A basic technique of riding a motorbike is “looking ahead,” past whatever is immediately in front of you. To keep your mind focused ahead of your present surroundings a few ticks.
If you look to the road immediately in front of you while steering you will likely mess up the steer, lose your balance, and crash. It’s better to look as far down the road as you can, towards a more distant target.
In this way your body leans and steers without thinking too much about things. It gives you a smooth, balanced manoeuvre – executed as much by instinct as by thought.
In general, focusing on reading the road ahead, so a large part of your conscious brain is really thirty seconds down the road (or as far as you can practically plan for), is a good rule.
Similar principles can be applied to life, too, in situations that create anxiety.
The intelligent, thinking part of your brain is almost made to be projected out into an imaginary space in the future, simulating events and charting out a course ahead, rather than focusing too much on what’s in front of you.
Anxiety and panic attacks can occur when the present moment overwhelms us. Stress builds without an escape route or way to relieve it. It creates a spiral of anxiety that seems irreversible, too fast to process. Our brain short-circuits. Panic is the outcome.
It’s a bit like trying to steer a bike while looking at the road under your feet. Get too caught up in the moment and the stress you are experiencing right now, and you can lose balance and crash — panic attack. Panic that is attached to the current moment. The whizzing road.
As with most things, there’s a balance to be found. We want to feel present in the moment, too. I think the balance is in knowing which parts of the mind really belong in the present, and which are better off focused further down the road.
More often than not, thinking brain just gets in the way of properly experiencing life in the moment. Leaning more on instincts in the present can make us better pilots of the human brain.