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I first learned about mindfulness during my time on National Citizen Service (NCS) all the way back in the summer of 2016. If you were to tell me about mindfulness before, it would probably sound quite silly, and I would doubt whether it could work. The basic premise as I was taught is that mindfulness is not about simply meditating and humming, but rather grounding yourself in the present and essentially focusing on the here and now. To this day I now maintain that mindfulness is the best tactic to combat overthinking and anxiety on your own, though it is worth noting that mindfulness can only do so much, so it really is reliant on the individual's own experiences. I by no means am saying that major mental health issues can be prevented through mindfulness, but it is worth sharing just in case it helps you or someone you may know. Mindfulness taught me that I can be in control, and that sometimes you have to trick your own mind to focus on something else.

During a camping exercise, I felt terrible, my mind was racing and the more that I thought about not feeling anxious, the more anxiety I felt. Most of my anxiety stemmed from the fact that I was a 16-year-old male, there was no threat, no reason to feel anxious, yet I was, and this meant that I was embarrassed to say anything. My team leader clearly noticed that I was not in a good mood, so he came over to speak to me and ensure that I was alright. The team leaders were essentially university students, they were slightly older than us but not by much, so this meant they were easy to talk to. When my team leader spoke with me, at first, I did the classic “I’m fine”, I didn’t want to seem weak or silly for feeling anxious about something mundane like camping. My team leader, Zain, noticed that I was overthinking, and I was fortunate enough to feel comfortable to speak with him about how I felt. To my surprise he told me that he too struggled with overthinking and anxiety quite a lot at my age. This was quite the shock because he seemed like someone who was always a leader and never had to deal with anxiety.

The talking helped but it didn’t stop my overthinking and then Zain broke the conversation, pointed at a leaf on the ground and told me to focus on that. I was unsure of how useful it could be to simply stare at a leaf whilst my mind felt like it was running on overdrive, yet I humored him anyways. To my surprise, as I was focusing on the leaf, the various colour combinations and the way it all came together, I was no longer overthinking. He then told me this was called “mindfulness”, and I was under the assumption that mindfulness was something completely different, something that was a lot less accessible than just focusing on your surroundings. I was impressed by just how effective it had been to calm myself down, as I was hesitant initially because I thought that I was powerless. Mindfulness to this day remains a key tactic for me to deal with my anxious and sometimes overbearing mind. This is something that you can try if ever you feel like things are getting too much, try to give yourself something to focus on. By focusing on something small you can direct those thoughts to whatever it is you're looking at, so you have something to ground yourself. When overthinking gets out of hand it can leave you feeling physically ill, as there is so much stimulus that your body is working overtime. If ever you are in a situation, you feel an anxiety attack or overthinking coming on, find something within your environment to look at. Find something that preferably has numerous elements to it, whether that be texture or structure, focus on its design how everything comes together. You’ll probably be surprised that after focusing on something physical, you’re no longer overthinking.

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