Negative self talk. Constant worrying. Replaying past events or inventing future doomsday scenarios. These are some of the ways we can get caught up in our own heads. Stuck with our thoughts and creating misery for ourselves. This internal form of torture is all too common and can bring you to your knees if you don’t know how to get off of the crazy thought merry-go-round ride.
I used to be a victim of my own mind. I was constantly either replaying past events or catastrophising about some future event that may never even happen. This negative mental chatter was ever present and manifested physically in anxiety symptoms. At 7 years old I was diagnosed with abdominal migraines – essentially stress induced tummy aches. Every morning without fail I was doubled over in pain as a result of the anxiety producing thoughts racing around my head. As I got older – the pain became more frequent. Nausea, eczema, body shakes, excessive hand washing, heart palpitations and panic attacks joined the party. The ever present negative thinking was causing both internal and external misery.
But - my sweet friends - there is a way out. You do not have to suffer. There is stillness and ease within reach
AWARENESS: Firstly you need to become aware of what is going on in your head. We can become so used to the negative storm going on in our minds, and be so out of touch with our body that we simply do not realise we are even having these destructive thoughts. I was constantly questioning why I had all these physical problems. I couldn’t understand what was making me so ill.
The first time someone suggested to me that thoughts were producing the anxiety symptoms I was in complete denial. I thought anxiety was just something you had. Like blue eyes or an excellent singing voice (of which I have neither). As far as I had been aware – there was no worried chatter going on in my head. But it was suggested again. So I took note.
I watched my thoughts. It soon became clear that there was actually a lot of mental back-chat going on in my head, I had just not noticed before. Which seems crazy right? But thinking yourself into total misery is crazy too. At least I now had evidence of what was the root of the anxiety and was able to take action.
CHANGE THE DIRECTION: Every time I felt my stomach tighten – I checked in with my thoughts. An irrational worrisome thought was usually running through my mind just prior to the physical sensation. I learnt to catch the negative thoughts as they came up and turned them around through rational reasoning. When that didn’t work I used tapping/EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to work through the anxiety producing thought pattern. Another great technique is to interrupt the thought as it occurs with an “A-ha! I see you”. And then replace it with a supportive thought like “I am safe ” or ” I am loved” before taking calming breaths.
PRACTICING STILLNESS: I started to practice mindfulness to be proactive against the mental chatter. Instead of having to combat a negative thought as it arose I started to simply observe, then bring my mind back to place of stillness. Meditation helped to train my mind to be in the present moment and cultivate increasing periods of stillness. You don’t need to be a zen master – just sitting quietly and observing your breath is all that is required to start.
Spending time with guru dog Neve is one of my favourite ways to create stillness. She radiates peace. There is no carousel of negative thoughts running through her mind. Cuddling up to a furry friend and watching their chest rise and fall with their breath is a wonderful way to absorb their inherent peacefulness.
The amazing thing is that you can start to achieve stillness RIGHT NOW. If you have been suffering from the effects of a mental storm – the good news is that those calm waters of a still mind can be accessed by anyone at anytime. Just start implementing the steps above and see how you too can experience the ease of a quiet mind.
Love and conscious breaths,