I am often asked what is the single most effective way to manage worry and anxiety. My experience, and those of my clients, is to stay in the present. You see, we often don’t realize that everything that is in the past is gone, with very little or nothing we can do about it. Thus, those that tend to ruminate about the past or “live in the past” tend toward sadness and depression. On the other hand, everything we are worried, anxious, or scared of, hasn’t happened yet. It is all in the future and based on things yet to come (“What if I lose my job? What if my child doesn’t get on the team? What if the economy turns for the worst?). These things could happen, and if and when they do, you will deal with them. But how does worrying about them now help? It doesn’t.
As a psychologist and student of the human mind and behavior, I have been drawn towards Eastern philosophies of thinking and meditative techniques associated with present moment living. These Buddhist and Zen philosophies espouse staying present, detaching from outcomes (i.e., getting the promotion), and cultivating loving kindness and gratitude. A primary method for achieving the aforementioned is to engage in a daily meditation practice. For years, I read all the books, but kept waiting for the time to start a regular practice and attend a weekend retreat to kick things off. Like any good perfectionist, I needed to do it right. I tried getting up early—earlier than my usual early to answer email before the kids got up, but that didn’t last long. I tried setting time aside to meditate in the evening after the kids went to bed—but found myself falling asleep. I then tried setting time aside during the work day, but found it often got lost in the need to fit a client in, return client calls and answer emails (so I wouldn’t need to get up so early).