There are times in life when something whether harrowing or anxiety inducing highjacks our mental faculties and traps us in a rapid frenzy of stormy, obsessive worry.
Whether it be around a loved one, a life-changing episode or an upcoming challenge, the angst associated can go from a nagging inner voice to a dominating spectre haunting consciousness.
Below are 3 steps to easing that worry that can take the edge off and offer clarity in the moment of unbearable tension.
1: ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE OBSESSING
It’s very common when obsessing to attempt to white-knuckle the haphazard thoughts by demanding yourself to not think about a given situation any longer.
This is near impossible. It’s akin to not thinking about a white golf ball when you tell yourself not to (…see).
At this juncture you must accept that the worry has advanced and it is not going to cease easily, however it can be calmed and mitigated.
Racing thoughts are hellish and to counter them it is imperative to detach from the mind-identified state. It seems quite grand to state that you are not your mind, but it is an easy concept to take on, once you step back a bit and watch your thoughts.
The consciousness you are blessed with is a greater force than your mind, and having zen-master credentials isn’t a necessity to get some peace from the relentless noise
The first port of call is to simply WATCH your mind.
Do not judge the thoughts and associated emotions, I know this is very difficult if there is emotional pain involved, but just allow yourself to picture a storm in your mind for just 5 seconds.
Picture trees bent over diagonally under hammering winds, picture a stormy sea, feel the force of the inner gale.
Associate that imagery with your mind in its current state and notice how you are watching it from a place of calm neutrality (your natural state of consciousness).
Next, picture a commentator on the storm and make it light hearted: perhaps a weatherman explaining how the storm has been present since you began obsessing, how it is forceful at present but will pass.
2: WRITE DOWN THE ISSUE, SPEAK ABOUT IT AND COMMIT TO DECISIVENESS
Once the issue has been removed from the immediacy of consciousness, it is time to challenge it. This can be tough. If it begins to be too much and obsession begins to reign again, return to step 1.
Once there is relative semblance, commit to getting down on paper answers to the below (do not write more than one page of A4 for each):
- What am I worried about?
- What do I know for certain, what are the facts?
- What is the most likely outcome?
- How would I move on from this ideally?
- How am I going to respond to this now?
Now you have some material to work with, if you can, call a trusted friend, confidant or family member. Someone who’s opinion you value. Let them know you are worried about a situation and give yourself no more than 10 minutes to explain what you’re worried about, how it is making you feel and what your decision is to deal with this.
Allow them to respond and try to listen to the other person, committing to not fall into hysterics, just to take on their opinion.
Finally, you have the problem out on paper, and the confidence and opinion of someone close, now it is time to make your decision on how you will react in the immediate instance.
Do not fret however, if the problem persists tomorrow, you can tackle it again by following the same steps, but for now, just make a decision. Whatever the problem is, obsessing over it certainly isn’t helping you or the situation.
So, review the ground you have made and repeat the conclusion you have come to in the mirror, looking yourself in the eye.
Before you announce your conclusion state: “I have thoroughly explored this situation and I do not have to torture myself with obsessing any longer, I have committed to (explain decision)”.
3: ENGAGE REALITY
Your mind will not cease its state of obsession, so you must honour the decision you have made.
You can repeat the affirmation of your decision as many times as you like, but you may not explore the situation again until the next day when you will allow yourself 30 minutes to do so by following step 2.
It is likely that by moving away from your mind you will begin to feel the worry on a more emotional level. At this juncture do not intellectualise, but envision.
Whereabouts is the negative feeling in your body? What colours are present with the emotion and what does it look like? Hold to this imagery.
Next sit calmly with a straight back and breathe deeply to the pit of your stomach. Let the air fill inside the body and let it focus on the area you feel the worry.
Envision the clear, life-giving air enveloping the colours of the troubling emotion as you breathe in and hold the air in your body.
Then breathe out long and slow. Envision the troubling colours of worry rising up through your body and out of your mouth into the ether.
Understand that your exhalation of breath is going off into a vast, purifying atmosphere.
Breathe in for 8 seconds, hold and collect the emotions for 8 seconds, and breathe out the emotions for 8 seconds.
Repeat this as many times as you feel necessary.
This process will not eviscerate your anxiety, but that is not necessary, anxiety does hold a purpose and is completely natural, it has just become a monster when it takes over the mind.
The process will allow you to mitigate the anxiety and put it down to more manageable levels that allow you to meet your challenges with a clearer mind.