To focus or not to focus

You will have to forgive me as this blog will be a bit shorter. I am juggling a lot of potentially great things right now, and my mind is distracted on dotting i’s and crossing t’s. However, I read an amazing article this week by Thomas Joiner.

It supported a thought process that started soon after Jesse and Bella died. It is interesting, unless you walk in someone’s shoes, you can imagine, but you cannot look at all the angles of something you do not know about experientially. For many years when I worked with people who had depression and anxiety, one of the many things I recommended was mindfulness or meditation, among many other things. Both have a tendency to focus on the here and now, mindfulness being present with yourself and all of your surroundings in a non judgmental way. Meditation is focusing on a central point, for example your breath, or a candle and letting all distracting thoughts fall away and focusing on the present moment. Keep in mind these are super basic definitions and thoughts around this.

And, for most of the population, it is extremely beneficial to both their mind and bodies in so many ways, especially these days when we are bombarded by excess technology. I cannot tell you how many patients of all ages coming into to me saying they are having a hard time focusing. I ask them, well, how many windows do you have open? Meaning, if you are running a computer and have a ton of windows open, it can crash. Same with our brains. Yet, how often do you see people having their I Pad open, a phone conversation happening while watching TV? I sure am guilty sometimes. Of course we can’t focus . For many of these people, I teach them basic meditation and mindfulness, and their focus gets a lot better.

Now for the people that it may not be so beneficial for. When you are severely depressed and or anxious, you may not want that person to focus on their body sensations. When my heart is pounding, and I feel like I am going to have a heart attack, all the while feeling like I am going to die because I am having an anxiety attack, I cannot be mindful nor meditate. I cannot be non judgmental nor just “let all the distracting thoughts” roll away. Nor when I am depressed, feeling hopeless, or like a burden to others, should I do the same. I get it now. Don’t get me wrong, like I said above, there are great things that come from meditating and being mindful, but it is foolish of a practitioner to expect someone in the throws of depression or while having an anxiety attack to do them. I will say, one thing that does help for me during an anxiety attack is focused breathing. I can’t always get there though if it is bad enough. But if I catch it before that point, I may be able to focus on one thing in front of me and breath in and out. Is it true meditation or mindfulness, no, but it is taking bits from each and trying to calm the body and mind down.

It was refreshing to read that article. It touches on some things like I said I have been struggling with for the past few years. People who have not experienced severe depression or anxiety don’t get it. You can’t just talk yourself out of it. However, as I have experienced health issues over the years, it has brought more compassion and empathy as a practitioner. Since Jesse and Bella died, I of course have dealt with a myriad of emotions I would not wish on my worst enemy. Yet, it has also brought an empathy and compassion to my life and practice. When someone with anxiety comes in and I ask what has worked and not worked, and they say they cannot meditate, I say I get it. It is yet another opportunity to fine tune and figure out what may or may not work for an individual. There is no set way of dealing with things, we need to learn to be flexible and be careful to say, well this is what you should do and this will work. It may, it may not. But it is so important as a practitioner to listen closely to our patients, to really hear what they are saying,honor it, and formulate plans and suggestions to better empower them in their healing.

focus and unfocused

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Stephanie Willard

Originally published at on August 29, 2017.