Self-care is about more than just taking time for a bath, yoga workout, or a self-indulgent shopping trip. It’s also about learning how to take care of our emotions, especially in the heat of the moment when we lose control.
Rising heart rate, sweaty palms, constricted throat, dry mouth. Typical symptoms that many of us have experienced during an emotional reaction to something we weren’t prepared for. In these moments of high anxiety, it seems nearly impossible to focus on anything other than what we’re feeling, in the moment.
During these moments, we are in the throes of an emotional reaction. Of course, we may have not yetresponded to whatever or whoever it is that it’s involved in this moment. And if that’s the case, it’s a blessing.
In the context of human behavior, the difference between a reaction and a response is that the first is involuntary and automatic while the second has an opportunity to be informed and measured, if that’s the intention. And when it comes to self-care, that’s the goal.
So, the secret is to find out how we can shift away from an immediate response whenever we find ourselves in highly intense emotional reactions. If it’s possible to identify the precise moment when we’re able, willing, and ready to interpret our reactions, that’s when it’s best to think through an appropriate response. Appropriate, informed, controlled, and measured rather than immediate. But… Is this even possible, considering today’s culture?
Right now, we live in an age of immediacy. Immediate gratification, instant-on, online all the time, live and streaming, etc… These are what we value. Today, immediacy is a virtue. And the more automatic, the better.
These can be virtues, especially when fast responses are exactly what are needed (e.g. emergencies, etc.). But when it comes to human behavior and mental and emotional health, especially in digital spaces, taking it slow and steady is essential.
Consider an example. You’re taking a quick break from work by glancing at social media. You notice an interesting thread on twitter from someone whose political opinions you usually agree with. But this time, you start to get really annoyed by where the conversation is headed. You start to compose a reply, and as you do so, you feel your heart rate start to accelerate. You’re getting really angry when you notice this, because you know you’re right, and you’re feeling indignant… and it starts to remind you of how that person cut you off in traffic last night, right after you let someone else merge in front of you just a few minutes before.
In that moment, you notice it’s just a few minutes before your next conference call, so you quickly send out that reply to the tweet, with all of the vitriol that you felt heating up inside of you in the last few minutes (mixed with the leftover anger from last night). Suddenly, someone in the office accidentally hits your chair as they walk by, and you snap at them, without knowing who they are, “Sheesh, RUDE, watch where you’re going.” And they respond, “That’s it, you’re fired!” Because this person is your boss, and they failed to slow down, process their emotions, and assess the situation before responding. They let their reaction turn into a response, rather than take the opportunity to deliver a more informed, more appropriate response.
Ok, so this example may be a bit cheesy, TBH. It’s simply designed to show how the consequences of our inability to manage our emotions can often be dire. And how the best thing one can do for self-care is to learn how to manage them.
Now that you’ve processed your emotional reaction, and understand why you had that reaction, and what you want to happen, you can tailor your response. In other words, you’re in control of your emotions rather than them being in control of you. Using our hypothetical example, perhaps you might offer your boss a snack or coffee, and convince them they don’t really mean that you’re fired. They – understandably – just reacted probably because they’re hungry or tired, and firing you isn’t reallywhat they want. ;)
When we experience intense emotions, much of this energy can remain resident inside our bodies, long after we’ve recovered. Energy healing tools like Reiki, EFT, and hypnotherapy can help release these energetic blocks for sustained health and vitality.
Learn more by signing up for a session today.
One of the most common requests I receive from my hypnotherapy clients is help in dealing with anxiety, panic attacks, and other highly emotional states of being. While each person's experience of anxiety or panic attacks may be unique, a common theme is a feeling of being out of control. The experience of feeling out of control often brings on a panic attack, and when we’re in the throes of one, we fear we’ll never gain control, which only serves to add fuel to the anxiety flames.
What can we do - in the moment - to stop this endless spiral?
And that phrase - in the moment - is the key to the answer. When we’re experiencing anxiety, we are not living in the moment. We’re either mourning the past… we might be holding feelings of shame, regret, or remorse. Another possibility is that we might be fearing what will happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year. It could be a planned upcoming stressful event or the possibility of one… it doesn’t matter, the point is that when we’re anxious we are not living in the present.
Actually, we want to flee the present moment by any means necessary, because in the moment, we’re spiraling down a panic vortex.
Which reminds me of an analogy… imagine you’re swimming in the ocean and you’re caught in a riptide and being carried out to sea. Swimmers are taught to do the opposite of what feels instinctive - which is to swim directly towards the shore, and this might be - by the way - against the current. Instead, we all know to swim parallel to the shore and allow the current to gently push you back to the shore, while you also swim in a lateral direction. In this particular case, surrendering is both a courageous and a wise act because it is what saves you.
So does that mean I’m suggesting that you surrender to anxiety and panic?
No. Not at all. Because surrendering to anxiety and panic means to remain anxious, maintaining the status quo, and allowing it to rule your life. What I’m proposing instead... is to surrender to the fight against ‘that which is’. Explicitly, that which exists now. When we’re panicking, we are fighting against that which is. We are denying what is happening right now, we are trying to escape it by focusing on the past, or by worrying about the future. The panic is a primal instinct that is kicking in based on our ‘fight or flight’ / adrenal glands.
We can surrender the fight against what is by simply focusing on the present moment, and every characteristic that you’re aware of. You can do this in a variety of ways:
How do these tactics work? Aren’t they too simple? Actually, they work because your conscious mind needs a job to do.
Anxiety-inducing conditions can trigger your adrenal glands to make you feel as if your life is in danger, and these cues are coming from an overactive, conscious mind and they are false positives. In order to disarm these triggers, we distract the conscious mind by giving it a job to do. Focusing on your breath or counting objects around you gives your conscious mind something else to do rather than dream up scary past or future scenarios that are totally unnecessary and unhelpful.
Of course, these strategies can help us in the midst of an anxiety experience, but how do we stop anxious emotions from arising in the first place? That’s where hypnotherapy can help.
Remember that your conscious mind uses only 10% of your brain’s overall energy, and is responsible for short-term memory, planning, thinking, and analyzing. The subconscious mind uses 90% of the brain’s energy and controls much more of who we are: our emotions, our long-term memories, our creativity, our involuntary bodily responses, including our ‘fight or flight’ responses, among others.
Using only the conscious mind to try to heal a problem that began in our subconscious, resides there, and is experienced mostly through subconscious impulses is not a winning strategy.
Hypnotherapists help their clients get to the root cause of their anxiety, and heal it, by accessing their subconscious through trance, and other energy healing modalities (e.g. sandplay therapy, Reiki, EFT, and more).
Ready to experience it for yourself? Schedule an appointment with me today.
These blog articles offer pragmatic tips on how to tune into your own inner wisdom.