This week, the world is giving us more reasons to be tense. It can be hard to take care of ourselves but so important to do so. So for times like these, it’s important to direct the mind from the part where emotional activation occurs, to the part that that allows us to calm ourselves. We’ll do this by focusing on a directed thought exercise will help us to relax. Directed thought is one of my favorite tools because our minds tend to always be thinking subconsciously, if not also consciously. In normal, day to day functioning, we can’t stop that. It’s like trying to stop the lungs from breathing. The only way to keep our brains from making us anxious is to take control of our thoughts. The key is to not let the brain think too spontaneously, as a lot of us will spontaneously go to a negative and anxious place.
With directed thought, we give our brains a statement with just a blank to fill in. The statement I would choose is I can relax because_____. Make this statement over and over, filling in the blanks with a short statement. You don’t want to go into any detail because you are trying to stay away from spontaneous thinking.
In any situation, there are reasons you could feel anxious and reasons you could feel relaxed. You’ve already got the anxious ones covered and you want to stop thinking about those. You do these statements so that you force your brain to also think of the other part of the reality of any situation, the reasons you have to relax.
For example, let’s say you fear a heart attack though medically you’ve been assured you are ok. You might say I can relax because- it’s most likely gas from that meal. I can relax because- I didn’t have chest pain while working out, I can relax because- everything was fine at my last physical, I can relax because- I’m young.
The key is that you say I can relax because and then you give some reason that you can believe. If you don’t have that reason there and you just tried to tell your brain that you can relax, you would automatically reject it. By having the reason that you’re focused on trying to come up with, you are allowing your brain to tell itself “I can relax, I can relax, I can relax, over and over again, in a way that it can accept.
The key with this practice is to decide ahead of time how long you are going to do it, for 5 minutes or at least 5 statements. If you don’t decide ahead of time, you might lapse back into negative spontaneous thinking. The more time you can spend doing this exercise, the better you will feel.
So try this when the news around you gets overwhelming. There are still always reasons to relax.
If you’d like to know more about how you react to difficult situations and get a free recording and tips to empower you to shift the way you feel, take my Free Quiz
Have a great week!
Alicia Ruelaz Maher, M.D.