In my last blog I touched on the concept of mindfulness, and forcing ourselves to live in the present. Trying to train our minds to only think about what is happening right now, not what has happened in the past, or what may happen in the future. Unfortunately we live most of our lives with our minds taking us where we want to go. Our thoughts tend to control us, instead of us controlling our thoughts.
One example of this is test anxiety. In most situations it is good to have some anxiety before a test; it encourages us to study so we can do well on the test. If however our thought turn to the past (I almost failed the last test and this one will be harder, I did not get very many of the homework questions right, I am going to worse on this test)…, or the future (If I fail this test my parents will be disappointed in me, I am going to have to go to summer school, that will ruin my summer, I am so stupid and a total failure…); that is when our thought control us negatively. We need to be able to concentrate on the present, try and learn the material for the test, seek help if we need it. Do whatever it takes to keep us on track and doing what needs to get done to deal with the present situation. The thing is, you will still have to study and write the test (deal with whatever is happening in the present moment, and deal with the emotions being brought up by your thoughts of the past and/or the future.
Sometimes a bad experience doing something (especially for the first time) will cause you to avoid doing things, or trying new things. “I am not going to the dance because last time nobody talked to me; they ignored me, and teased me because I did not dance with anyone.” Or, “I don’t want to do that, I am not as good as everyone else and people will tease me or laugh at me if I fail or mess up.”
Again, it is easy for our minds to wander and react in the above way, but we need to be able to control our thoughts to look at the present and not let fear of rejection or failure stop us from doing or participating in things. The reality of it is, living in the past or the future, a majority of the time, will trigger painful emotions instead of positive thoughts.
The first step in becoming mindful is to think about your current patterns or habits so that you can think about what changes can be made. Try to notice when and where your thoughts tend to wander. Do you dwell on the past, or are you constantly worried about the future?
Do your thoughts tend to wander when you are doing certain things, or when you are in certain situations, places, etc.?
When your thoughts do wander, what emotions are triggered?
Try answering these three questions, maybe even keep track of them over the next little while, so that you realize the things that bother you and the areas you need to work on, to try and ease your anxieties.