I feel like I now understand myself a lot better than I did a few days ago.
My explanation for the last couple of weeks is that it’s been a vicious cycle of losing self confidence, kicked off by anxiety over the gastroscopy. There were other factors too but essentially it’s been a feedback loop which I haven’t recognised and haven’t managed to get under control. So, OK, maybe I will fix this and discover there is actually a real problem too, but for the moment, this is a definite problem and the rest is speculation.
I’ve been reading about mindfulness. For the moment at least I am feeling a lot more upbeat about my ability to handle the future in general because I now feel like I better understand the problem and I have a plan.
The key points of mindfulness are that firstly I should be more focused on existing in the current moment. I spend a lot of time thinking about the past, analysing experiences, looking for negativity in them, and thinking about how they will affect the future. It’s important to learn from mistakes but for me this goes far beyond that. In some ways that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and becomes a vicious cycle because you’re constantly on the back foot. When I find myself doing this I need to instead focus on my surroundings, on my physical sensations, on my breathing. Focus on the moment. That’s what matters right now.
The second point is that thoughts are uninvited and often unhelpful. I have never really considered that it is possible to simply observe a thought’s arrival into my mind, recognise it as being unhelpful and let it run itself out. The exercise is to be aware of when these thoughts come up, identify them, and in doing so, disassociate yourself from them. They will still occur but you will understand that they don’t need to be acted upon and hopefully you will better control the negative emotional response they currently create. When you don’t feel obliged to act upon them you will much less often run into the situation where you do something you regret because of an emotional response and later think “that was really stupid, why did I do that?”, which comes back neatly to the situation in point 1.
Meditation is often mentioned as a part of mindfulness, and it’s unclear to me how it really relates to these other points. I think the value of it is in practising that ability to relax and clear those worries from your mind. It gives you the tools to be able to take a step back when you do feel things heating up. So far the breathing meditation is proving a bit difficult for me because I have a cold and it makes my sinuses burn and makes me want to sneeze, but I’ll get there.
I’ve yet to see how it all comes together for me of course but I feel like I’ve had a bit of a revelation by understanding these things. I’ve so far been able to stop my mind running away with itself, which is a marked improvement. I still find myself coming back to the big thought I’ve been having – “did she really change her hours just to avoid me?”. My heart rate speeds up a bit when I start to think about it. But of course, I don’t know the answer and the answer is irrelevant because even if it is “yes”, the correct course of action from here onwards is the same either way. If I behave like a normal human being she’ll behave like one with me. Get trapped in a negative feedback loop and she probably won’t. It’s that simple. I’ve been able so far to identify this thought and short circuit it and treat it as an unwanted guest in my mind. So it’s a promising start and I’m feeling a lot more optimistic than I have done for a while.
I’m planning to take tomorrow off sick and to work from home on Tuesday, so I have two more days before I need to face my challenges, by which time I should be better prepared than I have been for the past few weeks. This is actually a huge change of pace for me. A few months ago I was anaemic and there were many times I really shouldn’t have been at work, but I never seriously considered taking time off. Now, I have a slight cold and I’m using it as an excuse to take one day off and one day working from home.