Mindfulness and M5 Speed Cameras, yes Really!
Mindfulness and M5 speed cameras, yes they really do go together!
Several weeks ago, I was travelling to Portishead to work and the 20 minute journey didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped. The day started off normally and I was on time, travelling along the motorway, I thought, travelling at the correct speed limit. As I don't drink caffeine (I'm really not good on caffeine!), I often put on a happy CD and sing my way to work, making sure I'm full of beans to teach. Well, whilst happily singing along to Mama Mia 2, all of a sudden I was aware of lots of really, really bright flashes in quick succession, to use a little hyperbole, it felt a little as if the world was exploding! I thought maybe I'd got a little carried away with my singing and mis-judged my speed. Three or so cars directly in front of me slammed on their brakes and I quickly had to do the same, luckily acting quickly enough.
Well, several things then happened:
* That rush of adrenaline you get when faced by a shock, the fast heartbeat and heaviness in your arms and legs as you feel your blood start to rush
* Shortly after the physical reaction calms down, the emotion and whirring thoughts kick in: thank goodness I didn't crash into that car in front, the feeling of dread that you've just been caught speeding and that it's going to cost you a lot of money and it's money you'd rather spend on other things and so the train of thoughts snowball
As all of these thoughts kept whirring and I started to beat myself up about not being careful enough and questioning and cussing the constant changing speed limits on this stretch of the M5, I realised that I was not doing myself any favours and only heightening my state of stress. This is where I decided to practice what I preach and bring a little Mindfulness to the situation. Here's what I did:
* I took several deep breaths - this has the immediate effect of slowing down your fight or flight system and helps you feel calmer
* Once in a calmer place, I decided to contemplate my emotional response - why was I really that bothered anyway? Once you give yourself time to actually check in with how you're feeling, you often get insight and once you have insight you can decide how you want to move through your emotions
Once I checked in, I realised what was getting to me most, was the overwhelming feeling that I'd been caught doing something wrong and I've always found it difficult coming to terms with doing something wrong and making mistakes. The sinking feeling that you're in the wrong is hard. With our logical mind, we know making mistakes often gives us a learning opportunity and this would for me too, but you just need to give yourself the opportunity to stand back from the situation. These are the things I learnt when I took a step back:
* Whilst checking in with my emotional response, I was also able to look at the situation more objectively. Maybe it wasn't me that had been speeding at all, maybe it was the cars in front of me, I was lucky I didn't crash into the cars in front and so on
* Once in this more relaxed state of mind, I was also able to tell myself that actually worrying about it wasn't going to change anything. Which ever cars had been caught on camera, had already been caught and we can't turn back time. If it was me, it was me. By worrying, I was potentially just punishing myself twice
* How could I stop ending up in a similar position in the weeks to come on the M5 - learn to use the speed limiter. This now happily gets set to 50 or 60 mph now on this particular stretch of motorway
Having been through these stages, I felt much more able to not attach to the situation, to not keep beating myself up for days on end until the two weeks from the incident had passed and I'd know for sure whether it was I that was speeding. This whole process took 10 minutes at most and probably saved me a couple of days of beating myself up or worrying about fines and points on my licence.
So, what was the outcome!
Two weeks passed and I received no fine and no points on my licence, so it wasn't me speeding. By being more mindful I saved myself, from a couple of weeks of prophesying and beating myself up.
How can this help you?
* When you find yourself in a heightened emotional state of shock or worry, just bring your attention to your breath. Take several in and out breaths, if you're anxious try and make your exhale longer than your inhale, until you feel yourself start to calm
* Once you feel calm, just sit with the emotions that you have coursing through, acknowledge them. Often we only have to acknowledge our difficult feelings in order to diminish their power over us. Delve in a little deeper and ask yourself whether there is anything you need to know about how you're feeling. Once you know, you'll likely be more able to find a way forward and more able to formulate a logical response
* By employing these techniques on a regular basis, your brain learns new ways of dealing with worry, stress and shock and you'll hopefully find that you can move through the ups and downs of life a little more smoothly
If you've any questions on the techniques above, please do feel free to get in touch, Jacqui x