There have been times when I’ve scheduled a procedure, driven to the dentist, parked the car. Freaked out and left.
When my husband and I decided to start thinking about trying to have a baby, he insisted, before we started trying, I had to go to the dentist and make sure my teeth were in the best possible shape. (having a baby can be rough on your teeth)
I was terrified, but I really wanted to have a baby. Around this time I came across some information about mindfulness. I realized my fear of the dentist came from worrying about “what was coming” more than any actual pain involved. I also knew this fear stemmed from a complete hack job I’d experienced when I lived in NY and had my wisdom teeth removed. So I decided to come up with a mantra… something to help me stay in the present moment, and keep my mind focused on something positive.
I am calm, and filled with peace.
That’s the mantra I chose. It’s been said beliefs are only thoughts you keep thinking, so I figured if I just kept thinking I was calm and filled with peace, maybe at some point I’d believe it. The anxiety started the minute I got in the car. I started reciting my mantra in my head. My heart started racing, my palms were sweaty, and I was FREAKING OUT!
It was in that moment I realized I was NOT in the present moment. I was somewhere in the future, imagining scary things that weren’t even happening (and may not happen at all). I started asking myself a question…
This moment, right now, how is it?
What I realized was I was in a comfortable car, with the radio playing, and this exact moment was fine. There was no problem right here, right now. So I took a deep breath and let go. I kept saying my mantra, and when I started getting anxious, I asked myself the question and realized the moment I was in was fine.
I got to the dentist office, and found myself asking the question about once a second. This second is fine. I’m not in pain, nothing bad is happening, no one is hurting me. This second is fine. This second is fine. This second is fine.
They numbed my gum, and that second was fine. They numbed my tooth, and you know what… that second was fine because they’d already numbed my gum. Meanwhile, I kept repeating, I am calm and filled with peace.
You know what? I actually was. Between staying focused on the present moment, and reciting my mantra I actually managed to stay calm and rather peaceful through the whole procedure, and all subsequent procedures as well!
So what does any of this have to do with Christmas? Last week I was at Walmart… looking for things for the school Halloween party, and all the Halloween stuff had already been taken down, and replaced with Christmas stuff!! I felt my anxiety rising.
All the Halloween stuff had already been taken down, and replaced with Christmas stuff!! I felt my anxiety rising.
You see… I hate Christmas.
Just like that hack job in NY, I’ve had some really bad Christmas experiences in the past, which have created some really negative associations in my mind with Christmas. Personally, I’d be thrilled if I could just go to sleep mid October and wake up again Jan 1. But I can’t do that. I’ve got an 8 year old daughter, and for the last 8 years I’ve managed to put a smile on my face and grit my teeth through the holidays.
This year though, the whole dentist experience popped in my head as my anxiety at seeing Christmas decorations started to climb and I found myself reciting “I am calm and filled with peace” in my head. It helped alleviate my anxiety a little bit.
On my way home I really started thinking about why I hate Christmas, and I realized the reasons were pretty similar to why I hate the dentist. I am always waiting for something bad to happen, or reliving the past when bad things DID happen, waiting for the other shoe to drop, the disappointment, the fighting, the pressure of perfection, all things that are NOT happening right now, but are all possibilities in the future, or something coming up from the past.
I started making some plans, some ways to help keep myself in the present moment. I decided to use “the question” technique. It didn’t take long before I had to employ it.
A day or so later we were at Home Depot, and they had all the Christmas trees out on display. My daughter got all excited and wanted to know when we were going to put up our tree!
Anxiety goes up up up.
Ask the question… right now, this exact moment… how is it?
I’m in home depot. I’m safe. My kiddo is here. We’ve had a great day. The trees are pretty. I like the one with the blue lights. Look that one has little pine cones on it. This moment, right now… is ok. In fact, it’s kind of nice.
Anxiety goes down down down.
Now there may be moments when I ask the question the answer is… this moment SUCKS! That’s when I plan to employ the mantra ~ I am calm and filled with peace. I will also fall back on breathing mindfully. I have also made a plan ahead of time with my husband so I can lean on him, let him know (in a clandestine way because the likelihood a family member is part of the ick is high) I need to take a break.
Knowing I have plans in place just in case the present moment is not so good definitely helps. The other thing I’ve found that really helps is this: This moment will not last forever. This moment will not kill me. This moment can not defeat me.
No matter what is going on, I am strong enough to get through it. So are you.
The holidays can be rough. It’s ok if you hate Christmas. If possible go ahead and lock yourself away, but if you’re like me and you have to be part of the festivities and want your kids to feel the magic of Christmas (even if you don’t) staying present, having a great mantra, mindful breathing, and a back up plan can do wonders for you.
Best of luck. If you’ve got a technique you use to help get through the holidays I’d love to know it… share in the comments!