Quelling an Anxious Mind
Discover the power of self-hypnosis.
Posted Oct 09, 2018
Today’s world provides a constant stream of disturbing data – and you can receive it real-time on your phone. Just a “ping” tells you there is a piece of news you must read, and more often than not, the news isn’t good. You are fed a steady diet of negativity from morning until night, and even in the middle of the night if you check to see what you’ve missed while you were sleeping!
Financial concerns, “getting ahead,” keeping your family or yourself safe all seem like constant challenges that just don’t abate. It’s like there is never a chance for rest or peace because you have to be vigilant at all times, thinking about what could happen or what you might need to protect yourself from.
This vigilance takes its toll. While the natural reaction of “fight or flight” is a protective shield, living all of the time in the “fight” mode or ready to run in “flight” at the slightest provocation is wearing and exhausting. And once you’re exhausted, the anxiety can be so all-consuming that even sleep eludes you. Just when you need to rest and want to rest, your body and mind can’t calm down enough to give you the break you deserve.
You can’t stop the onslaught of bad news happening out there, and you might not be able to fix all of the things in your own life that concern you, but you can begin to train your mind and your body to strive for a calmer, more peaceful natural state. It takes practice and commitment, but diminishing that constant fight-or-flight response can quell anxiety and bring you to a more peaceful state.
Learning the techniques of self-hypnosis can help you on this journey. While it can be best to work with a hypnotherapist who can guide you and bring you to a deeper, more relaxed state more quickly, this might not be a reasonable option for you, due to cost or the proximity of help. Instead, try some of these techniques and practice them on your own to see if they can’t offer some relief.
First, it’s important to create a peaceful space for yourself. This can be an outdoor area, or inside, in your home. It is necessary to have a spot where you are not interrupted and where there aren’t troubling or anxiety-producing things present. For example, if your financial situation is a constant worry and you pay your bills in your office with unpaid ones piling up, don’t create your space in this room! Find somewhere you can create a safe haven. It doesn’t have to be a large spot; it can be a corner of a room or a bench outside somewhere – just make sure it is peaceful for you.
Next, schedule at least twice per day you can spend in this safe area. The best times are often early morning, before your day starts, and later in the evening, before you go to bed. You will want to have at least 10 minutes when you are able to sit and practice deep breathing and emptying your mind of all thoughts and concerns.
Once you sit down, begin by taking three deep breaths. It’s important to breathe in and out from your stomach, not your chest as most people do. Breathing from the chest actually increases anxiety, while breathing from the stomach is calming. Take a deep breath in through your nose and hold it for just 2-3 seconds, then breathe out through your mouth. Do this while focusing only on your breath. Imagine it coming in, pulling in healthy clean air, and going out, taking any concerns or toxic thoughts along with it. As you breathe in and out for the third time, and while still breathing, gently close your eyes.
As you sit in your safe place with your eyes closed, become aware of your physical experience. Your legs and arms should be uncrossed and hanging loosely at your side. Make sure you are seated comfortably and without any stress on your body. Deliberately relax your entire body and sink into your chair. Feel yourself letting go of anything that might be a negative or heavy weight. Focus your attention on the process of relaxing.
Once your body is relaxed, allow your mind to empty. Imagine, to the best of your ability, that there is a janitor with a broom in your mind. If any thought comes in while you are sitting there, have the janitor gently brush the thought back out. Do this as many times as necessary to free your mind of clutter and thoughts. Sit quietly, allowing your body and your mind to be as relaxed as you can be.
This can be difficult when you have been anxious – it can initially create more anxiety, like “I should be doing something right now!”, but do your best not to give in to these thoughts. Perhaps set a timer or a clock for just 10 minutes. Ten minutes twice a day isn’t much in the scheme of a stressful life.
Throughout your day, when you are away from your safe space, practice the “STOP!” technique. When you encounter difficulty and your mind begins to race with the “What ifs?” and the “I’ll never get through this,” and the “Why me?”, catch your mind at work feeding you these negative and debilitating thoughts. Before you begin to run – either mentally or physically – to try and fix something, force yourself to simply STOP. Imagine that a red stop sign appears in your brain right in front of those confounding negative whispers. If you are somewhere that you can speak out loud, say the word “STOP!” to yourself. If you are with other people, just imagine the word “STOP!” and pretend that the stop sign sits in front of you. To emphasize this, actually stop what you are doing for a few seconds. Just stop. Now, if you are driving somewhere in traffic, obviously do not stop your car and create an accident! Practice this technique when you are somewhere safe and can take these steps. You can do this several times throughout the day, and you will begin to train your mind to stop in the midst of the upsetting thoughts and feelings. Once you arrest the negative thoughts, replace them with something calming and more positive. Have a mantra ready that you can use – “I am calm and confident. I am able to make good decisions.” This is a simple one; find one that suits you, but make sure it is positive and believable. Your mind will reject something it can’t grasp as true.
Lastly, use your breath. You can practice the deep breathing you do in your safe space anytime and anywhere. The mind cannot focus on two things at once, so if you find yourself becoming anxious, turn your attention to your breathing. Imagine your breath coming into and going out of your body. Breathe deeply and calmly until you can feel the difficult thoughts beginning to diminish.
The more you practice these activities, the more natural they will become. Anxiety does not have to run, and ruin, your day and your life. You can control more than you believe you can. Start taking control today.