Here’s how you can create your own mental tranquilizer.
Think of the most relaxing, or peaceful experience or place in your life. Sometimes it’s a favorite vacation. Or it might be something simple, like snuggling up under the blankets in your own bed.
Then choose a most relaxing color and a word that describes how you feel in your relaxing place– calm, safe, peaceful? Next, “anchor” in the place, the color, and the word with lots of deep relaxation and imagine you are in your peaceful place, seeing or hearing your peaceful word, surrounded by the peaceful color. I usually make the image very surreal, since it tends to heighten the effect and make it more memorable. For example, if the place is Hawaii, the color green, and the word relaxing, I might say, “Imagine the word relaxing floating on waves off the shoreline of Maui in giant 10-foot-tall green letters and relax even deeper.
So, once the peaceful scenario is locked in, think about the least anxiety-producing scenario on a list ranked from 1 (no anxiety) to 10 (high anxiety). However, before you start to feel anxious, immediately “fire the anchor.” In fact, I say something like, “Have the big green wave wash over you, totally relaxing you and washing away all the anxiety, leaving you feeling just as relaxed as you were on your vacation in Hawaii or better.”
For example, I frequently work with teens with social anxiety. For them, sitting at home in their own bedroom might produce no anxiety (1); thinking about going back to school on Sunday night might be a 3. Driving or riding to school might produce a level 5 anxiety, and walking into a classroom might be an 8. The worst scenario could be having to speak in a room full of strangers (10.) Everybody’s scenarios are different, so come up with your own list.
Then continue to pull up negative scenarios of increasing magnitude and anchor the positive experience to them until any “anxious” scenario automatically shifts you into “relaxation” mode.
I have seen anxious people completely relax in a matter of three weeks. Many show tremendous improvement in just one session.
Feel free to share this idea with anyone currently suffering with anxiety and let me know how you do. Learning to shake “fear of the future” will help anyone live more joyously.
If you want some more simple techniques you can use to reduce anxiety, stay tuned for more posts in this 11-part series.