How to Calm Your Mind with Present-Moment Thinking

I was inspired to post this picture of me with my big 80’s hairstyle (look for it at the bottom of this post) after seeing Jennifer Valentyne’s 80’s hair picture on Instagram. (You rocked it Jenn!)

Big hair blowing in the wind aside, did you notice the caption of the article?

“13-year-old pulled friend from frozen Lake Simcoe”

Yup, that was me! I fell through the ice when I was 13 years old.

I had been playing on the ice of Lake Simcoe with two friends. I became bored and wandered off by myself. In an attempt to cure my boredom, I created a little game; I made piles of slush with my boots and jumped on them to splatter the slush.

One of the piles I made was massive. I knew it would make a huge splash and, with great enthusiasm, I jumped on it.

This time, I felt my knees get wet. I thought, Oh no! I’ve fallen on the ice and now my pants are wet. In the next instant, I felt my hair swoosh up as though I had plunged feet first into a swimming pool.

That’s when I knew that I had not fallen on the ice; I had fallen through the ice.

What surprises me to this day is how I reacted at the time. My thinking became very clear. I thought, Get your hands out of your pockets, take off your mittens and boots, then kick your feet so you stay near the surface. It was a really strange sensation, being so rational while my life was in danger.

While I was under the ice, one of my friends noticed I was missing. She turned to the boy who was with us and asked, “Where’s Denise?” After a quick scan of the ice, they saw the hole. My friend instinctively ran over to the hole, plunged her arm into the icy water and fished around until she found my hair. She grabbed hold of my hair, then grabbed one of my arms and pulled me back up through the hole, and here I am today, safe and sound.

One thing I learned from that experience is when you are in a life or death situation, your survival instincts drive you into the present moment.

While I was under the ice, I was no longer worried about whether or not I had done well on my last exam. I was no longer stressing about going back to school after the March break. All of my mental energy was focused on that exact moment.

Being laser-focused on the present gave me the clarity to take the actions that kept me near the hole in the ice. This made it possible for my friend to rescue me.

On the other hand, had I lost focus on the present and started worrying about the possibilities of what might happen – even of what might happen in the very next moment – panic would have surely set it.

Fearful thoughts would have taken over and clouded my judgment. If that had happened, no matter how hard my friend would have tried that afternoon, it’s likely she wouldn’t have been able to reach me.

During this pandemic, when you start worrying about things over which you have no control (like how long this is going to last), calm your mind by bringing yourself into the present moment.

What I mean by that is changing the “What if?” questions to “What is?”

What is happening for you right now? In this moment you’re safe. You’re reading this message. Maybe you even smiled a little when you saw the 80’s picture of my hair. (It’s okay, I did too!)

I’m not downplaying the severity of what is happening in the world. This is real.

What I’m doing is equipping you with a strategy that will help you to stay present and reduce your fears over what may or may not happen in the next moment, the next day, next month, or next year.

Fear and worry exhaust you, dragging you down physically, mentally, and emotionally.

On the other hand, focusing on the present – and on what you’re grateful for right now – restores your thinking. It lifts you up and pulls you through.

All my best,

Denise Marek