Anxiety is one of the worst feelings in the world. Whether it’s a generalised feeling of unease or a full-blown panic attack, it can be utterly debilitating and very difficult to manage once it takes hold.
At the root of anxiety is thought.
It’s our thoughts that generate feelings of anxiety, despair and dread.
First comes the thought, then the emotion, which in turn affects our behaviour and reactions. This then tends to feed into the triggering thoughts, keeping us locked in a hellish thought-emotion feedback loop.
As unquestionably smart as the human body is, it can’t actually distinguish between a real or imagined threat. So the mere thought of something bad (specifically an emotionally-charged thought) is capable of releasing the same stress chemicals that we would experience in the case of, say, being chased through the jungle by a hungry lion.
When our mind is full of anxious, fear-inducing thoughts, it’s not just our mind that is under stress, but our body too. Stuck in the fight or flight mechanism, the body is under continual stress and pretty soon the adrenals and other systems become depleted. So, we end up not just emotional wrecks, but physical wrecks too.
There’s actually a whole lot more I can say about anxiety, but right now, I’d simply like to share a very simple technique for helping deal with anxiety. It’s a method I discovered quite by chance. It’s super easy and I have found it to be remarkably effective.
It can be done any time of the day.
All you need is to take ten minutes where you can be alone and undisturbed. You can even do this while having a cup of tea (make it decaf, though!).
Set a timer on your phone, and maybe play some soft, calming music or nature sounds. Or try playing a video like this one.
Here’s the trick.
For ten minutes, all you have to do is simply RELAX, LET GO AND ACCEPT EVERYTHING EXACTLY AS IT IS.
No resistance, no judgement and no attempt to change anything.
Anxiety is caused by the mind focusing on and trying to solve problems, whether real or imaginary. Usually, the mind ties itself in knots because the problems it’s trying to solve are greater than it’s capacity–in other words, it’s trying to solve the unsolvable.
For these ten minutes, you are not going to try to solve anything.
You don’t need to fix the world, or your life, or anyone else’s. That’s not your job. You’re off the hook. Your job, for just ten minutes, is to relax and accept everything exactly as it is.
This may seem radical for some people. Look upon it as an experiment. Approach it with an attitude of curiosity and just see what happens.
The challenge is to accept every single part of reality as it is, and cease trying to control anything.
By letting go of this inner resistance to life, there’s a gradual but immense sense of release and relaxation.
Until the timer ends, your only job is to simply accept everything in the present moment as it is; including everything in your environment, and in your body and mind.
If you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety and stress in the body, instead of resisting that, it has to be accepted and neither resisted nor held onto. The same goes for negative thoughts. Completely accept whatever is happening in your mind and body with no resistance. We generally have immense resistance to what doesn’t feel good, but part of this experiment is to accept the unacceptable and then, with an attitude of curiosity, just see what happens.
The relief when we cease resisting our experience is immense.
According to neuroscientists, the stress hormones produced by the brain typically pass through our system in only 90 seconds, as long as the brain doesn’t start pumping out more of the chemicals.
This practise of completely letting go calms the nervous system and shifts the mind out of whatever has triggered the anxiety and back to the present moment. It may seem ridiculously simple, but this basic form of mindfulness meditation is a very effective way of taking control of the brain rather than being controlled by it.
Give it a try and see how it works for you.