Category Archives: Anxiety

STOP Your Runaway Thoughts & Take Control of Your Mind

Tame Your Mind, Improve Your Lifeby Vicy L. Wilkinson, MA Philosophy, BCC, Certified Transformational Coach

It’s nighttime, you’re trying to relax and go to sleep, and your brain suddenly bombards you with thoughts about what you woulda’ coulda’ shoulda’ said during that argument yesterday or great ideas that will turn your whole life around AND save the world or the twenty- seven tasks you didn’t complete because you were trying to help the kids with a school project… or a million other things that our minds can come up with when we’re lying in bed and trying to relax and fall asleep.

In the world of transformational coaching, we call all this thinking, which has a tendency to turn dark, negative, and brooding, rumination or having ruminating thoughts.  Another term for this thinking-excessively with little control is “monkey mind” or “monkey chatter.”  In the Shambhala Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this sort of mental chatter is compared to having an untamed horse for a mind.  No matter how you look at it, rumination can get out of control and cause a lot of difficulty in life such as insomnia, anxiety, short temper, forgetfulness.  If left to fester and expand, rumination can lead down a slippery slope of temporary negativity into low mood, poor resilience, chronic stress, and even depression.

Of course, rumination doesn’t just happen when you’re trying to relax and go to sleep; many of us are plagued with ruminating thoughts during our wide awake time as well.  For example, how long have you obsessed in your mind over a stressful conversation that happened hours ago?  Or what kinds of thoughts take up space in your mind when you’re getting dressed in the morning and a certain pair of pants don’t fit right?

No matter when rumination gets in your way, though, there are proven techniques to help you regain control over your mind and discover your calm, peaceful center so that you can quiet that monkey chatter and choose a better direction for your powerful thoughts!

One easy way to put the brakes on rumination is very simple:  stop “just thinking” by taking specific action.  That action can be as simple as sitting down for 5 minutes and writing down what your mind is saying.  Just dump it all right out on paper.  It’s amazing how this simple act diminishes the hold negative thoughts have over us.  If it’s at night and you’ve already gone to bed, do yourself a favor by sitting back up, turning that lamp on again, and taking up pen and paper. When we write down all the stuff our brain is screaming to us, it helps externalize our experience and in this simple act, many people find immediate peace.

Sometimes our brain is just trying to help us remember important things; when we write those things down, we can refer to them later when we CHOOSE to do so, and our brain can stop reminding us and let us focus on relaxing.  This is especially helpful when your brain gets stuck in a loop about the minutiae of daily life:  schedules, tasks, 17 things you must remember before walking out the door Monday morning…whatever it is, write it down – just “brain dump” it out there onto the paper.

Another great thing about writing it down is that for many of us, our mind likes to pour out creative ideas or solutions to problems we had a month ago at random times.  If we take a few minutes to capture some notes about those ideas and solutions on paper, our brain can relax and move on.  Writing things down gives us a logical sense of closure.   It’s essentially clearing the cache in your mind like you do in your web browser.

If you find that writing is extremely difficult for you for whatever reason, I recommend keeping a voice recorder or using an app on your phone to just talk it out: literally speak your list or rambling thoughts into the recorder.  (Sometimes this works especially well for extroverts who don’t enjoy writing, but do enjoy talking!)  The outcome is similar as with writing it down because you have externalized the thoughts.

After you’ve taken the time to empty out some of the chatter, your mind can begin to relax and you can further help slow down any future rumination by taking advantage of that moment of spaciousness in your mind.  After writing or voice recording, take 2-5 minutes to focus on your breathing and calm both your mind and your body all at once.  If you take a really deep breath in and count to four – 1, 2, 3, 4 – slowly in your mind, then hold your breath for an equal 4-count, and then slowly exhale to a count of eight – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 – you will notice instant feedback from your body.  Repeat this breath at least 5 times and you will help relax your entire nervous system, which naturally shuts down all that spinning monkey chatter.

If you find you still have some chatter after doing this breath work, you may want to take a step further in your writing or voice recording process by making notes about some potential solutions or ideas if your mind is still focused on some sort of dilemma.  Some of us need to not just write the thoughts down, but also to do some creative problem solving in order to gain that sense of closure that helps us rest.  You can alternate between breathing carefully as described above and writing to maximize your level of control.  With practice, it all gets a lot easier and you can begin to slow the rumination periods over time.   Bonus tip for problem solving in your sleep:  Ask yourself a specific question about the problem and then go to sleep.  Write for five to ten minutes first thing in the morning, before you even get out of bed, and see what kinds of answers your awesome self has come up with overnight, like magic.

Experiment with these tools and make them your own.  Once you find out what works best for you on those nights your brain tries to hijack your calm and your sleep, keep whatever you need beside the bed and keep those ruminating thoughts from robbing you of well-deserved, and much needed rest, relaxation, and precious sleep.

Take care of you.  If you need more help, give us a call.  We’re glad you’re here.  Namaste.

Let Go of Stress: Redirect Your Energy

12-14undereiffeltowerby Vicy Wilkinson, MA Philosophy, BCC

Once we hear the message stress is trying to give us and we address it, it will often go away on its own. However, that is not always the case, especially when the stress we’re feeling is being prompted by extreme emotions like anger, frustration, jealousy, or fear.  Many times, it’s necessary to give ourselves a longer break and permission to ask for help from others.  This can be the harder part of alleviating stress in our lives: recognizing that we need help to do so.

There is a deeply ingrained sense of autonomy in most of us, especially once we’re professionals in our fields or we have kids that depend on us or we feel like we “should be” able to handle whatever life brings us.  This sense of autonomy is wonderful, but it can also be our worst enemy when it keeps us from asking for help when we need it and instead keeps us struggling along with our game faces on.  I am reminded of John Donne’s famous poem that declares no man is an island.  We are hard wired in our brains and nervous systems to learn from others, empathize with others, and receive empathy from others.  Interestingly, though, when we are stressed, the circuitry that helps us connect with other people is less accessible to us and when we are extremely stressed, we are all but completely cut off from this circuitry known as “resonance circuitry.”  That is why strong negative emotions can leave us feeling “all alone” on a planet that contains over 6 billion people.

What I mean is that stress makes us feel entirely separate from others, and it is actually the stress response itself that hinders our ability to ask for help!  So, much like tense muscles may be outside indications that you need to stop and breathe and address the stress, having a sense of “I can do this all by myself,” is a good indicator that you may actually be better served by asking for help from a friend or family member or professional of some kind.

Taking good care of yourself

Other than stopping to address stress and reaching out to others during stressful times, we can all better handle stress when we’re consistently taking good care of our own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs.  Therefore, the best stress reduction plan is having a daily self-care plan that includes eating well, exercise for your body, playtime for your mind and your spirit, connecting time with other people (family, co-workers, friends, pets), and creating some time and space to “just be” in your life and to connect to your own sense of the Divine, whatever that may be.  That “just being” time might be time for yoga or mediation, or it might be for gardening or playing music or taking a stroll somewhere you enjoy.  A lot of the things I’ve listed above are things that many of us feel are “nice to have” things, but what I want to emphasize is that they are truly “need to have” things if you really want to learn to live without a heavy burden of stress in your life.  As I often say to both my clients and students, the best time to learn to swim is not while you’re drowning. Therefore, the best time to get stress under control and to set an intention to let it go when it arises is when things are going great and you’re enjoying your life!

After all, we are human beings, not human doings.  So take time today to let something stressful go and reclaim some of your human-ness.  You’ll feel re-energized and revitalized!

STRESS: Learning to Let it Go

Vicy Wilkinson, MA Philosophy, Wellness Coachby Vicy Wilkinson,  MA Philosophy, BCC

Having spent the majority of my life until my thirties “stressed,” I feel like I have some expertise in the field beyond all the studying, training, and experience in helping the clients and students I serve.  Because of my expertise, I offer this simple advice:  let it go.  The advice is simple, but HOW to do so is elusive for most of us.

It’s easy to SAY, “I’m going to let this go,” but just because we say it, doesn’t mean our bodies and brains automatically respond and “just let go.”  Nope.  Not at all.  Instead, our bodies have a tendency to tense up tighter – I always feel it in my shoulders and in my jaws – and our brains tend to keep on going over and over whatever it is that has us all stressed out in the first place.   If we do immediately let it go, it’s often by distracting ourselves temporarily with something – a task, a cookie or twelve, a conversation, television, music, or a stiff drink.  Unfortunately, the stress remains in spite of our distractions and eventually creeps back into our immediate consciousness and there we are again:  stressed.

So, what CAN we do to let it go?

Let Stress GoTo really let stress go, we have to become consciously aware of it so that we can specifically address it in some way and then replace it with something that’s simply not compatible with stress, like relaxation, happiness, gratitude, joy, or love.  The key in real stress reduction, then, is consciousness and a willingness to stay present with the stress.  Many times, the stress we feel has a very specific message and no matter what we do to relieve the stress, it will come back (again and again!) until we hear, acknowledge, and act on the message it’s trying to give us.  Once we’ve heard, acknowledged, and acted on the message from stress, it’s a lot easier to make a choice about how to replace it with an incompatible state of being… and keep ourselves relatively stress-free.

Find out more about acknowledging stress messages here.

Listening to Stress: How Can We Hear the Message?

12-14_VicySmilesby Vicy Wilkinson, MA Philosophy, BCC
The Wizard

When we’re feeling very stressed, we tend to run in autopilot mode, moving rapidly from task to task with mindless drive towards some mysterious finish line when we can finally achieve the ability to relax.  This very behavior is a great place to begin with listening to stress.  When you find yourself in this “driven” state, it’s a really good time to just STOP for a minute.  Take some deep breaths.  You can even breathe in a special way to immediately create an internal relaxation response in your body:  inhale as you count to four and then exhale as you count to eight.  Do this 3-5 times (minimum), which will take you about a minute.  You may not suddenly feel like you’re on vacation, but you will have created a little “speed bump” in your stress pattern which will create a space for a deeper awareness about your state of being.

Rowing for joy healthAfter a few breaths, spark up some internal dialogue with the stress you’re feeling.  Literally ask yourself, “Why am I feeling so stressed right now?  What do I need that I’m not getting?”  Keep breathing until you get a response that actually addresses your needs, and is not just a repetition of the voice you’ve been hearing in your head all day while you’ve been running from task to task, which usually sounds like a cross between a talking to-do list and a drill sergeant who found a tape of every bit of conflict in conversation you’ve had over the past year.

It is when we take the time to create a bit of space – empty space – that a new pattern or idea or possibility can emerge from the gloom of stress.  In doing this stress-disruption procedure one day last week, as soon as I stopped for a few breaths and asked why I felt so stressed right then, I got immediate feedback:  I needed to eat.  I was feeling stressed because I’d gotten up just a bit late that morning, which made me just a bit late for rowing class, which made me late for…,  you get the idea.  And in all that rushing and lateness, I’d not sat down and eaten a proper meal.  My body was physically stressed.  As soon as I addressed this need, I still felt motivated to keep working, but I no longer felt the urgency and “drive” that was tensing up my body and making me feel pushed and uncomfortable.  As a bonus, I got a lot more done during the next few hours, too, without feeling stressed at all.

Learn more about conquering stress in this article Let Go of Stress:  Redirect Your Energy.

Sound Therapy: Can It Help YOU with Anxiety?

sonicyogiSound Therapy: Can It Help YOU with Anxiety?
with Jonathan Adams aka Sonic Yogi

Join us for the second episode of our new 4-week Health & Wellness podcast series! This episode features an interview with Jonathan Adams aka Sonic Yogi, professional musician and really nice guy, who discovered Sound Therapy and deep transformation and healing through his personal struggle with anxiety and depression.  On top of traveling the country playing guitar with his band, Jonathan practices Sound Therapy for individuals near Atlanta, in his (now) hometown of Lawrenceville, GA, and also in Decatur, GA.

Learn more about Jonathan and download some samples of his healing tracks here:  http://sonicyogi.com/.

Our Health & Wellness series is designed to give you a kickstart in motivation to explore some things that can help you build a better life and a better business… because when you feel great, everything is easier!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/completelifecoaching/2014/03/24/sound-therapy-can-it-help-you-with-anxiety-with-jonathan-adams-aka-sonic-yogi