Adult Mental WellnessMindfulnessStress Coping Strategies

Full Catastrophe Melt-Down

When Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living popped into my Amazon mailbox, the title didn’t just pique my interest; it reached out and grabbed me by the throat!

Right there, that described my life! Full catastrophe living.

The year was 2007, and having lived a life of managing stress on the slim rim of sanity, I knew that in order to keep from being sucked down into that familiar whirling, turbulent vortex that would fire me down, down, down into a full-catastrophe melt-down, I needed some help. I had lived in a mental prison that kept me, on the one hand, in deep regret of painful experiences of the past, and then, suddenly, on the other hand, would toss me to where I would linger in tense apprehension of the future. Add to that a sound measure of (Adult) Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.H.D.), and you had yourself one fine specimen of a hurting human unit.

Riveted on the title that spring morning, I clicked on the website link and began an intravenous feed of the preview information offered on the site:

“Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness.” I read on…

“The program of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.”

“The practice of mindfulness: Paying Attention.”

“When you begin paying attention to what your mind is doing, you will probably find that there is a great deal of mental and emotional activity going on beneath the surface. These incessant thoughts and feelings can drain a lot of your energy. They can be obstacles to experiencing even brief moments of stillness and contentment.”

If you are the kind of person who is hard-wired to control the world around you and you find yourself continually overwhelmed by circumstances beyond your control, you will understand why I bought that book faster than a mosquito scores a meal from at dusk. Over the course of the coming days and weeks, I enveloped myself in the knowledge the author imparted and the practice of Mindfulness Meditation.

In a nutshell, Mindfulness Meditation is the practice of training your thoughts to dwell on the present, moment by moment, as the moments unfold. As I began practicing it, the frenzied, mental cycle that for decades had dragged me down to the bottom of the emotional ocean, began to lose its grip on me. The more I practiced living in the present moment, the less time and inclination I had to focus on the past or speculate about the future. Intense anxiety gave way to a calmness and a peace like I had never known.

Moreover, because the practice of Mindfulness fosters a far greater awareness of one’s surroundings, I began to pay closer attention to where I would place things (such as my keys…a constant issue with A.D.H.D.-ers ), and my greater ability to focus enabled me to do a better job at prioritizing, too. My life began to take on some semblance of very welcomed order.

Now, thanks to Mindfulness Meditation, I have become acutely aware of the warning signs of my own toxic thoughts, and can steer clear of the undertows of discouragement, anxiety and stress, by immediately switching gears and focusing back in on the present moment.

(Original post: May 5, 2010.)

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  1. I have been suffering with increasing frequency from a sort of later life depression in recent years. The purpose of this comment is just to say thank you from across the pond to the authors of a number of helpful articles on this site. One day I hope to be able to help others in the same way as I am helped by the generosity, wisdom and solidarity of the contributors to websites such as these. One of the hardest things about this debilitating condition is the feelings of guilt towards one’s nearest and dearest whose own lives must surely be impaired as a result of the depression in their relative. It motivates me to keep fighting!
    Thank you again. God bless you…. and me!

    1. It is for people such as you that I devote my time and energy to these articles. I live where you live, feel what you feel, and hope as you hope. Thank you for your kind post. Blessings back to you, my friend!

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