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Living in The Present: How to Stay Focused on Today

2020 was full of unexpected and difficult events like the pandemic and the U.S. presidential election — and these events are still difficult. Tensions seem to be getting higher.

Many people feel stressed wondering what awful thing will happen next because of what has already happened. Challenging times like these can sometimes seem impossible to overcome but it is more than possible — it’s probable (How to Improve Your Life in 2021).

So then, how do we stay focused on today?

People often become so preoccupied with what’s right in front of them that they do not see beyond that moment and become hopeless, like seeing a door closed yet not trying to turn the handle and finding it’s open.

We often think that what we are dealing with today is unprecedented. Yet, we have to remember that people have lived through similar highly tense times before and came back stronger with newfound hope. People have lived and learned through the Spanish flu, polio, and smallpox, for example. Each deadly virus resulted in its own vaccine, which is why these viruses are no longer prevalent. We have recovered through tumultuous political climates in our history as well, such as the Nixon era, the Lincoln era with the Civil War, and the September 11th attacks, as well as the assassination of John F. Kennedy. History has repeatedly shown us that we learn and grow through times of difficulty.

We also have shown our ability as both a people and as a nation to be resilient. Our Gulf Coast community suffered great losses during Hurricane Katrina. Then, three weeks later, nearby communities that were providing much-needed supplies and resources were hit by Hurricane Rita. The Gulf Coast was reported for months after as being like a “warzone.” Yet, we survived, rebuilt, joined together, adjusted, and learned. This is called resiliency, and finding it in your struggles is possible.

We are resilient because we stayed connected with one another, we believed in our ability to get through it, and we kept hope in our recovery while finding meaning in living through it. Living in the present moment is key to feeling calm and being hopeful, even in our current situations.

What does it take to live in today when it seems so much easier to talk about the past or the future?

The research we have on mindfulness and resiliency gives us clear suggestions.

  1. Take care of our basic daily needs
    Getting a full night’s rest supports clear thinking and good decision-making. Eating balanced meals throughout the day provides the needed fuel for our bodies and minds to function emotionally, mentally, and physically. The simple act of drinking plenty of water each day feeds our body’s tissues and organs, thus supporting our energy and health. Medical and psychological research have also repeatedly shown the value in taking a few minutes to exercise, spending a little time in the sunshine, and visiting with a friend. (Spending Just 20 Minutes in a Park Makes You Happier. Here’s What Else Being Outside Can Do for Your Health)
  2. Be open-minded and curious
    Believing in our ability to handle the daily events in our lives provides those encouraging building blocks needed to manage increasingly stressful events. Consider how others handled similar situations. Determine clear, concrete steps that support “good fit” success in your life. (Clear Your Mind: Creating a To-Do List that Works)
  3. Be intentional in our actions
    When we find ourselves lost in thought or emotionally reactive, we are not in the present moment. Pause, and look inside to identify which emotions might be fueling our current thoughts and actions; which feelings are convincing us to defend ourselves? We are better able to evaluate any given situation realistically and concretely by stepping back and asking ourselves what other possible viewpoints or perspectives could be at play. Human nature tends to make us believe that whatever we’re currently experiencing is how it always happens or always happens to everyone. The truth is that human beings are imperfect, incapable of being always the same in our behavior. In other words, focusing on the basic aspects of living each day, keeping a flexible mind, and interacting with intentionality have the ability to increase our energy, decrease anxiety, elevate mood, increase focus, and help us to acquire a sense of calmness. (How to Start Living an Intentional Life)

How would we know if our efforts are not helping us live for today? What should we do?

Emotional distress happens when we believe how we feel is evidence of what is a fact. Feelings are not always facts. Physical signs of emotional distress may include tension headaches, a change in our sleeping or eating habits, or even our hair falling out unexplainably. Emotional signs may come across as irritability or isolation; as well as thinking we are having a heart attack because we are feeling too anxious. When our feelings seem to rule our actions, it is time to contact a professional counselor to assist with learning how to separate how we feel from what is happening, so we can get back to living our daily lives. (10 Tips for Emotional Healing)

Want to know more about living in the present and being focused on today?

Watch this video of Susan Harrington, counselor and founder of Maison Vie New Orleans, discussing what you can do to make sure you focus on today. You can also contact us to see how we can help guide you through personal counseling sessions.