be okay if you do it badly…”Anything worth doing is worth doing badly the first time.” We aim for perfection so we don’t even start something…. “doing badly” frees us up to take action; and we can improve as we go along. How would your life change if you “did it badly,” today?
- Forgive yourself for any mistakes that you might have just made or for things in the more distant past. This leads to greater compassion towards yourself.
- Find a purpose and meaning in your life. What is your passion? What drives you? Doing something with someone else in mind can give you purpose. Do you do something once a day with someone else in mind? Volunteering? Doing something that can help future generations? You are important and are here for a reason!
- Be OK with what you ultimately can’t do, because there is so much you CAN do.
- Surround yourself with people you want to be around.
- Keep moving forward.
- Never miss getting together with others if you can help it.