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'N' is for the Power of Now and News of a Giveaway. Tuesday May 13, 2014

This morning I woke up at 4am. Within moments I began worrying – about work, what groceries to buy, taking the cat to the vet, writing this blog – and soon everything snowballed until it was as if my life were one giant to-do list. But then I stopped and laughed: I realized I was doing exactly what I was going to encourage you all not to do! Because on the very day I was due to blog on living in the 'Now' – the 'N' of my series on A.N.X.I.E.T.Y. for Mental Health Awareness Week – I was living in the future, not the present moment myself!

Yesterday I explained how primitive humans needed to be driven by fear to survive, so our brains remain inclined to being anxious even though we're unlikely to have to flee from danger much these days. It's inevitable that anxiety is going to get triggered in us all from time to time, but the trick is to be able to nip it in the bud before it becomes overwhelming. This is where living in the now, also known as 'mindfulness', comes in.

Mindfulness can help alleviate stress and worry, but how does it work?

Most of the time our thoughts drift, unchecked, lurching from one focus to another; one second we're thinking about writing an email, the next what to wear to a function. But when we're mindful, we actively work against this phenomenon and focus wholly on the present moment.

'But how on earth will I get through my to-do list without thinking about everything on it?' you might well be wondering. Here's the good news: mindfulness doesn't mean you have to stop doing one single task; it means you have to stop trying to do everything, all at the same time. We don't often notice, but our senses of touch, smell, sight, and sound are constantly at work, and mindfulness means focusing entirely on your bodily sensations. So instead of multi-tasking or daydreaming, make an active effort to be absorbed in what you're doing, even if it's sweeping the floor or washing up.

Try it now.

Feel the warm muscles of your legs supporting you. Smell the air of spring. Look out of the window at the sky. Listen. And most importantly, quieten your mind. When you're aware only of what you're doing and the sensations of your body in the moment, conscious worry is not possible.

Sarah Rayner
A Moodscope member.

Here's the News of the give away. Every day during Mental Health Awareness Week, Moodscope is giving away a signed copy of Sarah's new novel, Another Night, Another Day. Its focus is mental health and it features characters from many different walks of life who learn to open their hearts to one another, so it's a story that may resonate with Moodscopers. Just email with 'Giveaway' as the subject and we'll pick one person each day to receive a free signed copy.

The Moodscope Team.

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Sarah Rayner Tue, May 13th 2014 @ 7:36am

I don't know if other Moodscopers had the same email yesterday and today, but I'm glad this one is on the website anyway, as it was the one meant to go out in the today's message. Seems like 'yesterday' was trying to elbow it's way in to 'today'!

Caroline Ashcroft Tue, May 13th 2014 @ 8:14am

Oops, correct version is being sent out as we speak! Apologies.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Tue, May 13th 2014 @ 9:09am

Oops - and I've just sent you an email too! Sorry - should have checked here first! Another great post Sarah. This week I just want to hide away and think of absolutely nothing because it's all so overwhelming. I will take your advice and just be, noticing, but not judging. Best wishes, Mary

Anonymous Tue, May 13th 2014 @ 9:38am

Hi Mary, I have a young son who suffers severe anxiety. I have learned so much about myself in the process of learning with, and for, him. To slow the mental whirr, a little nugget that helped us both hugely was "what is the worst thing that could happen here?"...then "and what is the worst thing that is likely to happen here?". I am so very proud of him because he is keen to learn and is starting to put into practice these exercises to help himself. It's helping how I view myself too. Maybe this little nugget will bring a mind-rest for you too. Love from the room above the garage.

Anonymous Tue, May 13th 2014 @ 11:08am

Good blog thanks. My latest guide for dealing with difficult/anxious thoughts is to think of em as 'stories' ... they are just words in the mind which usually fit into anxious/depressive stories like the 'I can't cope story' ... and thus we manage to scare ourselves into submission ! It doesn't have to be this way. Thinking of em as a story ... perhaps a framed poster ... really helps me unhook from them and focus on here and now. I got this from The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris and would thoroughly recommend it - it's part of 'ACT' - Action and Commitment Therapy and includes the use of mindfulness. Hope this helps someone. Moodie x

Anonymous Tue, May 13th 2014 @ 11:50am

Thank you Sarah. I've done NHS Mindfulness course and what you have to add today is really helpful. My depressive episodes seem to dull my brain and so to have a top up like this is good. The advice about using our senses without noticing it really brought it home to me to focus on them. This has improved my technique already! Gill

Kit Reynolds Wed, May 14th 2014 @ 7:30am

I'm on an NHS Mindfulness course as well, involves lying down for 40 mins a day with a 'tape'

one key phrase that stands out is to 'accept things as they are' which helps! I'm much happier since starting,

heather Wed, May 14th 2014 @ 11:18am

Thanks Moodie, I like this idea a lot, in fact I do it a bit without realising. From now on I will focus onto making my anxieties into a sort of "story" separate from myself and just get on with real life.

Rons Thoughts Wed, May 14th 2014 @ 12:49pm

X=cellence for me started very young and took an interesting turn. My social anxiety caused me to always have my radar up when dealing with people, especially those I did not know well.

This developed into a triggered ability to 'read' people, their visual, verbal, and non verbal queues (we all know about those). I developed a reputation for discerning people quickly and often accurately.

The downside of course is that it all grew out of fear and insecurity. This new 'talent' helped me develop a protection method, but didn't help me develop a more balanced approach to my underlying anxiety. That took another 30 years to address.

Anonymous Wed, May 14th 2014 @ 6:38pm

great advice, i started trying not to be a perfectionist a while back now. i still slip but no-where near as bad. one of my big things , i wouldn't take the first box of biscuits, or the tin of peas that were dented when shopping! of course i'm not going to take bruised fruit or something thats obviously damaged, but i try no longer to obsess that i'm getting a 'perfect' item from the supermarket shelves.
one step at a time folks, take care

Anonymous Thu, May 15th 2014 @ 3:49pm

I'm struggling with anxiety. Thank-you for writing this. It really helped.

Anonymous Fri, May 16th 2014 @ 10:10am

Dear Sarah, thank you very much for all your articles! They have been a great help! I have been having an anxious week and your article just helped me stop for a minute and relax! Thanks again, please keep up the great work!

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