Practicing Mindfulness means remaining aware of what’s going on in us and around us right now, without judging it (more definitions here). Mindfulness meditation has many benefits but this article will mainly show how helpful it is in situations of emergency: in a state of panic or in the middle of an argument for instance. The following is a combination of techniques from Buddhist teachers, some are also valid in behavioral therapy.
I’m not going to explain in details how you feel in an emergency situation, for most people symptoms are quite similar: heart races, breathing is shallow and quick, millions of thoughts collide in your mind.
That’s called stress and it’s a normal response but it’s not a pleasant process and unless you’re physically in danger, being stressed out doesn’t make you more efficient at all.
In an emergency, mindfulness helps mainly with two things:
– Reducing stress symptoms
– Regaining clarity in the moment
So let’s get to it, when you’re in a situation of panic here’s how you can leverage mindfulness:
1 – Take short mindfulness breaks
when under stress, We forget to take a break. We’re in meth mode, hyperactive, constantly trying to do something, we just want to solve the situation right now! And it often seems there is no time to think, either.
That’s not the right approach, even in a situation that requires responsiveness.
No matter what you do, you need to take breaks to operate well, otherwise your mind burns out and you end up acting random like most people in shock.
Try to find some moment of rest, if you pay attention you’ll always find short times when you can practice mindfulness even if it’s mayhem around. These times are usually very short: a few seconds, a few minutes at best, but they will make a tremendous difference if you use them well.
Whenever you detect one of those moments, do the following:
2 – Glue your Feet on the ground
keep both feet in a stable and symmetric position.
focus on the weight on your body, fully connect with that feeling. Doing that grounds your mind, it helps slow down your thought process.
3 – Let the emotion flow
Whatever emotion you’re experiencing: panic, anger, confusion or any other feeling you can’t even name, just let it circulate it freely in your mind and body. The reflex we all have in case of stress is to block everything inside of ourselves, we unconsciously assume that we’ll control it better if we stop it.
This approach doesn’t work: you can’t stop an emotion, you can’t stop a thought, either. The best way to control a feeling is to let it completely expand through your body and remain aware of it. Just try it out, the experience can be freaking at first, but the reward is a warm feeling of being back to normal.
4 – Breathe
Focus on your breathing for 3 to 7 counts, especially if you are used to meditating with that point of reference.
Rest your mind on the stream of air that goes in as you breathe in and out as you breathe out. Breathe slowly and deeply, try to fill your lungs a little more that usual. ideally, you want to breathe through your nose, since breathing trough the mouth triggers the “fight or flight response” and that’s not what you want right now.
By doing this, anxiety will usually decrease and your mind will be more calm and focused.
5 – Enjoy being silent
Staying quiet is also a powerful way to stay mindful when you experience strong feelings. By controlling your speech, you will also spend less energy, which will make you feel stronger.
Some Buddhist teachers say that talking agitates the mind, I personally verified it many times. Even if a conversation is going on, try and refrain from talking and try to listen instead. That’s also a great way to gain more clarity and balance when you feel stressed out.
6 – Practice mindfulness regularly
The more you train your mind to meditate in the predictable environment of your home, the more it’ll be easy to practice mindfulness during tough circumstances. Give yourself daily chances to sit and practice meditation, this training will result in more stability. After a while, meditation will be a no brainer: whenever the going gets tough your mind will automatically switch to a mindful and relaxed mode without you noticing.
The above tips can be practiced independently or in combination, you don’t have to remember the whole list to use it ( it’s usually hard to remember your own name in case of panic, anyway). I am confident you will get something out of them and enrich the recipe to fit those methods in your life.