Recently, I have seen an increase in the number of clients who are suffering with worry and anxiety. They describe it as overwhelming along with a sense of helplessness. The rumination takes on a life of its own , robbing one of a sense of peace and the joy of being in the present moment. So, I wanted to share some tips that I offer to my clients to help them through these difficult times
The following ‘focusing’ method is from Eugene Gendlin’s work. He describes clearing a space in the mind to turn off and quiet the ruminative mind. This method begins with sitting quietly with the eyes closed and focusing on an image of an open container ready to receive every issue on your mind. Then see and name each issue or worry and imagine putting it into the container. When no more issues come to mind, mentally ‘put the lid’ on the container and place it on a shelf or in some other out of the way place until you need to go back to get something from it. Once the container is on the shelf, invite into the space left in your mind, whatever is the most important current thought or feeling. Perhaps you are at the office and need to think about work related issues, or need to focus on shopping or want to focus on what friends are saying, At night, right before sleep, invite a peaceful thought to focus on while drifting off.
If you prefer a tangible to a metaphorical/Spiritual technique ; you can use Al Anon’s ” God Box’, to hold slips of paper. Each slip of paper has a worry written down that you are turning over to God. The goal of ‘turning it off’ is to give the ruminative mind a chance to rest and calm down. As well as the sense of connection and support to the Divine.
Thirdly, Worry well but only once. With this method there are 5 steps: 1) Worry through all the issues. 2) Do anything that must be done at the present time. 3) Set a time when it will be necessary to think about the worry again. 4) Write that time on a calendar 5) Whenever the thought pops up again, say “Stop, I already worried!” and divert your thoughts as quickly as possible to another activity .
It is critical with this above method to cover all the bases , but 10 minutes , surprisingly , is an adequate amount of time in which to do that. For example, I had a client who was very worried about upcoming surgery. At the end of the worry period, she agreed that she had no other worries related to the surgery , so we set a time at which she thought she’d need to think about the problem again. We agreed that the next time she should let the possibility of surgery cross her mind , was when the Dr. Office called with the results. Until that moment, any thought would be counterproductive. She wrote in her PDA that she could worry again at 4pm on tuesday afternoon , by which time the results would be in and the surgeon had promised to call. If she hadn’t heard at that point, then she could start worrying and we made a list she could carry around with her that enumerated some distractions to use. My client said this helped her because if she started going over the plan over and over, she said to herself ; “Stop! I have a plan!” She also relayed it helped to stop endless reassurance seeking , because it provided her written solutions even to problems this client thought hopelessly complex.
The key to the effectiveness of any of these techniques is to practice. The mind learns through repetition and as they say, ‘what fires together , wires together.’ So as you continuously utilize these techniques, the mind becomes more familiar and adept at building new, healthy responses to old and new anxious situations.
May this be of help and more tips coming!