Mindfulness, is it really for you?
What a dumb thing… Right?
Chances are you’ve been told by some psychologist (or misguided friend that has decided they can research a cure for you) that you should try to be use “Mindfulness” to cope with situations that jack up your PTSD symptoms. The first time I heard this, even in an educational setting, I thought… probably bullshit. I just knew that some know-it-all bookworm peace-loving hippy thought this shit up. In clinical settings I’d hear, “Did you try to use Mindfulness?” It was said like some kinda cure-all to the PTSD masses and that if you’d just learn this skill you’d magically be able to fit into “normal” society and function on some higher level. pamphlets flooded the VA lobby’s about this Mindfulness technique, signs in the drab bleach filled hallways – Mindfulness. Holy shit it was everywhere overnight! I started asking every vet I came across if they even knew what Mindfulness was and the only answers I really got back were things like “Some dumb shit they want me to do” or “Something about being in the moment”. No one outside of the clinic staff really understood what it was. So I set out to determine: Is it bullshit, or is it real? What I found surprised me.
What the hell do I know?
Not everyone is sitting in a situation like mine; not only do I have PTSD but I have the educational background to understand the disorder, causes, and treatments. Not saying this makes my situation easier… but I am more equipped to talk about certain aspects of PTSD than some. I am not an authority on all things PTSD but I can relate to combat vets on a more real level than a lot of others in the psychology field. Sympathy versus empathy kinda thing. I just couldn’t understand why, if Mindfulness was such a wonderful magical thing, did none of the vets understand it. To be honest, I blame the name: Mindfulness. See, if they would’ve given it a badass name, we’d all be on board. Just imagine some big bearded tattooed combat vet saying “Hold up dude, trying to be mindful right now!” HA! No… let’s give it the name it deserves… Tactical Awareness. Sounds better right? Although, post your own ideas in the comments below because I am always up for suggestions.
So, What the hell DO I know? I know that going into this, you probably had the wrong idea about Mindfulness. I know that before now you’ve probably heard someone suggest this but really didn’t put much thought into it. I know that you’ve heard the same regurgitated information over and over… and fucking over… again. I’m not here for that same ol’ same ol’ force feeding of overly used, clinical sounding shit. Don’t believe me? I know, I wouldn’t either… but let’s try.
There’s a lot of slighty cool reading to be done about Mindfulness so I will include some links at the bottom. This, like most other topics, is nothing something you can simply punch into a search engine and randomly click on a link. When it comes to psychology there are a LOT of old or misleading sites out there. So stick to reputable sources.
First things first, Mindfulness is not just for PTSD… so even if you haven’t accepted that as your diagnosis – it can still be helpful. The basic definition of Mindfulness can be worded like this: If the shit isn’t happening now, drop it and handle what is in front you. The shitty co-worker that pissed you off this morning has nothing to do with dinner tonight. The fight you had with your spouse the night before doesn’t have anything to do with work today. Did I say “let it go”? No, no I didn’t . That’s one of those phrases that so easy to say and so hard to do – so I’m not going there. If you drop shit, you can pick it up later. Pick it up when it’s in front of you, when it has to do with that situation. Have a “Situational State of Mind” as often as you can.
If you are trying to read research reports about Mindfulness… STOP! That isn’t meant for you. Read what speaks to you. Read what you can understand. Psychology is not an easily understandable topic. It’s not an insult to your intelligence if you don’t get it. Hell, I have trouble sometimes. Just move on. Don’t give up researching something because you get bogged down in the big worded muck. There’s something out there for you and if you can’t find it – let me know. I will help!
Is Mindfulness for you? Will it really help?
Yes. That may seem like a bullshit blanket answer, but it’s the truth. Yes, if you use this learned skill, you will benefit. This means you have to put in the work. It’s a learned skill… so learn it. The whole idea behind this is just as simple as the name suggests. Be mindful of what’s going on inside.
Step one: Begin… take a deep breath. Yeah, I said that lame shit, sorry. But it really is powerful. Focus on that breath in, feel it going into your lungs, notice your lungs expanding… then breath out and pay attention to the hot air rolling over your lips and out into the space in front of you. Do it, then do it again until all you are focused on is the air moving in and out of your lungs. This will help to reset your brain. Forcing yourself to focus on this small detail will keep it from focusing on whatever else is fuckin’ up your groove.
Step two: Oh shit, nope… just one step here!
That’s right. One step. Now I could drag this out into a whole 5 or 10 step process, but why? It’s simple… all you are trying to do is reset your brain. Again, I’m not trying to make this overly complicated when it’s not. When I’ve talked to people who like to cut themselves, instead of breathing I suggested holding ice. It’s all working towards the same goal. You find yourself getting “worked up”, reset. You can concentrate on the meeting at work because you can’t remember if you locked your front door, reset. You’re still pissed at the douche bag who cut you off this morning but it’s lunch time now, reset. Reset, reset, reset. Once you’ve practiced this skill, it becomes easier and easier to do.
Is this a cure-all, no. Will it fix everything, definitely not. Will it help, yes. PTSD is not a label, it’s not something to deal with monthly or even daily… PTSD is an every moment thing. Handle this moment now, handle the next moment when it happens. You’re stronger than the bullshit boiling up around you and inside you, so handle this shit tactfully. You don’t clear a building all at once, you work room to room.
- Psychology Today
- APS: Association for Psychological Science
- YouTube… For those that don’t wanna read
- Develop Good Habits