Shhhhhhhhhhh…..My mind is quiet now
“Just Chill Out!”
Have you heard this before? “Just chill out! Stop worrying! Get a grip!”
For those who have never had debilitating anxiety, these things are easy to say. If it was as easy as they think, the anxiety sufferer would have chilled out long ago. Do you feel me? Feeling misunderstood by those around us simply adds to the discomfort.
Here’s the thing: The mind is made to think. Thinking is the purpose of the mind. You can’t just say “stop” to it and expect that to happen; especially anxiety mind, because anxiety mind thinks VERY fast.
So What Do I Do?
Something I read in the early stages of my recovery (sorry, don’t remember the author) used the analogy of a living room. Imagine your mind is a living room. You don’t like the old furniture. The old furniture, for whatever reasons, is making you unhappy; giving you anxiety. Maybe it reminds you of your ex or something about the color just doesn’t feel right. Someone suggests moving out the old furniture, and you think it is a great idea. You move the old furniture out into the yard.
The living room is now empty. You watch TV sittting on the floor. You take a nap on the floor. You do all of your reading and handiwork on the floor. Sooner or later, what happens? (Do you see where I am going with this?) YOU WANT SOMETHING TO SIT ON!
So you go outside, and move in the recliner; maybe the love seat, just to have a little something to sit on. Unfortunately, you still have the same feelings about the old furniture. The same furniture causes the same results. So now what?
YOU NEED NEW FURNITURE!
Positive Thought Replacement
Think of “anxiety mind” as a friend who just needs a little direction. You CAN learn replacement thoughts that will take you down a different path; the path to peace and calm. All it takes is a new script.
Please understand that the new script is not something that we will read once and expect it to take root. The new script is a new way of thinking and looking at life, so it takes a lot of repetition and consistency to take hold and become permanent.
Your new script is created by witnessing the exact nature of what anxiety mind is saying and basically turning it around. Here is a basic idea, just to use as an example:
Anxiety mind: I am fat and ugly. I will always be this way. I will never be happy.
New script: I AM willing to begin to love myself the way I am. I AM capable of making the changes I desire. I will focus on my strengths.
Notice that the positive replacements I used were realistic and indicate a step forward. Rather than saying “I am skinny and beautiful,” the thoughts I used are about moving in a more positive direction, not something so extreme that the conscious mind rejects it and one becomes overwhelmed because it all seems so impossible.
When the Unexpected Happens
Here is a VERY common cause of anxiety among many, many people. Even though I consider myself 99% recovered from anxiety, sometimes the unexpected turns on the old adrenaline switch, especially if it involves electronics.
This morning was a perfect example: I went online to pay a credit card bill “real quick” before I started my writing (poor choice – not what I call “planning for success”- I know that it works better if I start my writing before muddling my head with anything else).
As fate would have it, I could not seem to log in to my account on my laptop. I tried repeatedly to no avail. I had the right ID and password, but it just got stuck on the “log in” prompt. So……….I decided that I would try it on my phone, which I rarely use for this sort of thing. Enter: adrenaline.
So, I started breathing slowly from deep in my belly, focusing on the exhale, and said to myself, “I can do this.” More than once. I had to slow my insides down a few times.
Guess what? I did it. I paid the bill using my phone, and next time that situation comes up, my body won’t get that excited.
What does your anxiety mind say when the unexpected happens? Does it sound anything like this?:
- This is awful.
- I can’t deal with this.
- Great, now my whole day will be crap.
- Why can’t anything ever go right? (notice that anxiety mind makes a very big deal out of everything)
Here’s an example of a new script:
- Well, this isn’t what I expected, but it’s OK.
- I can deal with this.
- Just a little bump, no big deal.
- I AM a problem solver and if I need to I will find help with this.
Remember to breathe in slooooooowly from deep in the belly and even more slowly on the exhale (through pursed lips). The breathing practice is what slows the body down so that not only does your mind say that you are safe, but your body is convinced that everything is ok. Drop the shoulders. Bobble the head…………………tell your lower back to relax…………take another breathe. Let it all go……………
Obviously, facing a new experience was also part of my little episode this morning. New experiences can be something as simple as going to a new doctor (wait, did I say simple?), driving in a new city, flying to a different airport, starting a new class of any kind, or entering new “cyber territory” (did I mention that I got extremely wound up the other day when my son was guiding me through getting connected to another streaming source on my TV? I mean, I literally said, “I’m scared.”).
First of all, here’s some news: You aren’t a freak if you are feeling anticipation about a new experience. Many, if not most people will feel a certain level of nervousness (or, we could call it excitement; the physical responses are exactly the same) about going into something completely new.
So, if you are feeling an unusual level of anxiety, you might look at what is going on in your life and ask yourself, “Am I feeling excessively nervous because there is something new happening in my life?”
If the answer is yes, there are ways to calm this “anticipatory anxiety.” It may only be a feeling without any particular anxiety producing thoughts, but there are ways to self-comfort. Remember to talk to yourself as if you are helping your best friend. You might try some of these:
- I am feeling anxious about this new experience, and it’s okay.
- It is normal to feel uneasy about new things.
- I have gone through unknown territory before, and it went just fine.
- Even if things have turned out tough before, it doesn’t mean that will happen again. The past is not the present.
- This will most likely be much easier than I am expecting.
- I am getting better at calming my body.
- I will breathe and relax
- I am calm. I am peaceful. I am safe.
Take that breath from deep in your belly. One………………………..two……………….. three…………………….four. Drop your shoulders and exhale as if through a straw………………..one………. two………………………….three…………………….four……….. five……….(I like to make a soft whistle like the sound of the wind. I find it comforting). Let your head bobble. Take a few more good breaths, counting slowly. Keep practicing, and it will become easier and easier. Just let go.
When you feel like you’ve done something wrong
I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only person who sometimes (maybe lots of times) gets a free floating feeling from seemingly nowhere that I have done something wrong.
Maybe this feeling of guilt is caused by the echos of my upbringing, knowing that I am not following my parents’ religious beliefs or being a straight “A” student of life (whatever that is).
Then again, maybe this strange feeling is caused by generations of ancestors implanting in their DNA that it is just not okay to be a human being, or the collected and unresolved emotional energy of myself and those before me.
More often than not, I have discerned that this feeling is caused by some expectation that I have made of myself and not lived up to it, whether it is with little things or big things.
Regardless of the source of this uneasy feeling, we can learn a new script for changing it. Remember that integrating a new script takes repetition and dedication, and the more you practice, the more effective it is. You can create your own. Always remember to focus on your progress and your strengths as you grasp and develop this new process. And breathe. And let go. Open your hands…
Here are some possible positive thought replacements for generalized uneasy feelings:
- I know that I am doing my best.
- I give myself permission to lower these impossible expectations I have of myself and others.
- I have made mistakes in my life as everyone has, it’s no big deal.
- My little shortcomings are no big deal.
- It is okay to stop scolding myself and be kind to me.
- Guilt serves no purpose, I leave it behind.
- It is okay to be me.
- I focus on my strengths and move forward.
- I feel the rightness of the world and my place in it.
- I give myself permission to let go and feel peaceful.
- I am relaxed and safe.
- All is well.
When learning to redirect your anxiety mind to the new script it may be a good idea to pick just two or three new thoughts to integrate; pick the ones that feel the most applicable and most comfortable to you. Writing them on a sticky note strategically placed (I always got the bright colored ones so they would get my attention) will remind you to reprogram your thinking through the day. Keep in mind that it’s all about easing the pressure, not adding more. Even though some belief systems put pressure on us as if it is a good thing, it is perfectly alright (and more mentally healthy) to make a decision to put less pressure on yourself. We have more control over this than we sometimes might think.
Also of great benefit while learning to take different thought pathways is making a habit of taking some deep belly breaths through the day. Opportunities abound once you start looking for them: standing in line at the store, waiting at a red light, sitting in the dentist’s office, or taking a break at work. The more we practice calming the body using the breath and simple, calming thoughts, the easier it will become; the body will respond from it’s memory of the experience.
Hopefully, this information has given you some little tidbits you can take with you and use to your benefit.
Please feel free to comment on my blog and ask any particular questions about anxiety you may wish to have addressed in future blogs. I appreciate you reading.