30 Dec Present Moments
‘Tis the season to pause and reflect on the past year as a new one approaches, and oh what a year it has been! 2020 started off as a promising new decade, with exciting goals, dreams and resolutions. But as we all know, a few months into it, all our hopes and plans came to a screeching halt as we entered a time of unfamiliarity and fear. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to face life with a new mindset. This disruption affected each of us differently. To many, it meant every day was filled with family time crowded and stressed with online school and virtual work and meetings. To others it meant isolation, and loss of jobs, freedom, security and loved ones.
During the pandemic, police brutality sparked a renewed demand for racial equality, and a tense presidential election followed. In the process we questioned our own biases and beliefs and saw each other with new eyes. Storms, hurricanes and wildfires battered the country and its people. And the season of trials is not over: there are still unknowns that remain to be seen. How have we handled it all? What have we learned while we wear masks and carry the burdens of 2020?
One thing I have learned is to slow down and be present. My patience has been tested repeatedly during the past months. Patience with others, patience with the world and patience with ourselves. We probably can agree we want to rush through uncertainty and pain. We want to hurry through this dark season, so we can seek pleasure, feel comfortable and be happy. Fears, anxieties and depression are fueled in those moments of wanting and waiting. The past year has reminded us the future is uncertain and only the present is guaranteed. Is impatience leading you to stressful unrest?
A way to practice patience and be present is to be mindful of our thoughts. Are we focused on the past or fearful of the future? If so, we are not living in the moment. If this is something you struggle with, try one of the following:
- Pausing with deep breaths helps when feeling overwhelmed. Taking a slow, deep breath in for the count of three, holding for the count of four, then a nice long exhale, can help bring calmness.
- Another way to pull yourself into the present moment is noting what is around you. Naming shapes or colors of things in your environment helps distract and refocus when feeling impatient.
- When thoughts are controlling, perhaps try an inner dialogue of narrating what you are doing at that moment. It is a comical remedy to bring inner awareness to our thoughts, which leads to feeling more centered and present.
Mindfulness has many positive benefits. There are several resources, tips and apps that can help. Click here if you would like to learn more.
As a new year approaches and you find yourself in a rush, pressured by the holidays, or surrounded by fears, try creating a healthy habit of mindfulness. This is something you will be able to do anywhere, anytime. Starting now. Pause during this time and take that deep breath in, appreciating what you have at the moment. Then exhale. The biggest gift we can give ourselves is the present. And that is the gift that keeps on giving.
AnnMarie Lehrer, APC, is a counselor at CHRIS Counseling Center-DeKalb. You can make an appointment by emailing [email protected].