The Mind Loops Blog: “From Cougar ‘Attack’ To Peace Of Mind In 60 Seconds Or Less” August 2017
Recently I was overwhelmed with a project. I was working long hours, and feeling pretty intense mental exhaustion (and physical exhaustion too because I wasn’t getting enough exercise). Finally my ability to concentrate and be productive hit a wall. I felt jangly, stressed, irritable, and anxious.
So I decided the best thing to do was to go on a hike by myself. Getting into nature always helps calm me down. (Plus it’s scientifically proven to do just that – see my blog, “How To Heal Your Mind and Mood… With a Tree”).
Hiking by myself isn’t unusual for me, but this time it was different – because of my anxious state of mind…
I got on the trail and didn’t see a soul anywhere. Usually I love the quiet, but this time I felt vulnerably alone. So what did my mind decide to do? Start worrying about predators – both human as well as cougar. (Yeah, I know the cougar part might sound ridiculous to you, but cougars really do live in the woods where I was hiking, and in my stressed state of mind, a cougar attack suddenly seemed like a real possibility). When I heard the chirp-like alarms of nearby chipmunks, I wondered if they were sensing something nearby – like a predator…?! I’d bristle and get even more “on guard.”
I kept trying to bring myself back into the present and engage my senses with the beautiful moss on the trees and the sweet taste of the huckleberries I picked… But I literally couldn’t stay present for more than about 5 footsteps(!) before my mind went back to either the fear of being alone there, or to problem-solving the blocks I was having with the project I was working on, or worries about getting the project done on time.
Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly a relaxing hike. I wondered if I’d made a mistake by taking the time away from my work to even do it.
I stopped, drank a little water, took off my sweater and tied it to my backpack. I inhaled some deep breaths and told myself to shake off this anxious feeling.
I hiked a few more minutes, feeling bummed out but hopeful I’d get more into it… When all of a sudden I felt the fur of an animal touching my arm! My heart LEAPT into my throat as I jumped into the air and spun around… only to discover it wasn’t an animal that had touched my arm; it was my sweater that had swung from my backpack and brushed against my skin.
Goodness. THAT’S how jangly and anxious I was.
I thought to myself, “This is NOT OK! I actually KNOW a bunch of techniques to deal with stress and anxiety – in fact, I freakin’ teach my private clients these! If this ain’t the time to use them on myself, I don’t know what is!”
So I busted out a few of my favorite techniques to banish stress and those awful sensations of anxiety and started using them. (Note: I include a favorite below!).
Within 2 minutes I started to breathe normally, and more and more of the anxiety started easing up. I began to notice the warm perfume of the forest and the lively melodies of birds, and before I knew it, the corners of my mouth began to lift…
Soon I forgot all about the fact I’d been anxious – and I REALLY enjoyed the rest of my hike.
When I returned home, I felt rejuvenated. Immediately I got back to my project with fresh thoughts and creativity – both of which aided me in working through the blocks I had been struggling with.
It’s one thing to KNOW these techniques. It’s another thing altogether to USE them when you need them.
Stress can creep up on us, and if we don’t do something about it right away, we can start LOOPING, making even a simple hike in the woods transform into a cheap horror movie. The mind is so powerful… Let’s use it to feel BETTER, not WORSE, shall we?
Have 30-60 seconds? Good. That’s all it takes to do this SIMPLE and extremely EFFECTIVE breathing technique:
THE QUICK COHERENCE TECHNIQUE:
(developed by the HeartMath Institute).
This technique is being used by the Navy, police, first responders, veterans, and teachers along with everyday people, to reduce stress in the moment, and feel more focused and calm.
1) Think of a some things you love or appreciate… What IMAGES come to mind? Have at least three images in mind that feel good.
(For example, I see my favorite dog “Coco Bean”, the humorous, puffy flowers on Mount Rainier, and the hilarious expression on my friend’s face during a laughing attack.)
2) Start breathing as if you’re breathing into your heart or chest area. (Your breath is obviously going into your nose, but just imagine the breath is going into your heart). Breathe a little more deeply and slowly than usual.
3) While breathing this way, close your eyes and bring up those 3 (or more) images, one at a time. Let them linger in front of your mind’s eye. Continue breathing this way for at least 30 seconds.
Feel better? I bet! Keep using it throughout the week and watch how your stress melts…
“[This breathing technique] fosters a calming of the nervous system through a mixture of physiological and psychological techniques. With practice comes the ability to RESTRUCTURE the ingrained patterns of thoughts and feelings.” – Dr. Jeffrey Stevens, PhD, Anxiety and Panic Clinic at the Kootenai Medical Center.
I love this technique, and I hope you will too. I look forward to hearing how it works for you!
To your happiness,
Barbara Ireland is a transformational speaker, singer, and founder of the “De-Looping Method” that stops repetitive, negative thoughts. She is author of the Amazon bestseller, How To Stop Negative Thoughts: What My Near Death Experience Taught Me About Neuroscience, Mind Loops, and Happiness.