One of the first tools I introduce in working with those dealing with a chronic, life-altering challenge (as well as just about any anxiety-induced problem) is this simple mindfulness ritual. The goal is to begin to strengthen the ability to remain in the present moment. This includes being able to notice when the mind shifts from the task at hand (focusing on an object) to something else.
The exercise is deceptively simple. Focus on what you eat or drink for breakfast. One of the most straightforward ways to do this is with a cup of hot coffee or tea. Simply hold the beverage gently in your hands and work to keep your focus on it.
Notice the feel of the container in your hands, the heat from the drink, the smoothness or roughness of the cup, the curvature of the glass. Pay attention to your left hand, then bring your awareness to the right. Move through each of the fingers noting any sensation you feel.
Notice the steam rolling off the top of the cup and the coffee grinds or tea leaves swirling around on the surface of the cup. Bring your attention to the smell of the beverage and then take a sip, focusing your attention on the taste and where in your mouth and on your tongue that the flavor registers.
Your mind will wander. This is to be expected so don’t get hung up on the fact that this has occurred. When your mind wanders, simply notice the thought and then bring your attention back to the subject at hand. Do this for at least five minutes.
In doing this exercise, you are developing a new skill that will be essential in helping you distance yourself from overwhelming thoughts and emotions, freeing yourself to be able to choose an action that matters.