Here and Now

By Anthony Nguyen

With everything that is going on these days, it can be really hard to stay focused on the present. Our bodies are naturally primed to prepare itself for whatever comes our way–it’s in our biology! However, sometimes we might get a little too focused on the things that could happen that we forget the things that are currently unfolding right in front of us. Have you noticed your sleep schedule lately? Anything new? What about your appetite and eating habits? Anything different? Have you noticed any changes in how frequently you’ve connected with people? Also, important to ask but how’s your mental health doing?

Between the pandemic, polarizing politics, shifting work environments, existential dread, “murder hornets” (yes, that was a thing in 2020), and being sequestered at home it can be a lot for one to process and sit with. It can be hard to not think about what happens next when we’re genuinely uneasy about what else is to come. Which is why it is so important to practice mindfulness and to try your best when it comes to staying present and to soothe your concerns about the future even if for today.

What is mindfulness you ask? Well, to simplify things, it’s essentially focusing on here and now…but that’s easier said than done I would imagine considering the times. Remember those questions I asked earlier? Mindfulness involves being self-aware about your immediate needs and tucking those concerns about the future away for the time being. It’s important to mention this but mindfulness is not denying or ignoring the situation in front of us–we’re simply paying attention to stuff that matters here and now.

Are you so concerned about what might happen next that you forget to eat on a consistent basis, get enough restful sleep, connect with loved ones, or pay attention to the emotions that you’re feeling? It may not be so obvious, but our physical health is tied to our mental health and deserves our attention as well. In fact, with things being so uncertain and out-of-control, taking care of ourselves is just the thing that we have a great deal autonomy over. There’s plenty of science research behind the benefits of eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep, bonding with the ones we miss, and making sure what really matters is taken care of as opposed to dreading plausible outcomes that exist only within the confines of our ruminations.

I know that things are vastly different this year and a lot of our aspirations and goals were probably derailed or deferred. It’s okay to acknowledge this and by all means take the time you need to grieve the loss because your emotions are so valid. However, it’s so important that you keep on engaging in acts of self-compassion and mindfulness–even the smallest acts can eventually amount to something big over time which can have a profound effect on our mental health and well-being.

As therapists, I by no means am not immune to what’s going on in the world. I’m scared, too. But, I know that I have the choice to either expend a lot of energy on a self-induced cognitive catastrophe or redirect some of that attention towards feeding myself wholesome meals, unapologetically finding the time for myself to rest and reset (it’s okay to exist–you don’t have to be productive all the time), exercising to get my body in motion, scheduling an impromptu ZOOM dance party, and making sure I get a sensible amount of sleep.

Tomorrow can wait especially when what you need is to get through the day. Together in therapy, we can work on incorporating more mindfulness in your life to help you be more present in the here and now.