This is a guest post by Kristen Riordan (Schneider), grad intern, White Picket Fence Counseling Center.
The imagination is a beautiful thing. We use our imaginations to dream up future events. We envision where we’ll go, with whom and when. We use the imagination to entertain us – to paint captivating images in our minds. We can picture ourselves in our favorite vacation settings, smelling the fresh air, and feeling a refreshing breeze as the sunset melts while painting the sky in hues of blush and tangerine.
The imagination offers us the gift of creating ideals for what we want. But just as powerfully, the imagination can be used (or hijacked) to create in our minds what we don’t want. When we worry, stress, and feel anxious, we’re usually not responding to the present – to reality. More often than not, worry, stress, and anxiety result from using our imaginations in this misguided way.
Our imaginations can catapult us into a future that simply doesn’t exist. When we exit the present, we either drift into the past or enter the future, neither of which are true reality. All that is real is the present. Reality exists in the here and now. Anytime we’re anxious, we’re in the future. And that future can be littered with thoughts and images of a misguided imagination running wild.
To reduce anxiety and regain positive use of our imaginations, we can invite ourselves back into the present. When we’re grounded in the present moment, we feel more centered and calm. Now you may be wondering, “How do I become present?”
The breath is a timeless tool that seamlessly connects us with the here and now. This is because breathing is an activity that must be done in the moment. We cannot hurry up and breathe more today so we don’t have to breathe tomorrow. Nor can we skip breathing today because we did plenty of that yesterday. Breathing must be done in the moment.
If you’d like to reduce anxiety and center yourself in the present moment, you can try this breathing practice. Let this practice soothe you. Keep it simple. There are no rules. There’s no doing this wrong. Trust yourself. Just breathe….
Here is the practice:
- Sit or lie down so you’re comfortable.
- Close your eyes.
- Notice that you’re breathing.
- Take a slow, deep breath in. And a slow, full breath out.
- Repeat three deep breaths just like that.
Good, now we start to guide the breath:
- Inhale through your nose for the count of 4,3,2,1. Hold your breath for the count of 4,3,2,1. Through the nose, exhale all the breath 4,3,2,1.
- Repeat this three times. To close, state for yourself a soothing affirmation, “I am calm. I am present.” Very nice. This practice can be done morning and night, and repeated as frequently as you wish throughout the day. The more we visit and live in the present moment, the calmer we feel.