Do you worry quite a bit and sometimes suffer from catastrophic thinking? Do you find yourself worrying about that things probably never will happen? Well if you do, you’re not alone. So many of us do this… and it drains us of so much of our strength and mental energy.
So here is a simple meditation/focusing technique that can help break catastrophic thinking and bring you back to reality.
As you know, when worry and catastrophic thinking take over, we scare ourselves by projecting into the future and imagining scary scenarios that probably will never happen. We get upset and panic because our minds are bombarding us with a stream of “what ifs” and we believe them! We feel overwhelmed by our own fearful projections of what might happen in the future and suddenly life may feel unmanageable. When this happens, our bodies react to our thinking with a host of symptoms. The heart pounds, we sweat, we feel shaky, dizzy, and so forth. The body’s normal “fight or flight” reaction sets in.
Shift your focus
A really good and extremely simple technique to break spiraling catastrophic thinking and the unpleasant physical sensations that go with it is to make up your mind to focus on the real in the simplest and most practical sense of the word. And by this I mean, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, look at what is right before you, right there where you are. Turn your attention away from your catastrophic thinking and start naming the objects, things, items, people whatever it is that is there within your field of awareness. (Later, when you calm down and are safe at home, you can write down the thoughts that are scaring you and investigate them and ask yourself if there is any truth to your thoughts.) But now, in the crisis situation, a good technique is to focus on this moment.
Let’s take an example. Say for example, you are sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s office and you’re pretty scared because you know you are going to have a tooth filled. You are afraid of going to the dentist. So your heart is starting to pound because you are afraid of the thought of being stuck in the dentist chair, you are afraid that it will hurt. You know that the dentist will give you a shot of novocaine so it doesn’t hurt. But that thought doesn’t help much because you’re afraid of needles and just the thought of the dentist coming over to you with that big needle makes you feel like fainting. What if you faint in the dentist’s chair? You feel yourself starting to sweat and your heart is pounding rapidly. The more you think about it, the worse you feel. And absolutely nothing has happened so far. The reality is you are sitting quietly in the waiting room. That’s reality. But in your mind, you’re on your way straight to hell!
When something like this happens and you start to panic, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to tell yourself to stop worrying and thinking about these things. That almost never works because obviously you wouldn’t be thinking about it if you could stop! Nobody likes to torture themselves on purpose. And as I said before, it will probably be too difficult for you to sit there calmly and question your catastrophic thinking (but please remember to do it when you are relaxed at home!). But right now, you can use the power of your mind wisely and make the conscious decision to switch your attention to what is really going on right where you are. This you probably can do because it is so simple.
So here’s what to do. Just start by naming (slowly) all the things you see right where you are. Now back to our example of the waiting room. Just start naming whatever is in the waiting room. Start, for example, with the nice little table next to your chair. Look at it. Say to yourself, here’s a nice little table. On the table there are three magazines. One Vogue and one Cosmopolitan and one travel guide. You can even pick each one up and put it down again. Continue your investigation of the room—of the now. Next to the table is a big fish tank. In the fish tank, there are seven gold fish—two big fat ones and five smaller ones. One of the fish has a big tail. There are three other dark fishes too plus some green plants swaying nicely in the tank too. The fish are swimming around peacefully. The water is bubbling in the corner of the tank. There are some rocks in the tank too, on the bottom. And next to the tank, on the other side of the tank, there is a man sitting on a chair reading a magazine. He is wearing jeans and Adidas running shoes. His hair is black. He’s got a backpack with him and it’s on the floor next to his chair. He looks like he’s about 40. Next to him there is a magazine stand with lots more magazines like National Geographic… and so on you go. Slowly and quietly, you continue naming the reality that is right in from of your eyes. Focusing your attention quietly on each object and person, naming each as your attention rests on it. You are focusing on what is real, what is here, what is now. You are not off somewhere in your imagination. You are here, now, in this room. It is very calming to do this. And if you find your mind wandering back to your catastrophic thinking while you are doing this, just bring your focus back again on the next thing in the room.
Breathing slowly and deeply
If you want to make this exercise even more effective, you can add a calming breathing technique to it. As you are slowly looking around and naming objects and people, breathe in deeply counting to four slowly (four seconds) and breathe out slowly counting to four seconds. This slow breathing, if done for at least four minutes or about 24 breaths, works wonders when it comes to calming the body and slowing down your rapidly beating heart. It has a medically proven calming effect because when we are nervous, we often hyperventilate which changes the chemical balance of the blood (making us feel weird, shaky, etc.) and this slow breathing helps normalize the chemical balance again.
So breathe slowly and deeply if you can… it really does help.
And keep on focusing on the real – the now – and what is right before your eyes.
About Barbara Berger
American-born Barbara Berger is the best-selling author of “The Road to Power – Fast Food for the Soul” (published in 30 languages), “Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life” (published in 21 languages) and “The Awakening Human Being – A Guide to the Power of Mind”. Barbara's latest boo is "Find and Follow Your Inner Compass – Instant Guidance in an Age of Information Overload". Barbara also works as coach, helping people around the globe come into alignment with their own true power. For more about Barbara see her Web site: http://www.beamteam.com
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