If there’s one thing this quarantine has provided in abundance- it’s opportunity for self-work.
I’ve gone from needing to literally block out time on my calendar for self-care (meditation, journaling, and reading) to having too much time alone with my thoughts and feelings. And it’s brought up a hell of a lot of discomfort.
Being able to sit quietly with and embrace feelings of discomfort is something I struggle with deeply. I’m a problem solver at my core, so as soon as feelings like this appear within, my first instinct is to ‘solve’ the root cause of the feeling.
I jump into problem solver mode and immediately start to analyse in overdrive: ‘Why am I feeling like this?’ and ‘how can I make this feeling go away?’ become obsessive questions in my mind which actually just end up making me feel even worse when I can’t find immediate answers.
Learning to ‘sit’ with discomfort is a mindfulness tool that is especially useful in times of crisis like we’re all currently experiencing. It’s the practise of noting how we are feeling (stressed, anxious, depressed) and then embracing it as simply being the way things are now, and that’s OK. It certainly isn’t enjoyable, but it is something we can accept as the present reality which isn’t within our immediate control.
This is an exercise that I find especially helpful in moments like this:
I feel the uncomfortable emotion rising up within and I know that if I don’t act fast, it’s going to take over my entire consciousness and leave me in a state of heightened anxiety for god knows how long.
So as soon as I notice the emotion taking root (I usually feel it unfurling in my solar plexus, but it could be in your stomach, or in the tightening of your shoulder muscles), I take a moment to lie down and close my eyes.
I take three deep, steadying breaths: breathe in slowly for 5 counts, hold for 7, release for 5. I place my hands over my stomach (this works best if you’re lying down) and begin to just focus my whole attention on the feeling of my stomach rising and falling with each breath.
And this may sound odd- but I focus on ‘looking’ at the darkness behind my closed eyelids. You’ll find that once you really focus on that darkness, it isn’t pure blackness at all. There are grey shadows, spots of light, moving shapes. And focusing on them really closely, as well as feeling the inflow and outflow of breath under your hands, makes you truly incapable of focusing on the emotion you were about to be taken over by moments before.
Whenever you feel your mind drift back to that feeling of discomfort or obsessive thoughts, take the three deep breaths and start the exercise again. Repeat as many times as it takes to feel your heart rate slow down and those knots of tension within and without ease.
Wishing you all many moments of clarity and calmness in discomfort in the coming weeks.