Your thoughts are powerful but they are no match to your Presence.
As most of us settle back into work, school and college, some people find the new normal a daunting place. Stress, anxiety, and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) have hit hard and fast, and many are struggling to cope with the amplified habitual fears. During the past couple of weeks, one phrase that I have repeated time and again to clients is also one that I hope will help you too, if your thoughts are hijacking your mind in fear:
Although your thoughts are real – they are not true.
I explain all below while offering you two alternative ways to manage your thoughts and come back into your true power.
We’ve all heard common phrases about thoughts, such as “The power of positive thinking” and “your thoughts create your reality.” We also know that our thoughts influence our day, mood, and decisions. Being human means that we are thinking most of the time. In fact, according to psychology, we humans have on average 6,000 thoughts per day. Therefore, positive thinking and strengths-focused thoughts are always helpful practices to support our well-being.
However, what do we do when stress and overwhelm move in, hijack the mind and make themselves at home? Here’s an idea:
Remember who is thinking.
Doing so will remind you that you are not your thoughts. Instead, you have thoughts. Thoughts are transient, they come, and they go, like passing clouds in a bright blue sky.
Remembering that you are not your thoughts and that your thoughts will come and go reconnects you with the spirit within and the alternative parts of your brain to take control in the present moment, become aware of what is happening, and enable your autonomy to respond to the thought.
When I share this with my clients, their initial reaction is to pull back and close their eyes in denial. Sometimes they shake their head to insist that I don’t understand. Then they say something like:
Hilary, I can’t help it. The anxiety is too big.
At this point, I ask them if they have tried. The answer is always the same, “No”.
Let’s remember the reason for anxiety and stress: it exists to keep us safe. Without it, we would have never survived as a species. However, the primal brain of our ancestors is the oldest part of our brain. Therefore, it gets the first say, always. The limbic system (the part of your brain that shouts DANGER! DANGER!) will act eight times faster than the rest of your brain. It is not rational. It is emotional. However, we have since developed the prefrontal cortex (located in the neocortex) responsible for executive function. The prefrontal cortex is the brain area where reasoning, problem-solving, comprehension, impulse-control, and perseverance occur. To gain control, we need to deliberately and on purpose focus our attention on our prefrontal cortex and manage anxiety and stress from there.
The Chimp and the Adult
I like to hold the image of the limbic brain as being like a protective toddler chimp, running around in a disorderly manner protecting us from everything in sight, assuming danger is everywhere. On the other hand, the prefrontal cortex is like the adult in the room who takes the monkey by the hand and soothes his hypervigilance, ensuring him that “it’s ok, we’ve got this.”
The Spirit Being having a Human Experience
Alternatively, from a spiritual perspective, taking a deep breath with the reminder that we are spirit beings, having the human experience and part of being human is to experience fear, but there is a higher awareness within our being that goes beyond ego. Taking a moment to practice stepping back and pausing to remember this allows us to respond from our inner wisdom while grounding us in our truth.
Whichever perspective you take, scientific or spiritual, the first time you respond to your thoughts in this way, it may be mildly effective. However, with practice, your confidence in its effects will increase. Additionally, new neuro-pathways will form, and your inner wisdom will flow stronger, allowing you to feel peace, calm and confidence as you navigate your new normal one step at a time. Meanwhile, continue to remind yourself with compassion:
I am thinking this thought – I am not the thought.
This thought is real – but not necessarily true. Like all thoughts, this thought will pass.
I am safe and present in self-compassion.
If you are experiencing heightened anxiety, stress or overwhelm at this time, get in touch and together, let’s create the space for you to heal, grow, and see you back aligned in your Presence, calm, confident and knowing who you are.
Meanwhile, my Mindfulness Based Meditation classes are currently on a drop in basis in The Palm’s Health & Wellbeing Centre on Tuesday morning’s.
You can read about my Coaching Programs and the best option for you here