A client recently spoke with me about how she had a three hour break in the middle of her day, however, she was still somehow late to her dentist appointment. She recalled how the night before this occurred, she felt happy and relieved to have such a long break the following day, because she would be able to check more than a few things off of her to-do list, with time to spare to get to her appointment. However, she seemed disappointed to report that despite having had so much time to get things done, she was late to her appointment and had been less productive than she had expected and hoped to be.
She said she became distracted and did not leave for her appointment on time. Does this sound familiar? How many of us end up apologizing to the receptionist behind the desk at the dentist’s office, explaining that there was so much time but how you must have lost track of it. Then, sitting in the waiting room berating yourself, you replay the scene from Saved By The Bell where Jessie is spiraling and scream-crying about how, “There’s never any time!”
There are many reasons to become easily distracted these days, including a multitude of stressful and triggering current events, like the war in Ukraine, potentially catastrophic climate change, and the latest Covid variants, mask mandates, rules and restrictions. Not to mention, a plethora of personal life issues like managing kids’ schedules, school and work weeks, general life maintenance and activities of daily living. So what is one left to do, to regain some semblance of mastery over the capacity to concentrate? One strategy that could help is called Guided Imagery, which is under the umbrella of mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is an evidence-based practice that promotes metacognitive awareness and enhances attentional capacities through gains in working memory (Davis & Hayes, 2012; Norries, et al., 2018). There are a variety of mindfulness meditation practices, which utilize the five senses to help us stay grounded in the present moment. Guided imagery is a creative strategy where one imaginally places themself in a most-loved, or most peaceful place. It could be a real place, or a made up space, the key is to really get into it with the sights you see, sounds you hear, smells in the air, taste sensations on your tongue, and textures that your body is touching. Here is an example of how to utilize BEACH IMAGERY to calm your nervous system, stay present and focus:
Start by describing your chosen scene in your mind, like a movie scene, and picturing it like that: Do you want to be standing in the sand, laying on a towel or a chair, or do you want to be floating in the ocean? Therefore, do you feel your feet on the soft sand on the ground, or do you feel the plush cotton of the towel or the cool wetness of the water against your back? Do you see a bright blue sky with no clouds, or is it a sunset with gorgeous pinks and oranges? Do you smell salty seawater, sunscreen, a nearby barbecue; or all three? Do you taste your Chapstick or a sip from your lemonade? Are seagulls squawking, or is there simply the serene sound of the ocean waves lapping? Are there other people around or are you in solitude? Can you feel the warm sun on your face and body? Do you feel a cool breeze in the air? The world is your oyster when it comes to creating your guided imagery scene.
In summary, it is too easy for time to slip away from us, with such a dizzying array of distractions ever present in our daily lives, and in the world. Therefore, it is recommended to practice guided imagery, or other mindfulness meditations, often. It’s like working out at the gym for your focus-muscles. The more you regularly strengthen and maintain them, the more you can easily access them when you need to focus, be productive, and get to that appointment on time!
Dr. Palumbo is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Lukin Center for Psychotherapy who specializes in teaching people the skills they need to live their best lives, through a Cognitive-Behavioral, humanistic and solution-focused approach. She is focused on treating children, adolescents, and adults presenting with anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder, and trauma-related issues. She specializes in children and adolescents, women's issues, and trauma.
Dr. Palumbo attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where she received her Bachelors Degree in Psychology. Next, she was enrolled at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, where she received her Masters Degree in Forensic Psychology, after developing an interest in working with clients involved in the legal system. During this time she completed training at the US Federal Department of Probation.
Dr. Palumbo next attended the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine where she earned her second Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology as well as her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She completed training at a community mental health facility in northern New Jersey offering outpatient and intensive outpatient services to the general population, and at an organization providing outpatient and residential treatment to children, adolescents, and adults with problematic behaviors, involved with the legal system.
After graduating with her doctorate, Dr. Palumbo continued to provide therapy for children, adolescent, and adult clients presenting with mental health issues and problematic school and community-based behaviors. She has extensive experience with individual and group therapies, psychological and forensic evaluations, reunification therapy, trauma-focused interventions, court testimony, and providing psychoeducation to children and teens about appropriate social media use.
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