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If you struggle with anxiety, one of the hardest things to do is relax. Sitting still is so painful you would rather put toothpicks under your fingernails. The minute you sit still you become over run with THOUGHTS. Lots and lots of thoughts.
Here is a common example of thoughts an anxious brain might have:
“OK so I am just going to sit here and be…just 5 minutes. Whatever happened with that project at work…I need to finish the laundry…did the leak in the basement ever get fixed…did I email Frank about the issue with the spreadsheet…that issue was not my fault…he got so upset for nothing..did I make an appointment for the dogs at the vet…what am I going to make for dinner…Frank is such a jerk…I can’t believe he went to our boss about that stupid problem…STOP just be…this just being is hard…I don’t think I am very good at this…STOP focus on just being…I need to clean up last night’s dirty dishes…what about dinner…maybe I should schedule a meeting with Frank and my boss….is Joey coming home from college this weekend…where are we going to spend Christmas…I wish we could just hang here…what about dinner?”
THOUGHTS play there all day long. They are like items on a conveyor belt. The conveyor belt continues to work whether you are listening or not. At any given time, you can pick up a thought and hold on to it, inspect it, and let it consume you. This is where anxiety comes in….those of us with anxiety spend too much time with obsessive thoughts. We pick up each thought off the conveyor belt an inspect it thoroughly. To the point that all of our thoughts feel powerful and important. We believe the belief…if I am thinking about it it must be important. Sitting quietly allows us to disconnect from the conveyor belt. It allows our brain to rest and our intuitive voice hang out for a little while. Or you can simply watch the thoughts go by – unattached disconnected. The joy of sitting quietly for 5 minutes comes in building a practice just being able to watch those thoughts go by. The practice is to imagine each thought as an item on a conveyor belt. At the 5 minutes begin simply watch the thoughts go by. If you pick up a thought and start inspecting it…kindly remind yourself to put it back. Sometimes having a word or phrase you can repeat is helpful to bring you back to center.
Let’s take the above example again:
“OK so I am just going to sit here and be…just 5 minutes. My Mantra is “Peace”…Whatever happened with that project at work…there is goes just observe it. PEACE…I need to finish the laundry…did the leak in the basement ever get fixed…did I email Frank about the issue with the spreadsheet…that issue was not my fault…he got so upset for nothing…ok put the thought back on the conveyor belt…PEACE…PEACE…..PEACE…did I make an appointment for the dogs at the vet…what am I going to make for dinner…let dinner go back on the conveyor belt…PEACE…Frank is such a jerk…I can’t believe he went to our boss about that stupid problem…and back on the conveyor belt…PEACE…I need to clean up last night’s dirty dishes…last night’s dishes what am I going to make for tonight’s dinner…ok back to PEACE….maybe I should schedule a meeting with Frank and my boss….letting it go….PEACE….PEACE…..PEACE.”
The thoughts keep coming, the conveyor belt keeps working, and the more we practice not getting stuck on any one item the more we can find a moment of peace, a break from the anxiety. Eventually as you practice…you will become more skilled at this practice of building anxiety resilience through noticing your conveyor belt of thoughts. Anxiety comes from obsessive thoughts so building a practice of not obsessing is a key to building anxiety resilience.