It’s been awhile since I’ve written about my Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). That’s because I have been working really hard on the second chapter, which is Mindfulness.
Holy crap it’s hard.
Now, I’ve never been a fan of mindfulness. I’ve always believed it to be crazy. How can I just live in the moment? I have plans to make. Things to do. Shit to worry about
The book I use, The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook by Sheri Van Dijk, has an interesting passage that I actually highlighted, so I would always find it easily. It says:
‘Being mindful isn’t about staying focused on something; rather, it is noticing that your attention has gone astray, and without judging yourself, returning your attention to whatever is happening in this moment’
I found this passage extremely helpful. I interpret it as saying that if I’m washing dishes and I start to realize that I’m stressing about bills, it’s ok, and in fact helpful, to return my attention to the task at hand.
Is it hard? You bet it is. Really hard.
There are a bunch of different exercises in the book meant to help you practice the skill of mindfulness.
Some of them, quite frankly, are crap as far as I’m concerned. For example, in one exercise you are supposed to picture yourself standing in a beautiful stream and as your thoughts come to you, you picture them on lily pads floating on by. Don’t judge or engage, just notice.
Now, for someone without racing thoughts, this might be a nice exercise. For someone with racing thoughts like I have, I would end up picturing myself in the middle of the Mississippi River as the water raged around me carrying thoughts to numerous to deal with.
But, I have found a couple of things that work. Or will work with a lot more practice. But, at least I can do them.
First is something called Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Basically you get yourself in a comfortable position and then being tensing and relaxing your muscles, starting with your toes and ending with your head. Don’t forget your mouth. I find it extremely difficult to relax my mouth as my anxiety keeps it clenched constantly. This is a nice exercise to do at bedtime. I find it amazing how tense I am all the time. During this exercise, if you find your attention wandering, you are supposed to bring it back to the exercise, without judgment.
That “without judgment” part is very difficult for me. I’m in a perpetual state of anxiety and judging myself seems to have become one of my favorite activities. But I try.
The other exercise that I do is, well, I guess it’s kind of a mantra. Whenever I notice that my brain is all over the place I try to tell myself ‘Right now I am ok, right now no one is bothering me, right now I don’t need to be anxious, right now I don’t need to be sad’.
Does it work? Sometimes. But with practice, I’m hoping it will start to work better. And, of course, I have actually NOTICE that I’m all over the place. Which is not easy. That’s something I’m going to have to talk to my therapist about, but I suspect it’s just going to be a matter of practice. The next chapter title is “Continuing to increase your awareness” which I hope will give me some of the answers I’m looking for.