Worrying about stuff seems to work. After all, 99% of the stuff we worry about never happens.
All kidding aside, although most people know that worrying never helps, they just don’t know how to stop. This can be quite serious because the stress caused by chronic worrying, can be sickening. There are well-documented links between chronic anxiety and heart disease, high blood pressure, and pain. Chronic anxiety can slow down a patient’s recovery and at the very least, chronic anxious thoughts can suck the joy out of living and keep people stuck in unhealthy situations and relationships. Understand, please, that I am talking about chronic worry and anxiety. As my spiritual teacher Swami Beyondananda loves to say: “Worrying from time to time is natural. So if you find yourself worrying, don’t worry about it.”
Insights into Chronic Anxiety
We worry largely because we are programmed to worry. From the earliest years, we are taught about all manner of things for which we need to plan. “Save for a rainy day”; “Will you have time to get your homework done if you go out now?”; “Take an umbrella in case it rains”. And so on. Comments such as these are made with the best of intentions, in the hopes that they will teach us to plan. However, notice how each comment suggests an impending disaster! In addition, inherent in each one is the message that we have to control what happens to us.
By the time we have reached puberty, many of us have been conditioned to worry as a part of life. We also learn that we do not have control over many things in life. It seems like most events are beyond our control. Those of us who have not yet become worriers are subjected to redoubled efforts by our parents (who have become concerned because we do not share their sense of impending disaster). Remember, they are not trying to make us worriers, only planners. Most people, including most parents, simply are not very skillful at this. So we often wind up prone to worrying. When we cannot identify that worried feeling with any one event, we are suffering from anxiety.
Even those of us who tend to be more planner than worrier are at risk. Many planners come to realize that there are just too many eventualities to plan for them all. So that no matter how sound their plans are, they begin to worry about what they might have missed in their planning for the future. This too shows up as anxiety.
The simple mental exercise below can help you and your patients worry less and enjoy life more.
Anti-Anxiety Exercise© (From HOW TO GET UNstuck, by Ellner/Barsky)
Begin by finding a comfortable place and giving yourself permission for using the next several minutes to unwind, recharge and overcome anxiety. You are deliberately changing your body-mind’s reactions and chemistry when you do this. Now you are going to program your mind and brain to stop worrying. With this intent, relax even deeper.
Here is an example of an NYC Anxiety Hypnosis exercise you can use immediately, Imagine yourself in a very special place. This is a natural place, maybe with trees and water and sunshine. A place you feel very, very good to be in. A place where everything is just perfect, exactly the way you like it. The temperature of the air is perfect as it gently caresses your face, hair and arms. The fresh, clean smell of the day perhaps scented with just a hint of one of your favorite aromas helps you relax even further. The natural sounds around you- maybe waves or running water, perhaps birds singing, maybe just the silent rustling of the leaves-relax you even more. Everything about this special place makes you feel calm, peaceful, relaxed and at ease.
As you explore your special place, notice there is a closet with a big bolt lock on the front. Open that closet and notice that it is empty. Also notice that it is more than big enough to hold all your cares, concerns and worries. Place all of these in your closet. Simply take them off or set them down one by one and put each into the closet. Take your time and be sure to put everything that keeps you from feeling at peace into the closet.
When you have put all your cares into the closet, close the door and slide the bolt across to lock it. All your cares are now safely stored right here. They will be there if you want them later. Alternatively, you can leave them there forever. Or you can pick and choose among them, taking what you want with you and leaving the rest behind. They are safe in this closet. You can be comfortable about that. Find a special spot here in your perfect place where you can feel even better; a place where you can let go completely. Sit back or lie back and simply enjoy how good that feels. Just enjoy that for a while.
Now, keeping these feelings of peace and serenity and confidence, which are being programmed into you body-mind as you do this, imagine yourself free from that closet forever. Imagine that you never have to get anything out of that closet. See how good this feels. Enjoy it and your body-mind learns even more about this being the way you want to respond to your closet and its contents. Relax even further.
Again, keeping these feelings of absolute comfort, imagine going back to your closet, opening the door and removing any one of the cares you put in there. However, notice how calm, confident and relaxed you are. Your body-mind just learned that you can carry this care without anxiety. You can deal with this concern in peace and comfort. Relax even more.
By now you are sure you can handle another care or concern. Keeping these peaceful feelings, open the door again and take out a second care. Notice again that you can handle two of these at the some time, both with absolute comfort and confidence. Your body-mind already knows this. In fact, while you are fiddling around with these old concerns one by one, your body-mind has already learned it can carry all of them without any discomfort, worry, concern or anxiety. It knows it can handle all these items with grace, poise, comfort and confidence. You can verify this by taking each item you want out of your closet and feeling that sense of security, comfort and safety remain with you as you pick any of them up.
You now have more choices about how you live your life. You can retrieve all the items you put in the closet and carry them comfortably and confidently. You can retrieve some of them, and carry these with confidence and serenity. You can leave them all in the closet. After all, you could come back for them if you decided to do so. Or you could forget all about them and just enjoy your life, knowing you will automatically deal with the issues you need to deal with from your enhanced state of mind. You can enjoy your future.
When you decide how best to make your life the most comfortable, leaving anxiety behind, permit your mind to return to an alert, waking state . . . and enjoy the peaceful feeling.
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