Are you living with anxiety? Do you fear what’s around the next corner? Is anxiety affecting your quality of life, your sleep, work, or your relationships?
MEDICATION? Do you take medication to manage your anxiety? Xanax? Klonopin? Buspar? Zoloft? Paxil? Lexapro? Anafranil? Are they wreaking havoc with your libido—killing your sex drive? Do they impact your ability to experience life with a full sense of authenticity?
PANIC ATTACKS? Do suffer from panic attacks? Do you experience a quick onset of fear and terror together with palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath? Do you sometimes feel like you’re dying or going crazy?
EVERY DAY: Do you suffer every day with a sense of dread? Do you feel that things will spiral out of control and you won’t be able to manage?
ANXIETY AND THE OUT-OF-CONTROL MIND: These are all the terrible and debilitating symptoms of anxiety. You may have some or all, but in whatever combination, you’re suffering. And what feels most discouraging is that you’re often lead to believe there’s nothing you can do with a mind out of control.
A MIND OUT-OF-CONTROL: Let’s talk about what the out-of-control mind does. Here are a few descriptions:
-predicts you’ll encounter danger in almost every circumstance
-believes you’re unable to manage
-makes you feel you’ll be overwhelmed
-views the self as weak or incapable
-seeks safety in isolation
-cycles around and around the same thought
-is desperate for relief but can’t quiet itself
BRINGING THE CHAOTIC MIND UNDER CONTROL: For the normal mind, efforts to self-sooth and to reduce fear and anxiety are generally effective. The mind calms down. But, for those suffering with anxiety, it’s precisely the fact that chaos feels beyond control that’s so frightening and depressing. I have found that under certain circumstances, the anxious mind can be brought under control and that a person can learn how to return to a calm, functioning state of mind.
IT’S NOT MAGIC: Bringing the anxious mind under control involves teaching it how to release the anxious thoughts in order to return to a state of normalcy. Like a muscle, the mind is amenable to training. Over time, the anxious mind can sometimes be brought under control, taught to release the fear, and be restored to a normal state. This is not magic. To the contrary, there are a growing number of studies, including from John’s Hopkins University, and from Harvard psychiatarist Dr. Elizabeth Hoge at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital, that support the efficacy of mindfulness training to manage distracting thoughts and to reduce anxiety and stress.
IMPOSSIBLE TO RELEASE THE FEAR? A person who suffers from anxiety might worry that the task of releasing the fear is impossible. And indeed, in the beginning, it certainly feels impossible! So, naturally, training doesn’t start with trying to release the fear. Training starts with baby steps! After all, when you’re training to run a marathon, you start by running a single mile! So, too, with bringing the mind under control. We start with baby steps, working slowly to harness a small amount of control over a chaotic mind. We carefully work our way up to greater and greater control in which the self can exert control over more and more of the chaos.
MINDFULNESS IN THE CONTEXT OF THERAPY: My work with patients here at Long Island Counseling necessarily involves many different aspects. Some patients are simply not ready even to think about exerting control over the chaos in their minds! It’s enough to have someone just to talk to. Trust and a therapeutic relationship are built over time and each patient is entitled to a unique and individually tailored approach.