Although admittedly I have lived a pretty sheltered and blessed life, I have faced some setbacks just as everybody has. I have been fortunate enough to have found some effective ways of dealing with such things. Thanks to this, I have a very robust mental health which I’m quite proud of. I want to share some of the strategies I use, in the hope that they may be of use to others. Because I would love nothing better than for all people to be happy and content. I think that any person being unhappy or depressed is simply a terrible waste if it can be avoided.
So lately I’ve been having some problems with work. This has been weighing on my mind, to the point that even during my off-time I couldn’t relax. I kept running simulations in my head of conversations I might have with my supervisors to discuss these problems: what I’d say, what they’d say. I care about what they think of me: this company is run by kind people, and they’ve been very flexible in meeting some of my earlier concerns. I worried that I’d seem ungrateful by bringing these things up, even to the point of imagining doomsday scenarios where I’d be fired in anger and never find another job again.
Ridiculous, I know, even as I’m thinking it. But simply telling your mind to stop such thoughts never does anything. I tried a number of other mental tricks I’ve picked up through the years: a deep breath, distracting myself with something else, trying to think of nothing at all, trying to work it all out rationally and then set it aside. It was no use. The problem, among other things, was that I was trying to go about my normal routine while I was doing all this thinking (browsing tumblr in this case). Once I noticed that all this worrying was giving me an upset stomach, I stopped what I was doing. I’ve not encountered a problem yet that can’t be solved or at the very least made tolerable by meditation.
An important thing when trying to use meditation is these circumstances is to not keep trying the same tricks you’ve been trying before, and not to let the worrying thoughts run around your head in circles as they always tend to do. You have to make a clean break from your thoughts. It sometimes takes me several tries over the course of an hour, and in one or two cases I’ve even failed completely to break with the soundtrack playing on repeat in my head. But I keep trying again, until in the end I manage to get free of them.
This is the crucial stage. When you’ve finally managed to clear your head (I literally feel like space has opened up inside my skull), you may be tempted to enjoy the peace of silence and not do anything else. But that won’t resolve your problems, and after just a few hours back in your daily routine that peace will be gone. No, now is the time to find an answer to your problems, something convincing that will help you keep those same worries at bay if they ever come back.
Personally, I’m a very spiritual person, and on many occasions I have found my answer in faith. But not so this time: this time the answer turned out to be more psychological (which fortunately means it applies to agnostics and atheist as well, bless them :). This time I applied another strategy that has helped me before when I worry about what the future may bring. I imagine how things will turn out for me if my worst fears come to be realised. And then I try to see beyond the immediate shock that comes with such a doom scenario, and see all the beautiful things that will still be true, even if the worst should happen.
What if things turn ugly at work, and I end up leaving while in dispute with my employer. What if this affects my future job prospects, so that I can’t find the kind of work anymore that I’m used to? In that case, I’m going to have to find a different sort of career, which means new experiences and interesting new ways of thinking. And regardless of whether I will ever find a good job where I can comfortably stay, the sun will still shine, won’t it? Summer is still going to follow spring, the green leaves and strong grass are still going to come out, aren’t they? And books! Glorious books! They’ll still be there, whatever else happens, and I’m always going to have at least some time in which to read them. So I’m still going to witness beautiful, incredible, inspirational stories. I can still paint, still play the piano, still go for long walks. My family will still be there, and all the wonderful people that inhabit this world. I can still learn new things, new philosophies, new languages. I can improve myself and enrich my own world, even if I don’t have a penny to my name.
It’s one thing to read such things or to think about them, but you really have to feel them, to experience them, to believe in them. Once I managed this, the weight I didn’t even know was wearing on my soul fell away. I laughed in relieve. And once again, as many times before, I realised what a fool I had been for worrying, for letting those thoughts fester for hours when with a little effort I could have come to this place where the world is filled with promise and the grey clouds have drifted away. Gods help me if I ever forget this very simple truth. But fortunately I know how to effectively deal with persistent worries and now, so do you.
May peace and happiness be with you always.