We’ve all been there. Trying our best to accomplish a task but not getting it done because our mind won’t focus on what it needs to. Instead, it is wandering from topic to topic, thinking about anything from cute puppies, to what we did last night, or what we need to do tomorrow. We know we can address these things later, but they are flooding our thought process RIGHT NOW, preventing us form moving forward. So what do you do?
One technique that might help is called Containment.
Two great examples of when containment can be applied to everyday life
One – We have 100-zillion things on our to-do lists and the second we sit down to start working something else pops in our mind, the phone rings, or a kid comes asking for a snack (10 min after the last one). We get distracted and at the end of the day, we feel like we haven’t accomplished anything. This turns into resolve for making progress on anything until our kids move out or stress that we aren’t enough or that something is wrong with us because we can’t complete a simple to-do list.
Two – you can’t fall or stay asleep at night. your mind wanders. You doze off just to wake up with new thoughts. You are SO TIRED but can’t sleep at the same time.
Containment is a method to acknowledge a thought, feeling, or belief that we have and then set it aside to address later. It is a straight-forward process we can all do wherever we are, whenever we need it.
Step 1: [do this step when you won’t be distracted for 5 min] Rest comfortably. Close your eyes and picture yourself in your calmest place. Focus on deep breathing for as long as it takes to get you to that place.
Step 2: once you’re in your calm place, picture a container of anytime. A box, chest, jar, vase, safe, bucket… anything that you can put a lid on. Examine in for a few minutes. Note the color and shape, how it opens, if it locks, how big it is, etc…
Step 3: Now open the container and begin placing things that are bothering you in the container. A work project that you have been stressed about – put it in the container. A conversation you’ve been putting off with your sister – put it in the container. Anything that has been overwhelming or distracting can go inside.
Step 4: Affirm that you will address these issues later. They are not being forgotten like we often worry or do when we are overwhelmed. Instead, they are placed in a safe spot that you can come back to at another time.
Step 5: visualize yourself closing the container and setting it in a safe place. Do some deep breathing for a minute after and you’re done.
Step 6: Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, close your eyes and visualize your container. Visualize getting it from your safe place, opening it, placing the items inside, closing it and setting it aside again. This can be done in the middle of your day or the middle of the night when you can’t sleep.
Step 7: When you are ready, find time and space to work through these items. If they are basic things that as tasks you must complete, sit down to retrieve the items one at a time. If they are larger items that require you to really process (i.e. beliefs about yourself, trauma you’ve experienced) then it’s best if you process these items with a therapist/counselor/psychologist.
There are some guided meditations on this approach you can find online. For some, this is an easy practice. For others it can take time to really visualize and feel relief. The more your do it, the easier and quicker the practice.