ATTITUDE RECONSTRUCTION: A BLUEPRINT FOR BUILDING A BETTER LIFE
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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

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.

Procrastination

procrastinationTerry said “I procrastinate. There is no doubt about it. I have to prepare to teach a subject I’ve never taught before. All those lesson plans…”

“Why do you think you put it off” I asked.

She said “fear … I’m afraid it won’t be perfect. I know it stems back to not meeting my father’s expectations as a child. He would give me a lecture about how I could improve instead of telling me what a swell job I did.”

“What did you want to hear from him?”

Terry paused then said, “I’m proud of you. Look at what a marvelous thing you’ve accomplished.”

“So you’ll need to start saying it to yourself, I said”: I’m proud of myself. I like all that I’ve accomplished.

We came up with these additional support statements to repeat over and over every day before sitting down at her desk to work on her class plans.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect right now. It’s just a first draft. It’s a work in progress. No need to judge it. It’s part of a process.”

She was smart and realized the need to break the big task into small doable pieces and focus on each one, one at a time. This is “being specific” one of the 4 constructive attitudes associated with peace and sooth, not stimulate fear.

After she repeated these phrases over and over with single focus for several blocks of 90 seconds, she had a realization and said, “I’ve had and have enough stress in my life. I don’t need more.”

She realized she’d enjoying doing the creative project she enjoyed so much… putting together a course on local history to graduate students.

These insights and truths became her anchors and would be ideal repellent whenever she felt the procrastination bug starting to buzz around her head:

I don’t want to feel stressed. I’ve had enough stress in my life.

It doesn’t have to be perfect right now. It’s a work in progress. It’s part of a process.

I’m proud of myself. Look what I’m accomplishing!

When we next emailed she reported that she was way into her course creation. Easy breezy. She knew she was changed forever. She didn’t want to feel stressed when there was a good alternative.

Tip: When the tendency to put something off, rears its ugly head, tenaciously remind yourself that you’ll feel so much better if you attend to it in a timely fashion. Combat your bargaining mind that justifies inaction, with what is true. Repeat that over and over, until you win the battle and take the necessary action. It might be scary to do, but you’re going to feel it regardless of when you do it, so you might as well not compound the issue by getting down on yourself or denying the repercussions that procrastinating brings.

Anxiety, Overwhelm, and Stress

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You’re rolling along, and then all of a sudden that familiar feeling returns. There is a knot in your gut, your heart rate jumps, you can’t breathe, and your muscles tighten. You feel like you’ll die. Anxiety sets in. It doesn’t matter what triggers you: thoughts about an upcoming surgery, a job interview, pressure at work, or being around someone with a temper. Your survival feels threatened. You’re in a state of fight, flight, or freeze. You feel frantic and numb. All thinking stops and confusion and indecision descend.

Overwhelm is what happens when we have too many responsibilities to do or too many topics to address and not enough time. It’s easy to lump everything together. Typically, we leap from specifics that need attention to global generalities. We launch into exaggerations and drama. Small things become earth-shattering and nearly impossible to do. We feel like we’re in a pressure cooker.

Stress is feeling there’s too much to do and too much pressure. It manifests as a need to control. Stress defines our culture today. We’re trying to juggle too many things–and sacrificing our health and well-being in the process. All of the feelings of overwhelm are interfering with our ability to truly relish the moment and enjoy our lives.

Regardless if we call it anxiety, overwhelm, or stress, the underlying emotion we are feeling is fearThe price we pay is agitation and a loss of perspective. It’s difficult to enjoy the journey or present moment when entertaining thoughts about all there is to do in the future. We lose efficiency. And because our minds and bodies are racing, we can’t hear what other people are saying and lose personal connection.

The Rx is simple. I offer 7 solutions

  1. Let This Fear Energy Out of your Body. Fear is the emotion underneath anxiety, stress, and overwhelm. It is a pure sensation in the body. And so shivering, like a body in shock after an auto accident or a dog at the vet, is the most natural and efficient method to quickly release fear physiology. Keep taking full, deep breaths to regulate your breathing and acknowledge what you’re feeling, “I’m just feeling fear. It’s okay.” Rather than holding it in, let the fear energy out by trembling, shuddering, quivering, and shivering.You must move fear energy out of your body by shivering, shaking, trembling, and quivering with vigor. Think of a dog at the vet or a person addressing an audience of 5000. Though it sounds silly, you’ll restore calm and clarity by shivering and reminding yourself, “It’s okay. I just need to move this energy out of my body.
  1. Change Your Thinking. At the same time, interrupt those thoughts that convince you that this will never end and replace them with something reassuring. Look at things in specifics, attending to one issue at a time.Support yourself by picking one or two phrases that resonate and say them often, especially when you start getting anxious, overwhelmed, and stressed. Rigorously interrupt your fear-based thoughts and tell yourself:
    • Everything is all right.
    • This feeling is temporary. This will pass.
    • Everything will be all right.
    • Think small.
    • Stay specific.
    • One thing at a time.
    • Little steps.
    • Little by little.
  1. One Thing at a Time. From this more present and relaxed space, make a list of issues, topics, and projects needing attention, being concrete and realistic about what each entails. Cut each one into chewable pieces. Order your priorities, develop a detailed plan, and break down the mountain of responsibilities into doable steps. Focus on and do only one thing at a time, shivering when you feel stuck, renegotiating what’s not possible, and delegating as necessary.
  2. Make a detailed task list. Writing down a list of to-dos is a good way to break a big problem or all you have to do down into smaller, easier tasks. Make a list of what needs to be done and attend to one thing at a time. Remind yourself “One thing at a time.”
  3. Don’t go it alone. Delegate. Ask family members, friends, or coworkers to help. Be willing to ask for help so you can attend to what you need to do.
  4. Be gentle with yourself. Interrupt all critical thoughts about what you didn’t do well and what you haven’t attended to. Instead lavish yourself with appreciations and repeatedly remind yourself that you are doing the best you can or you did the best you could at the time.
  5. Get into the now. When you feel stressed or anxious, do something that gives you a short break and brings you into the now. Close your eyes and focus on taking some deep breaths. Shiver! Throw water on your face. Do some jumping jacks. Walk around the block. Or take a 15-minute nap.

If you practice any one of these strategies, you will notice a shift towards ease. Do several, or do them all, and you will find yourself feeling more content, more calm, and better able to get the upper hand over your life.

Confronting Fear

fear

Attitude Reconstruction is based on the fact that all of our problems, our bad habits and attitudes, stem back to unexpressed emotions – that is sadness, anger, and fear. To feel more of our other three emotions – joy, love, and peace — we need to acknowledge and express our sadness, anger, and fear naturally, physically, and constructively.

It’s important to realize that our emotions are just pure energy. Look at the word “emotion.” It’s made up of E + motion. Energy in motion. If we move the energy out of our bodies, it passes and calmness and clarity is restored.

Are you afraid of speaking in public, not having enough money to pay the rent, or seemingly almost everything? Do you often feel anxious, worried, or overwhelmed? Does your mind catapult backwards, forward, or out into the wild blue yonder, but never resides in the present? These are symptoms of living with unexpressed fear, and fear severely diminishes your ability to feel peace and enjoy the present moment.

Fear is the natural reaction to threats to our survival, such as natural disasters, accidents, and things we haven’t done before. However, when we don’t handle fear physically, our minds become the enemy, jumping into the future, losing perspective and leaving us confused and scattered.

Conquer Fear by Shivering

Shaking and shivering is the most effective and natural method because fear is just physical energy in the body. Act like a scared dog at the veterinarian when you feel the bodily sensations of fear – heart racing, hands freezing, solar-plexus tightening. It can feel silly at first, but if you allow your body to shiver, quiver, shudder, tremble, or quake – what it wants to naturally do – you’ll restore calm and your attention will come back to the present moment. Ham it up. Persist until you feel tension drain out of your body. It just takes a minute or two.

Don’t give in to agitated thoughts of “always,” “never,” overgeneralizations, and doom and gloom about the future. Use your mind to keep peace nearby and fear at bay and continually repeat:

  • It’s okay. I am just feeling fear. I just need to shiver.
  • This feeling is temporary. This will pass.
  • Everything is all right.
  • I’ll handle the future in the future.
  • I will deal with one thing at a time. 

 

If you express the fear energy and replace your old thoughts with what is true, you’ll feel calmer and be able to determine what’s best to say or do to handle what beforehand seemed scary. Then you can break that goal into little, doable steps, and just do it, one step at a time.

When facing fear head on, you’ll be entertained and inspired by the moment. Paralysis will be replaced with forward movement; confusion with confidence. You’ll live in each moment and stay specific, hold on to what you know is true for you, surrender to what is, enjoy it, and participate in life more fully. You’ll feel more peace.

 

The Three Bridges

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Seeing and hearing are natural gifts for us. Look at the way animals use their senses to their advantage. They can sense safety, danger, play, and even food! We can use our senses to determine if someone is swept up in sadness, anger, or fear. And then we can confidently know how to best offer help.

IDENTIFY THE EMOTION

With just a little practice, you’ll be able to recognize the emotions underneath other people’s demeanor, words, and actions. Rather than reacting to what they say or do, you can extend a communication “bridge” to help shift their emotional state by offering what they truly long to hear but don’t know how to ask for.                      

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To figure out what emotion is probably going on, ask yourself “Where is their attention focused?”

IF THEY’RE FEELING SAD…

  1. People feeling sadness (but often not crying) are most likely thinking or speaking poorly of themselves. Maybe they are being passive or clingy. They need genuine appreciations. In your interactions with them, convey the idea, “I love you. You’re great.” Remind them of their strengths and contributions.

 

IF THEY’RE FEELING ANGRY…

  1. Folks striking out in anger and spewing “you”s all over the place with blame, negativity, and criticism really just feel isolated and are in desperate need of understanding. They won’t respond well to debates, lectures, or reprimands. The chances they’ll hear what you have to say are slim to none unless you can genuinely connect with them first. You need to sincerely hear them out without taking what they say personally. Focus on what’s going on with them behind their angry words and let the rest go flying by, that is, their “you”s and accusations. Silently repeat or say, “I want to hear what you have to say” and just listen.

 

IF THEY’RE FEELING FEAR…

  1. If someone is overwhelmed, anxious, or freaked out chances are she’s got some unexpressed fear stocked up. She needs honest reassurances. Comfort, soothe, and repeatedly remind her that everything is and will be all right. Other reassuring comments are “We’ll make our way through this together,” “I’m here” or “I’ll take care of it.” Or offer reassurances by reminding her of the objective reality: “Your boss really likes the work you do,” or “You’ve done this successfully before.

 

If you’re unable or unwilling to offer a communication bridge, it’s probably because your own unexpressed emotions are getting in the way. It’s okay. You’re human. To quickly reignite your compassion, take a brief time-out and handle your own emotions or remind yourself of the objective reality. Then you will be able to look within your heart, and if appropriate, extend a bridge.

You’ll deepen your personal relationships when you become adept at recognizing other people’s emotions. You can use this knowledge to communicate in the ways most helpful to them. What an amazing talent you’ll be cultivating. For example, if you know that your husband is quick to anger, you can consciously listen silently and understand his position, especially at times when he is upset or under stress. If a workmate often seems glum or down, you can choose to validate her gifts and skills a little more often.

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

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Attitude Reconstruction
2012 Benjamin Franklin Award
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2012 ForeWord Reviews
Winner in Self-Help
2012 International Book Award
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