The foundation of resilience. It's about being self-aware, in the moment, being in the now. It might all sound rather cliched but it's a crucial first step in getting better at handling stress and building resilience.
Without it, we can't control how we respond to stress. So instead of consciously choosing the most appropriate way to respond in the moment, our brain goes into survival mode and looks through stored 'programs' and coping strategies that it's used in the past, usually unhelpful ones.
We overthink. Our thoughts run away with us. We spiral.
Without presence, it can feel like you have no control whatsoever over how you respond to stressful situations - whether it's jumping on a table because you've seen a spider, comfort eating, binge drinking or lashing out at loved ones when you're stressed.
So... how do we get more fully present in the moment?
It's simple to do, but takes practice and persistence. I've included some of my favourites here...
- Breathing meditations, where we just observe the breath (rather than trying to control it). A simple one is just to notice the cool air as you inhale around your nostrils, and the warmer air as you breathe out.
- Touch. Noticing what your body comes into contact with, whether its the chair you're sitting on, your fingers on your keypad or holding your hair brush as you brush your hair.
- Silence. Being aware of silence and subtle noises. If you listen closely, you'll realise there's never silence.
- Listening closely to words. A great one for social anxiety, really focusing in on what people are saying shifts the focus away from your own thoughts. Truly listen.
- Movement. Moving consciously, whether that's walking, washing, cleaning, working - anything you do habitually. Notice the muscles working, the different parts of the body that move and function.
Focusing on any of these regularly helps stop you worrying, ruminating and plotting. With practice, finding presence will help you be able to make more conscious responses in stressful situations. You'll be able to catch yourself before you go into a tailspin.
As always, it's getting into the habit that's the tricky bit. Set reminders on your phone, your work calendar, use post its... lots of gentle nudges over days and weeks and you'll really notice the difference.
I work with people and organisations determined to bring their A game to all areas of their world and are ready to create a long, happy and healthy life.
If that sounds like you, let's talk.
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