It’s 6:30 in the morning. It’s still dark and absolutely raining in buckets on the motorway. You are not used to driving in the heavy rain in the dark. You start feeling your chest tightening with anxiety. There are way too many cars on the road this morning, you think. Your mind starts thinking about horrible things, and you feel like you just want to pull over and let the other “normal” humans go past. But, you can’t because it’s just silly.
Get a grip, woman, you tell yourself, irritated. Being hard on yourself just makes things worse. You feel like you’re out of breath. What do you do to get out of this situation?
How I Use Mindfulness To Limit Anxiety and Stress
You pretend you’re blowing soap bubbles.
Yes. Pretend you’re blowing soap bubbles. Go on, give it a try. Once, twice, imagine the bubbles coming out in front of you.
How do you feel? (“silly” is not an answer).
Well, I’ll tell you how I felt. The simple fact of imagining that I was blowing bubbles brought a smile to my face. I pictured the transparent spheres, covered in incandescent magic… and I wanted to keep doing it. So I blew bubbles galore through the rain, focusing on breathing slowly to make beautiful bubbles, just like an unworried child would. I blew bubbles until I knew I was “safe” again, having made it to a stretch of the road that I know well enough to feel safe again.
This technique, the “blowing soap bubbles”, is something that I learned yesterday on the first day of my “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy” course. Or ACT, for short.
What is ACT is what is it for? ACT is one of the 3rd wave cognitive-behavioral therapies and it integrates acceptance and mindfulness. You may have heard of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Mindfulness is also gaining popularity at the moment. ACT can intervene in a variety of disorders and its goals include behavior change while focusing on our values and a meaningful life, instead of focusing on (failed) achievements. It brings us back to human BEings, instead of human DOings.
You are a busy woman, you run around all day, you have millions of things in your mind all the time. You are doing something, but unrelated thoughts just keep popping up? Have you told your mind: “Why can’t you just shut up?” Then ACT could be the answer for you.
Our mind is a time traveler. It can take us back to the past, where wonderful memories live, but it can also divert us to where painful experiences cohabit. Our minds can also take us to the future, producing anxiety and leading us to worry. When we worry about things or dwell on past situations, we miss the moment we are living now. ACT will help you just BE, with a focus on the present, while you build this BEING based on your most important values in life.
Think about this: with the expectations of yourself comes judgment. Instead of focusing on achieving things at any cost and focusing on your life values instead, the chances of failing and frustrating yourself are at a minimum, if not non-existent.
When we’re tossed around by an emotional storm, the present is our ANCHOR and by using mindfulness techniques, you become more self-aware and you can pull yourself out of the storm.
Try blowing pretend soap bubbles whenever you feel overwhelmed and anxious. Let this little magic get you out of the storm!