Stay Present to Beat Anxiety
Feeling stressed, anxious or depressed? It could be time to switch off your mind, and start living in the present.
For moms, the pressure is often overwhelming. There’s one, two, three, four children to look after. There’s work, housework, the bills, the mortgage - and all the stresses they bring. When we’re not dealing with life’s issues, we’re worrying about them, setting ourselves off in a whirlwind of worry and anxiety. It’s no wonder we often find ourselves wondering where the months and years have gone.
Then the guilt wheels start turning - How could I not have noticed my little girl growing up? Why wasn’t I more present? Sound familiar? You can rest assured it’s not just you. A lack of awareness of the present is something of an epidemic in the Western world, according to Mindfulness expert and bestselling author of ‘Anxiety Free: Stop Worrying and Quieten Your Mind’, Patrick McKeown. So much so, in fact, that Patrick believes that much of the anxiety, depression and stress that people are suffering from these days is due to our inability to switch off our minds and just be.
The majority of people aren’t mindful; that is, they’re not aware of what’s going on in their minds. In fact, the majority of the Western world is asleep. Western education is a wonderful thing - it teaches us how to think, it teaches us to question. But if it gives us the ability to think, it should also give us the ability to stop thinking, to have some control over their mind - but it doesn’t.” According to Patrick, taking back control of our thoughts and minds will help us to achieve the quality of life and the happiness we all aspire to. “It’s the mind that determines quality of life.
Many people who are rich and successful, who appear to ‘have it all’, are wrapped up in their thoughts and so, are unhappy. Most people don’t realise the effect their thinking is having on their body or their state of health. If your arm was moving 60,000 times a day, which is the number of thoughts we have a day, it would drive you daft. The mind is as active, but we do nothing about it.” In addition to calming down a stressful day, mindfulness can have an extraordinary effect on those suffering from mental illness too, suggests Patrick. “Those who are depressed, anxious, stressed are essentially thinking too much. A young child hasn’t developed an analytical mind. If they get upset, they get over it quickly, but adults dwell. We’re giving out about our boss or our husband or our wife, and we’re just running it over and over again. Our worrying isn’t going to solve any problems; it’s just eating into us. Often, a solution to a problem won’t enter the mind if it’s busy - if there’s stillness, it will enter more readily. If you can get control over the mind, you can have it for life.
In our society, we expect solutions to be complex - we don’t consider the solutions we already have at our disposal. It’s so simple.” So just how does a busy mom set about being mindful in an action-packed day? Well, it’s pretty simple, says Patrick, but it does take some commitment and patience. He recommends three options. One is to simply focus on the breath - when we do this, we stop thinking. Secondly, take the attention out of the head and disperse it around the body. Thirdly, take your attention into the here and now - the present moment.
“Do it lying in bed in the morning, or at night. Bring your attention to your hand - feel the temperature, the surrounding air. Then bring your attention to your arm, your chest, your tummy and so on. During everyday tasks, bring some attention into your body. When you’re driving your car, watching TV, bring attention into your body. When you’re going for a walk, go for a walk with your whole body,” he says. Practicing mindfulness when looking after your children is also a great way for you both to bond, suggests Patrick.
For instance, when you’re cuddling or just sitting with your child, focus your whole self on that moment. Your child will sense your stillness, giving them a sense of calm and a wonderful awareness that you’re giving 100 per cent of yourself. The practice of mindfulness takes time - and patience, but Patrick promises it’s worth it. “I’m not saying it’s easy - it takes a little commitment, but it’s hell on earth to be living in your mind all the time.
Patrick McKeown runs two hour physician-developed workshops on Mindfulness throughout the country. Incorporating the Buteyko Method, mindfulness and meditation, Patrick’s workshops aim to reduce stress, anxiety, a racing mind, worry, panic attacks, fatigue and insomnia. Patrick is an accredited practitioner by the Late Professor Buteyko, one of a few people in the Western world to hold this qualification. He holds clinics in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Kilkenny, Galway and Sligo.