Working with anxiety has become an area that I feel has become a speciality in my work with clients. Over the years I’ve attempted to help many people work through their anxieties and worries and have witnessed success. I have many techniques in my tool box to suggest.
Over the past few days, I’ve had to utilize those techniques for myself. Specifically I’ve had to conquer what I will call the “Crazy Brain Train”. I know you are familiar with it. I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t been on the crazy brain train at least once in their life. This is the ride where you start off with one worry and within less than 60 seconds you have created a catastrophe. An example in my own life was when we purchased the land for our current house we discovered although a great elementary school is one block away – we were in a district for another school 15 minutes away. I literally spent hours laying in bed thinking about how we would make sure our child would be given permission to attend the neighborhood school.
The reality here is I lost several hours of sleep that night worrying about an event that wasn’t real. First, we needed to have a child. Second, if we had a child – elementary school would be at least 5 years down the road and our system redistricts often. Third, my husband and I are smart, professional individuals who know how to operate within the structure of a school system and would likely be able to find a good school.
Anxiety comes from worrying about the future. Our brains are masters at taking a small matter and creating a monster. When I worked at Hospice, we always joked that when we got a headache it wasn’t just a headache – it was a brain tumor. Sadly, we can become wired to go toward the negative. One thought leads to the next thought and before you know it, the crazy brain train has left the station and is traveling at warp speed. It never takes you someplace nice. It’s always some place dark and gloomy.
The best way to stop the crazy thoughts are to slow them down. Ask the following questions.
1.What do you know for certain?
If it is real, we can work with it. I’m not talking about what “could’ be, I’m talking about what is.
2. What needs to be done with what you know?
If you aren’t feeling well, then make a doctor’s appointment. Don’t Google and start feeding your own fears.
I’ve had to practice my own advice over the past few days as my brain has gone everywhere. I’ve thought such things as I’m never going to get my Mom’s house sorted, I’m never going to get to work on my Fall classes, I’m not going to get packed for our trip this weekend. Each of these thoughts has then led to another and another and another and then I end up with thoughts such as going to the first day of class and not even knowing what I am teaching, having no one want to buy my Mom’s house, going on vacation and having no clothes.
So each day I take a deep breath and I remind myself of what is going on today and what can I do right now. I can’t sell my Mom’s house until I’ve gone through and sold some of the furnishings. In order to begin work on my classes I need to schedule some time to look over the syllabi.
Perhaps today was one of the worse anxiety moments I have had in the way of physically feeling it and being aware of my thoughts. My husband wasn’t feeling well today and left work to go to his doctor fearing he had a kidney stone. I felt like he was fine and this was like the past incidents but when his doctor sent him for an ultrasound, I had a little panic. (We’ve never had to do that before). It didn’t help one bit at all that we went to the exact same location that I had taken my Mom at least three times.
I asked myself why they couldn’t have just determined this with blood work. Why did I have to sit in this same waiting room, remembering when my Mom physically felt so bad at being there. I had to do a lot of self -talk. This was not a repeat. This was something new. Today we turned right instead of left.
The good news is my husband is going to be OK and my crazy brain train didn’t get too out of control – although it tried. It is so easy to see how the thoughts can quickly become overwhelming. Years of my own work and helping others was a benefit. I also keep reminding myself that worrying about something that isn’t real takes energy away from the present moment.
Try to stop yourself the next time you find yourself on your own Crazy Brain Train. Trust me, the ride you put yourself on is not worth it.