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jude's blog How to Prepare for Any Stressful Event

How to Prepare for Any Stressful Event

prepare-eventYesterday I had a chance to help out a dear friend, Molly, who was about to take her grueling CPA test the next day. She called, relaying that she had lost several hours of sleep the previous night. I knew it was her fear that was between her and feeling calm and relaxed. The fear was affecting her thinking, and now she was telling herself “I’m not prepared enough” and “I didn’t study enough.” Her mind was also racing into the future, “What if I don’t pass? What would I tell people?”

Having identified Polly’s destructive thoughts, we set about finding truthful contradictions. For the first two, “I’m not prepared enough” and “I didn’t study enough,” I asked her what was true. Had she been eating bon-bons and watching mindless television these last months? She answered straight away, and I hurriedly wrote down what she said.

I’ve definitely been on it.
I’ve done all I can do.
There’s nothing more that I could have done.
I’ve done my best.

I asked Molly if what she was saying was true and she acknowledged how diligent she had been. That was easy! These truths were about her.

I had her repeat these four lines out loud a few times and we could both hear in her voice that she knew in her heart that it was true. Whew!

We then attacked Molly’s other group of destructive thoughts that had to do with what others would think. “What will I tell people if I don’t pass?”

Being the smart cookie that she is, she paused, laughed, and said, “I’ll tell them the same thing”:

I don’t know how I could have prepared anymore.
I guess I’ll just take it again.

With great relief she repeated these truths a few times. We could tell that she knew was in synch with what she was saying.

I reminded her that she now had some powerful weapons to combat her old doubts if they resurfaced between now and test time. I also encouraged Molly to repeat the two sets of truths several times throughout the day and night because they would bathe her in the reality.

Before we hung up the phone, I felt compelled to get on my soapbox and remind her that her bad thoughts indicated she was just feeling fear. Since fear is just a pure physical sensation, pure energy in the body, she should copy what animals do when they are afraid. They shiver, tremble and shake until the danger passes. We need to follow their lead and do the same.

Shiver up the spine, though your legs, out your arms and hands, in her hips, and in your neck and jaw. The key is to do it hard, fast, and with abandon. I knew it seems silly but it really works. Try it for 90 seconds and I guarantee you’ll start to laugh and the spell will be broken.

This simple activity is the rx for whenever we can’t sleep, or feel anxious, nervous, overwhelmed, agitated, etc. Shake that energy out of your body while just making sounds or saying something like “It’s just fear. I have to move it out of my body.”

It became clear to Molly that just like before a big bike race or ski competition, it didn’t make sense to work out all day. Likewise, it was going to be most helpful for her to attend a yoga class, take a run, or prepare a special meal and relax. All the months of training were behind her. She would be doing what calmed her down so she’d be fresh as a daisy in the morning, and even enjoy the test, since she’d be sure to know most of the answers.

I got a text from Molly, the next day, saying “I passed!” She was one happy gal. All her preparation had paid off.

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Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist, educator, author, and speaker.  Meet Jude

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