My mind wanders frequently. My brain seems to be simultaneously reflecting on the past, stressing about the present and worrying about the future. I never seem to be able to ground myself within a moment, a habit I am trying my hardest to kill. In this post you can read about what I mean about ‘mind-wandering’ and strategies I’m using to reel myself back in.
“Please hold my hand. For every balloon needs a string to stay grounded”
– Wald Wassermann.
On Monday, in my Responding to Special Educational Needs lecture, my professor used an analogy that resonated with me straight away. Discussing classroom strategies Professor Ridgeway described the metaphor she uses with children who struggle to focus within classroom activities. The metaphor was about your mind being a balloon. A balloon that’s eager to get out into the world and explore, so will take any chance possible to begin drifting away. It’s up to you to maintain a strong grasp on that string, reel that balloon in and make sure you feet stay on the ground.
It was one of those moments where you feel almost a sense of relief that somebody has put into words exactly how you feel. I’ve always been a worrier. Always. I would say i’m a sensitive person, I take too many things to heart. If something happens in my life you can be sure I’ll be stressing over it for anywhere between 2 months to 6 years. At the age of 21, at night, I find my mind floating off to some unhappy memory from anything back to the age of 5. It’s actually ridiculous and a really detrimental habit. My mind does not let me move on from events that happened. I could be in the middle of a Greys Anatomy episode and suddenly my mind has been thrust back to remembering a conversation that happened when I was 14. Despite it being 7 years ago I relive it in my head as if it’s just happening, I find myself getting upset or worried and I have to remind myself- this is in the past.
As well as being stuck in the past, my mind loves to create numerous hypothetical scenarios about the future that leave me anxious. About three times a day my boyfriend has to remind me: why are you even worrying about that?? It’s not even happened yet. I seem to be constantly looking forward, planning what I want to happen, worrying about all the possible scenarios that could happen. I can never settle my mind. It’s flitting constantly between the past and the future thus, seriously affecting the future.
It’s pretty hard to be practical or stay focused on the now if my mind is filled with anxiety over past and future events. Worries that are necessary become more overwhelming than they should be because my mind is already at bursting point. Simple tasks become a bigger stress and suddenly I’m crying over the most ridiculous things.
It’s a bad habit and, I’m trying to break it.
The balloon analogy has been a revelation. I mean to have that visualisation of what my mind is doing really helps to recognise when my thoughts begin to wander and, reel it back in. Envisioning myself yanking on that string, winding it round my hand and pulling myself back to the present moment is really limiting the amount of time i’m spending each day unnecessarily worrying about matters.
Another strategy proving really useful is to designate time to ‘worry’. This might sound so over the top but, my mind won’t settle on just constantly pushing away the worries it wants to bring to my attention. It has to have some time given to them. So, I settle on a time. Usually the evening, when I’m alone with my thoughts. I’ll let my mind bring forward the worries, whether it be a bad memory that’s bothering me or a future stress. I’ll think about it for a few minutes before, deconstructing it. I’ll ask myself:
– what’s made you think of this?
– why does this make you feel [sad, angry, guilty, fearful, upset, anxious]?
– is this relevant to be worrying about?
– what can you do to make yourself no longer worry about this?
Depending on how I feel i’ll either write out the answers or just answer them in my mind. It allows me to work through those plaguing thoughts methodologically and by the time i’m done they almost always stop bothering me.
When we’re allowed to live freely once again in a post-covid world, I no longer want to be limited by my own mind. I long to be care-free and to just enjoy the present. I think we’ve all learnt the past year that it’s so important to make the most of every-day. I want to embrace every opportunity thrown my way and I want to make so many happy memories to make up for what’s been a year of, mainly, none.
Practising these little activities each day has already led me to be a lot more present. I feel more mindful, more present and I feel like I have more of a control over my own mind and thought processes- and, it’s only been a couple of weeks. So many of us are restrained by our own mind-sets, if that’s you reading. Try this.
Picture your mind as a balloon, grab that string and become in control.
Do let me know if this is something you struggle with also. If so, what exercises or visualisations do you use to feel more grounded in the present?
All my love,