We all experience some form of emotional overload at times. Whether it’s feeling overwhelmed by stress or pressure, getting angry or upset or feeling anxious or panicky, the pattern that we follow tends to play out in a similar way. Our feelings become more intense as our thinking follows a story that builds very quickly into a more extreme, upsetting version of events in our head, and the feelings get stronger as the feedback loop continues. We tend to talk to ourselves in ‘absolutes’ (‘he NEVER listens’, ‘they ALWAYS do this’ etc) or get into a pattern of thinking that justifies our intense feelings, where we might blame or criticise ourselves or others, or visualise a terrible future outcome.
I help my coaching and hypnotherapy clients to overcome anxiety by developing an understanding of what these experiences really mean, and by guiding them to undo the beliefs that make anxious thinking seem true. There are, however some amazing techniques that you can use to help you before you begin any kind of change work, and I like to think of them as ‘first aid’ for our state of mind. They are simple and easy, but can be very effective at slowing down our anxious thinking in the moment;
This is a simple technique you can use anywhere whenever you are feeling anxious, stressed or upset. You simply breathe in to the count of 7 and then out to the count of 11 (if you can’t manage that at first, try breathing in for 3 and out for 5 and then extending it once you’re comfortable). The counting will give you just enough of a distraction from the thinking that’s fuelling the negative emotion, and as the out-breath is deliberately longer than the in-breath this activates the body’s relaxation response, signalling the brain to reduce the levels of stress hormones.
Do this for 10-15 breaths and you might be surprised how quickly the stress fades away and you feel much calmer. The more you practice this the more you will start to notice the benefits.
It’s called the ‘headache cure’ but in fact can be used with any type of pain, or any issue which is causing you stress or panic. Bear in mind however that it won’t work with any pain that has a positive message (eg. dehydration, an injury etc.) , as in this situation the unconscious is using the pain to alert you to attend to the problem.
The first thing you need to do is identify the pain or problem and how it seems to you. It can help to close your eyes before you do this. Gauge the intensity of the pain on a scale of 1-10.
Then ask yourself;
• if it had a colour, what colour would it be?
• if it had a shape, what shape would it be?
• is it 2D or 3D?
• how big is it?
• What about the texture?
• does it remind you of anything?
Once you have visualised the pain in this way, ask yourself what colour the background is, behind the pain.
Now focus on that background, and in your own time, and in your own way, allow that background colour to begin to change into the object colour, noticing the point when it reaches the exact same shade and texture of the ‘pain’ object and as it does, notice how difficult it is to find that shape now that the outline of the object has completely merged with the background.
You might find now that it’s difficult to know exactly where that object was when it was there, as all you can now see is an expanse of colour.
The last step now is to change the whole expanse back to the original background colour, again do this in your own time, and in your own way, until all you can see in your mind’s eye is that original background colour.
Now ask yourself, where is that feeling now, is it still there, or has it gone? People usually find that it has greatly reduced or has disappeared completely.