When being ‘present’ is the biggest challenge
Trying to be present when all you want to do is be either in the past or the future can be one of the most difficult challenges, especially in times of crisis. A lot of therapeutic work stems from the power of conscious processing or grounding oneself in the present to fully feel what one is feeling. This feeling or the state of being more present can at times add to more anxiety and hyper arousal when one is experiencing strong negative emotions, defeatist thoughts and emotionally unsafe to the degree that your actions are converted to inaction. The sense of loss that people have experienced with the Covid crisis – big or small, direct or vicarious – is something worth noting and acknowledging. Carrying on your activities of daily living, being joyful for the young children you are raising or directing your energy towards high performance at work can be a very tall order. In the midst of this reality, is being present a solution? We are sharing some strategies that can help you tread this challenge and hold yourself through these difficult emotions:
- Self care in the moment: This can mean listening to the signs that your body is giving or the immediate thought that is consuming you, in a given moment. If you are sitting in a meeting but your thoughts are with your family back home, respecting that thought, gathering yourself and reflecting on what will feel safe for you now can be the key. Self care here could mean excusing yourself and making that call or take a deep breath to emotionally distance yourself to do what you are doing now. It depends on what feels safe and in control for you in that moment.
- Self soothe in the present: We can experience the gravity of loss on a moment-to-moment basis. It can be that moment when you hear of bad news on the television or it can be a surge of memory that comes unannounced. Crafting a moment for yourself where you can self soothe by refocusing your senses on what feels calming can be helpful. It can be looking at a photograph, listening to a song that aligns with your mood, having some water to drink or holding a trusted one’s hand.
- Recognize why the present is important: It is but natural to go back in the past and think of what more could you have done or swing into the future and imagine what can or can not be. Gently bringing yourself back to what you can control in the present – what actions can you take – what value can you generate and what care you can offer – brings back a sense of positive emotion which can help you heal and do justice to where you are now.
- Outline your relationship with gratification: There are times when we feel we need a break now, and sometimes we know that we can push ourselves to complete what we started and go back and catch up on rest. Understanding what cycle of reward or gratification works for you and what doesn’t feel like denial of happiness to oneself is a personal work that we can do.
- Reframe your reality and restructure your thoughts to be helpful: It is natural to ‘frame’ situations from an emotional stand point. For e.g., If you are eating lunch by yourself and feeling lonely, it would be an automatic way to process this situation within a frame of isolation. Reframing this would mean expanding the borders we attach to the situation, for e.g., eating lunch by yourself could also be reframed as how your break timings are different than the other, how reaching out and asking for a lunch buddy can be helpful or taking lunch outdoors can be a good break to refresh yourself. Reframing in this manner will also influence the associated emotions from being negative to more neutral ones.
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Director of Leadership & Learning, Senior Consultant
PhD (Clinical Psychology), MA(Psychology)