A post from our Community Correspondent Robert Terry
Recently I spoke to someone who can’t relax being home alone at night. They had even considered keeping a weapon in their bedroom because off-the-scale anxiety prevented a good night’s sleep.
I found myself thinking OMG and WTF and offering a solution based on my own episodes of anxiety.
Before getting too zen, I over-egged the idea that having a weapon at hand is a very bad idea. In fact, having weapons in your home is likely to make you more unsafe and more anxious. I’ve seen enough Hollywood movies to know it never works out well for characters who sleep with weapons. And when it comes down to it, it doesn’t make the fear go away.
For me, learning that my mind and body are separate entities that can nonetheless influence each other has been the most powerful tool in understanding, and hopefully controlling, my anxiety. It’s better to own your anxiety than have your anxiety own you.
I have my own mantra that gives me a sense of control. When I explore my own many anxieties, sometimes my body is tense and more often my mind is racing.
Philosophical argument suggests that the bio-chemical human has very little to no control over itself. Accepting this truth has been a powerful tool for me in exerting a sense of control. It sounds abstract, but it’s important.
When my mind is racing, I begin an internal chanting:
Relax my body and my mind will follow
Calm my mind and my body will follow
Sometimes other thoughts drift in and I follow them. That’s natural, but I re-assert my attention back to the mantra. Repeat, repeat.
When you understand the origin of anxiety, you own it. That means you have more control over the effect it has on you.
I practise this technique anywhere and everywhere, eyes open or eyes closed. Practice: it will get you there.