My Journey with Mindfulness – How to find therapy that works for you
Updated: Nov 1, 2018
“The happiness of life depends on the quality of your thoughts”
It was only a month ago that I realised just how true this actually was! Now, there’s no denying that we all go through high and low points in our lives, no matter how big or small. Your lowest point can seem emotionally overwhelming and to some extent all-consuming. However, what I find is important to remember is that it’s HOW we deal with our lowest points and the steps we take to get there that makes the difference. But with that comes the question, well…what do I do? How do I get help? And…how do I find out what works for me? Because no matter how many help lines, group chats and charities that are out there, (WARNING CHEESINESS UP AHEAD) ultimately it’s YOUR journey, YOUR road to recover, and that’s something that’ll be different for everyone.
My journey definitely wasn’t clear-cut. First of all, I attended counselling sessions in my college, which were certainly beneficial to some extent. They allowed me to purge a lot of raw emotions; getting it out there in an hour long session proved to be quite therapeutic because mentally it would send a signal to my brain saying you’ve got it all out in the open - it’s done and it’s sorted. But I remember at the time feeling like something was missing. Now don’t get me wrong the woman was lovely and really helped me get to where I am today. But for me personally I felt like there was something lacking. One of the main reasons for that I think is because I found the sessions very emotionally draining and having to do that every week was very exhausting and whilst in retrospect it helped get rid of raw emotions, I’d always feel really upset for the rest of the day and I’d never really feel fulfilled.
So after I left college, I began my journey to find another form of therapy sessions and it was just my luck that I ended up stumbling upon a lovely little form of therapy called Mindfulness.
This was actually recommended to me by my friend Abbie, whose mum runs mindfulness sessions locally. I remember amidst the stress of A Level results day; I was really struggling to find some stability which lead to her inviting me over to her house to have a little private taster session if you will with her Mum.
Basically, Mindfulness is a mix of meditation and hypnotherapy classes; and their main goals are to help you control your emotions and learn how to breathe properly. Now I know what you’re thinking. Katie, I’ve been breathing properly all my life what are you on about? And that is exactly what I originally thought! However, over the course of a few weeks, you begin to realise how just altering your breathing cycle ever so slightly can be so beneficial.
For example, I struggle with anxiety and one of my body’s triggers whenever I have an anxiety attack is that my heart starts racing and I physically feel like I can’t breathe. But taking the time to inhale for 4 and exhale for 8 and repeating about 3 or 4 times, gradually started to make all the tension and all the stress that was originally building up disappear. Now, me being me there have been plenty of times that I have had to put this breathing exercise to use, sometimes on a daily basis, but truth be told ever since then, I’ve become so much more relaxed, not just in the moment but also throughout the rest of the day! For lack of a better word, I just felt really chilled. Just goes to show you really underestimate what a bit of breathing can do!
Plus, this technique can be used for pretty much anything! Whether it be stress, anxiety or even if it’s a case of you feel aggravated by a certain person and can feel your blood boil (I’m sure we all have that certain someone that comes to mind) no matter how trivial you think it is, just taking 3 minutes or so a day to just concentrate on your breathing will prove to be so beneficial.
Additionally, the classes help you to appreciate the here and now rather than trying to concentrate on the future too much and honestly with no exaggeration whatsoever this has proved to be so enlightening!
Nowadays there’s so much apprehension about upcoming events whether they be exam results, job applications or just mundane activities like the ironing that you’ve been putting off for about a week, or the dishes that have been lying in the sink for ages, or (definitely in my case) needing to start packing for Uni. All this thought and preparation that goes into little things like that means that no-one ever really takes the time to fully benefit from a few hours of complete relaxation. Even when you try to just relax your mind, it always manages to wander somewhere or other. And this was definitely the case for me.
With A Level exams and revision being over which was by far one of the most time-consuming things I’ve ever experienced, I never had that time to really take some time out to luxuriate in the free time I did allow myself. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’d always be thinking about a future exam I needed to revise for or question so and so in a previous exam that I answered horribly. It seemed like no matter what I did I’d never feel fulfilled and somehow I’d feel guilty about giving myself a few hours to unwind.
It’s only now with exams being over and looking back in retrospect that I’ve realised how self-care is so underrated. By taking these classes, it’s really drilled into me that it’s not at all selfish to take some time of a day just to yourself in the peace and quiet.
Some of the advice that was given was to find your spot. Find somewhere that’s calming to you. So for example, I would choose either the conservatory or the garden as I like being surrounded by daylight as much as possible to bring a bit of light in my day. Then choose a time of day. It can be early morning mid-afternoon, even in the evening sometime! Whatever makes you feel most comfortable or whenever you can remember! Make yourself comfy with a few cushions. Get a cup of tea or coffee or be a bit extra like me with my lemon and water and then take a few minutes to do the rule of five senses. Firstly, think of five things you can see in front of you. Then close your eyes and start to envision what you saw only this time try point out how many things you can hear and touch. Suddenly all that worry about all the jobs you had to do for the day will now seem irrelevant as you will be focused on your surroundings, thus appreciating the here and now as opposed to the stresses the future may bring.
Another bit of advice is to keep a journal beside you to write down what your concerns or just general thoughts rather than trying to bottle it all up. For me I have my own little positivity book, but just any will do and every day try and write down three things you’re grateful for, starting the morning off with a bit of positivity will instantly give you that boost and motivation needed to kick-start the day.
Those are just some examples of how Mindfulness can work for you and I honestly can’t recommend it enough, if you live locally I’ll put a link below if it’s something you’re interested in.
If not, then I’ll also quickly mention some apps that have also really helped me to unwind either before sleeping, for destressing or simply just for tuning out for a few minutes. The four that I use most often are: Calm, Tide, Insight Timer, Headspace which are all so good to lower stress and anxiety levels.
So I guess the message I want to send out is that it takes time to find a coping mechanism that’s for you. In my case, it took almost a year, however, a recovery journey is not an easy one. It takes time to get to a point where you feel comfortable enough even to reach out for help, never mind finding the right one for you. However, I want to offer some assurance that you will get there! Mindfulness certainly works best for me and what’s great about it is that it’s something that can be done at home, no audience, no equipment, just you alone with your breathing… and sometimes that can be all you need. I’m a much happier person now. My only wish is that I discovered it sooner, but in some ways it was good for me to test the waters and see which form of therapy was most suited to me and my goals for recovery. Take one step at a time, at your own pace, and you’ll get there!
- Katie x