The Present


By Michelle Lemme

Twelve weeks of Day Treatment and 8 weeks of Anxiety Clinic all come down to being mindful; actively participating and staying in the present. Sounds easy right? Not so much. Just ask anyone who lives with chronic anxiety, (anxious predictions lie in the future, not the present), depression, bipolar, OCD or any other mental health challenge. My prediction is that they would tell you that being mindful takes practice, dedication, and focus and that sometimes it is just plain hard work.

Don’t get me wrong, I get why “all roads lead to mindfulness“. When you are actively focused on the present, there quite literally is no room for those pesky, irksome “should haves”, “could haves”, and “what ifs” that can drag us back into the past or take us to some imagined crisis in the future.

Being mindful requires living with uncertainty (frankly, just typing the word causes my heart rate to accelerate). Personally, when the gnawing, nagging fear of uncertainty starts to take over, I do my best to quickly identify the thought, push it away, and then deal with it in my “worry” place (area reserved for worrying, where I challenge and then change the worry thought triggering my anxiety). In order to be successful at pushing the worry thought out, I visualize a rather large, bright red, “STOP” sign. With that image in mind, I then work to get my breathing on track (this may involve counting breaths, (in 10, hold 10, out 10) which means diaphragmatic, or belly breathing needs to be activated.

Going through this process/behavior allows me to get back in control of my thoughts, (unlike my compulsive worry behaviors which have tricked me for decades!) It is astonishing to me how well this practical behavior works to help me “get a grip” when I am struggling with my ever present worry thought demons.