Anxiety Train

By Nicole Hind

With a Masters in Narrative Therapy, Nicole has been practicing counselling for a bunch of years. Follow her blog to find out more:

Anxiety is a clever fellow. It tricks us into relentless catastrophising. With every too-fast heartbeat and sharp intake of breath, anxiety sweeps us away on a desperate train of paralysing fear and worry.

In her book  ‘Bird by Bird: some instructions on writing and life’, Anne Lamott describes sitting at her computer and the rush of horror when the words don’t come. She panics, thinking her career is over. Desperately looking around, her eyes land on a one-inch picture frame: ‘It reminds me that all I have to do is write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being.’

The one-inch picture frame can succeed when ‘rational thinking’ can fail. This is because anxiety has taken up residence in the other part of your brain, the part that simply experiences the world, and it’s freaking out beyond any capacity for sensible thought.

If you don’t want to spend your whole life arguing with an irrational pessimistic toddler then try to speak to that other part of your brain via your body and emotions.

Find an item you can use as a sensory reminder of something meaningful, linking you to a narrative of self-belief, competence and clarity. Stare at it and describe it to yourself, rub the ridges carefully with your fingertips, smell it if it has a scent. Look through it if it really is a tiny frame. Take your time. Use a simple mantra such as Anne’s ‘This is all I have to bite off for the time being’ and focus on bringing yourself back into the now, getting in touch with your special item and your self-confidence, before the anxiety train leaves the station.

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