When you experience something unfamiliar, frustrating or uncomfortable, do you find yourself overwhelmed by negative thoughts and a feeling that you are losing control? You could be battling a large workload or university deadlines, feeling anxious about a visit to the dentist, or struggling with lockdown that suddenly triggers a range of emotions, which can include anxiety, fear, rage and panic.
Don’t worry, this is quite common. Our attempts to navigate what is often a very chaotic world, particularly at the moment with Covid restrictions, can lead our emotions to change dramatically, even by the second, hour or day. And often these negative feelings trigger a belief that something bad could happen.
Fight, flight or freeze?
We’ve all heard of the fight, flight or freeze response to an event that is seen as stressful or frightening. This automatic physiological reaction activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers an acute stress response that prepares the body to fight, flee or freeze. The physical symptoms might be feeling dizzy, nauseous, a shortness of breath and an increased heart rate.
We fear these symptoms. They’re uncomfortable and we don’t know how long they will go on for. And as well as losing control and feeling vulnerable, you might be worried how others will react. This downward cycle of negativity can leave you feeling exhausted.
Instead of ignoring these feelings, you need to deal with them as they happen. Because if you don’t, they might cause bigger problems with your mental health in the future.
Ride the storm
The key is to catch yourself the moment you have a negative thought. This way you will be able to offset the toxic cocktail of symptoms that usually follow. An exercise that works well and I suggest to many clients is to wear an elastic band on your wrist (not too tight) and the moment your mind serves up a negative thought, simply ping the elastic band. Stop the thought – don’t give it fuel to breed and multiply.
Change that thought to something positive – a special holiday, meals out with loved ones, catching up with good friends, or simply a quiet walk through woodland. Initially you may be doing this quite frequently, but over time you will be able to train your brain to think positively.
The way out is through
If you catch yourself in full blown panic mode – pause, take a deep breath or several and keep remembering you will be fine. Find a quiet space, sit upright and close your eyes. Instead of letting the feelings overwhelm you, spot what’s happening with curiosity and acceptance and don’t fight to change it. Notice which part of your body is feeling ok in that moment and allow those feelings to expand to other areas.
Gradually your breathing will begin to slow down as you relax into more positive thinking. Keep telling yourself you will be fine and you will manage to successfully take control.
I like using analogies. For this I often use the image of a stormy day and just like any storm, it too will pass, and the sun will shine once again.
The secret is practice
The current pandemic situation with lockdowns and worries over new variants, vaccinations, home-schooling and trying desperately to achieve a work-life balance are all contributing to an increase in negative feelings. Keep practicing riding the storm with no judgement or need to change anything. It will become easier over time, until you reach a point when you can stop it before it develops.
If you want some help, so you can learn how to break the cycle more effectively, give me a call on 0121 745 9044 to book an appointment.