The challenges of mindfulness

I’ve done mindfulness on and off for a while now but have really upped my game plan since being hit with my recent anxiety.
I’ve been meditating every evening before I go to sleep – I do also sometimes fall asleep and I’m sure it wasn’t developed for snoozing, I suppose I feel that I would rather be going into a nice relaxed sleep (which lets face it sometimes eludes us when we’re feeling anxious – 2 hours of sleep last night people!) that I don’t worry myself too much about it.

I use Jon Kabat Zinn’s guided body scan meditation. I recently described it as the highlight of my day, which probably sounds really tragic but it’s basically down to the fact that it’s the part of the day where I can relax, have some respite from my screaming thoughts and feel like I’m doing something good for myself. That’s not to say that it’s not without it’s challenges and these have been worrying me (so what’s new?!) so I thought I’d write this post and see if anyone else out there struggles with some of the  same things….

1) Silencing the inner critic- I would like to hazard a guess that those of us with anxiety are probably pretty hard on ourselves and it really likes to feed on my mindfulness time. So for instance I know that it’s natural to lose focus during meditation and for the mind to wander, I try to tell myself that I’m not judging and that I’m just accepting it for what it is but the devil on my shoulder insists on saying that I’m having a crap session, that I can’t do it and that I’m a hopeless meditator. There’s nothing more distracting than two parts of your brain competing to have the final say about whether or not it’s going well.

2) Cultivating acceptance – I really struggle with this even though I know it is a large part of mindfulness. As far as I understand it, it’s the idea that we accept our state,thoughts, feelings, sensations just as they are. So for instance at work today I was feeling anxious, I went to the loo to do a couple of minutes of mindfulness (glamorous mindfulness location!) and I tried to uncritically observe my feelings and sensations. I tried to accept and therefore not mind that I felt like my breakfast was about to possibly end up in my bosses lap and that I feel like I’m losing my mind but the honest/true part of me really does mind all this. How do you accept something that you’re really not OK with? Or am I actually being mindful by being aware that I’m not OK with it, in which case maybe I’m being mindful about being mindful?!

3) Not going into it with expectations – This is similar to the above but I suppose it’s something that feels really relevant for me. I try to tell myself that I’m not doing it with the hope that it’ll ‘cure’ me or make everything better but again that truthful part of myself is saying that’s absolutely what I’m doing. I think especially when I read all the all-singing, all dancing testimonies from people that state that even after a couple of sessions they already notice a difference and so on, it’s hard not to get my hopes up with that sales pitch! Now here’s the thing…I don’t think I do notice a very big difference to my anxiety and I definitely don’t have the little bursts of joy that I read people talking about. OK for the period of the session I’m relaxed because I’m not focusing on my thoughts but it is sometimes just a quick hop, skip and a jump right back to feeling anxious again. If I’m totally honest I feel a lot of disappointment when that happens because the brutally honest part of myself is thinking “I’m putting in the hours so where are my rewards?” (again so far not so very mindful). That leads me to be very hard on myself (thoughts such as I’m probably not doing it properly and why does it work for everyone else and not me) and then I’ve just gone full circle back to Point 1. So is it about lowering my expectations?

As you can probably tell from these points, I’m a bit of an over-thinker!

I really love the idea of mindfulness and will continue to do it and keep it as a part of my day and just try to see what happens and enjoy the journey, but wow that devil on my shoulder has a loud voice sometimes.

So what do other people think? Any people who have the same problems? Any people who’ve overcome these challenges?
All thoughts welcome (except if you’re going to be hard on me, I think we’ve established I do enough of that already).

xx

Feel creative

It’s good to be creative when you’re feeling anxious – after all the best artists were tortured souls no? So let’s use it for something good. I find it helps to be mindful as it provides a focus other than your thoughts and it provides a comforting distraction.

I went to a pottery place the other day and painted the plate that you will see below. It was just simple but it resonated with me and provided me with optimism (the words on the plate are my own). 
So the task for the weekend is to get creative!

Conflicting advice

So we’ve all been there. You’re doing some research and you read something that says take vitamin B tablets, then someone else has written about how great acupuncture is and then CBT and Reiki and on it goes until you’re head is spinning with all the possibilities of how to treat your anxiety.
This is the beauty and the downfall of the internet – knowledge is power but it’s also a giant red herring.

Unfortunately, I’m not here to add anything new to what will or won’t help, I’m in as much of a quandry as the rest of you probably. I think one of the things I’ve found hardest to decipher is that some people say acceptance is key and that actually fighting the anxiety makes it worse. So I try to be all zen and cool with the fact that my insides are tying themselves up in knot and I frequently feel like I may vomit. I can’t figure out though whether looking for things to treat your anxiety is the same as fighting it?? Can you have acceptance whilst also looking for things to improve the quality of your life or are they mutually exclusive?

I stumbled across this website the other day Anxiety No More which has been developed by a guy who had anxiety for 10 years. His big philosophy appears to be that fighting the anxiety and trying to drive it out of your life is just ultimately going to give it more power. So today I have tried that philosophy and every time I felt anxious or afraid I noticed it, said to myself “I’m feeling anxious but that doesn’t mean I can’t continue with what I was doing”. Funnily enough for a very simple philosophy I did actually find it helpful. I don’t think that means that I will stop doing other things, for instance I don’t think daily meditation is going to do me any great harm or have anxiety banging down my door with a giant axe. I’m also going to try CBT as I do think it may help in the long run with my obsessive thoughts. However, I think with the more immediate sensations of anxiety I may just try noticing it but not giving it any more power than that.

Other than that I think it’s just important to do things you feel comfortable with and most importantly that offer you some level of comfort.

So my thought for the day is:
*****Acceptance allows us to keep moving forward*****