In Part I of the Anxiety writings, I talked about the kind of anxiety that won’t go away. You’re in the middle of something intense, a crisis, and anxiety is omnipresent. In Part II, I talked about mundane anxiety, the kind that visits us regularly due to mental habits.
In Part III, I want to discuss the more subtle aspects of this mundane anxiety and another strategy for dealing with it.
So much of our worrying, and mental chatter, is about the future or the past. We’re hoping something will go well for us in the future or we’re gnawing on something about the past. This mental state is a kind of default mode for the brain, according to Health Psychology researcher, Kelly McGonigal. The mental chatter that is always commenting on what’s happening or has happened or might happen is the activity of the evaluative part of the brain. The way to quiet this activity is to move into the experiential part of the brain. This is mindfulness practice or present moment awareness. We have to train our minds to observe what’s happening in THIS moment and to cease wasting mental energy on that which is not about the present. It doesn’t mean we don’t plan for the future – planning is a present-moment activity, just as learning from the past can be a conscious, present-moment process.
You might find this helpful: use the five senses to help get grounded in the present. What do you see? Really see it. What do you hear? Really hear it. What do you smell, taste and feel on your skin? Tune into your senses to bring yourself into your body, to experience what’s happening in this moment. Notice what you notice.