I walked out of the office yesterday with a head full of all the things I didn’t do at work that day. A rainstorm had moved in an hour earlier and a light rain continued as I got on my bike. As I made my way through the hurried, wet streets of central London, I couldn’t shut off the work related thoughts, my mind turning over and over on what I could have done and how I should have done it.
This isn’t unusual.
Recently I began a course on worry management. Its aim is to not stop worrying, but tone down what may be excessive worry (aka anxiety) through different management techniques. It’s not easy. Not when you’ve spent most of your life in this ceaseless cycle.
So as I churned through these thoughts I realized I needed to stop and think of other happy things or, even better, pay attention to everything that is going on around me. And in London there are no shortage of stimuli to take in especially on a rainy night. Unfortunately, for someone like me who has trodden the same path for many years, I don’t pay nearly as much attention to what is going on around me other than what is going to keep me safe. So I employed a technique (I don’t know what it’s called) where you think about what you are sensing. It’s kind of an eye spy for your five senses. You set out the rules as you see fit. You may want to identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 you can hear, 2 things you can taste and 1 thing you can smell. Whatever best fits the scenario.
At first it was a bit of a battle to fight off the work thoughts, but after a few minutes of perseverance I was deep into a game of description of all the things I was trundling past on my bicycle. The sound of wet tires on the tarmac. The clicking over of bicycle gears. Various languages being spoken by strangers. Cold rain peppering my face. Neon lights from shop windows. Snot dripping down on my lips. Dank smell from the fish & chip shop.
Before long I was in Tooting Common and looked down to see small flecks of snow on my damp jeans. The snow had begun to mix in with the rain and my pace fell slightly as I took in the moment, quickly thinking back to the last time I’d seen snow falling in the Common. Tonight the Common was almost entirely empty except for a few hardened runners. Quickly the winter mix turned to full snow. By the time I got home, it was big, beautiful lumpy snow. And the thoughts of what had happened during the day had disappeared. All that mattered now was the snow falling now on my hands.