Tag Archives: relaxation exercises

Love & Anxiety #4: A racing mind is not your friend!

As I suggested in the series previous blogs, there are quite a few tools anyone can use to help bring the brain/body out of the avoid-danger mode; many of them target the body directly. Sometimes, we try to use our minds to logically think our way out of anxiety. However, if you have been anxious for any length of time, usually your Cerebral Cortex/logical system is not much of a deterrent to your worrying, or imagining future catastrophes.

Some people call the mind, a monkey in a banana tree, but I have another metaphor. If you will join me in your “right” brain for a few minutes and try some imagery. Please imagine you are a large and lovely, green, tree. Try it, I dare you, take at least a minute to see the grounded strong tree that is you. For another 30 seconds, enjoy your strength and solidness. Here, the branches represent your mind, and your brain/body is the trunk and roots. Now, see a huge wind sweep by you, notice how it whips the branches frantically about, but does very little to the trunk and roots. The wind is similar to stress and anxiety, it gets our mind so whipped into a frenzy that we can barely think straight, or calm down. This is the best time to ground down into the trunk/root system of your body.

When you practice the tools of mindfulness, guided imagery, meditation, yoga, prayer, relaxation, breathing exercises, etc., you will discover that as your body relaxes, your mind slows down and settles. The best way to reduce racing thoughts, obsessions, and worrying, is to ground yourself in your body (tree trunk) using any one of the above disciplines. However, for some, this can be scary. If you have been anxious for any length of time, you primarily experience your body, as a repository of anxiety and source of discomfort. Therefore, you are motivated to stay out of your body. We often want to stay far away from those sensations and upsetting feelings in the pit of our stomachs, chests, or throats. It is a paradox, or counter-intuitive perhaps, but experiencing those uncomfortable sensations without being controlled by them, is actually the route to relaxation and freedom. We need to relax, let go, and be with what is occurring, without fear or judgment. Fleeing from our awareness of anxious or unpleasant feelings is the problem. The more we fear them, the more they tyrannize our lives. So, do your mind and body a big favor, slow down, relax, and begin to learn to trust. It will all work out.

Going deeper:

1.)What do you do when your mind is like a monkey in a banana tree, racing about from thought to thought? What happens in your mind when you focus on your body instead?

2.)Can you take some time this week to pay particular attention to your body and see what changes you might experience? Write this down as a goal for yourself.

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-wk anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.

A tool for evicting anxiety

Thus far I have provided quite a bit of academic and anatomy dense material. While most people find knowledge helpful, knowing why you are struggling with anxiety is not the same thing as fighting the anxiety.

Here is a simple exercise that provides a sense of safety and grounding, which  begin the journey of calming down your Amygdala, your brain’s smoke detector and partial cause of that anxious feeling you cannot get away from. In this exercise, we are going to begin to use our imagination for good rather than for worry and bad feelings. Those who think the imagination is not powerful, should bring to mind the last time they were worrying about something. Then, remember how miserable they felt at the time, though nothing was outwardly happening that was unpleasant. The worry itself caused those feelings of fear and dread.

So, for relaxation exercises, position matters. Place your body in the most relaxed posture possible depending on your circumstance. Begin breathing in deeply and fully empty your lungs as you exhale. Each inhale and exhale is one breath cycle. I suggest that you do at least 10 cycles before beginning the following exercise. While breathing, focus your attention only on your breathing and try to stay out of your mind and thoughts for this time period.

Once you are ready to begin, shut your eyes and bring to mind the face of someone who always, or most of the time, looks at you with very kind eyes. It may be a spouse, parent, an old teacher or a coach, but hopefully most people have someone in their lives that looks at them kindly. Once you fix that person’s face in your mind, imagine them looking into your face with their kind eyes continually for about 2-3 minutes. Notice what you are feeling when the exercise begins and how you feel when you are done. Notice what happens in your body when you are being viewed with kindness. Note the changes in relaxation, feelings of safety, and wellbeing.

Practice this exercise several times daily for a week or so and notice how this changes your perceptions and responses to daily life in a more positive and loving direction. If you have any questions about this exercise please let me know in your responses and I will reply.

Happy imagining! The upcoming holiday season, when we all can get a bit overwhelmed and busy is a great time to practice. Stay tuned for my new series on Love & Anxiety coming this week.

two of the kindest people I know!
two of the kindest people I know!