Sometimes life presents us with real challenges and situations that push us to our limits. However, it’s also true that our minds can create stories that blow things out of proportion. We sometimes tell ourselves that things are “impossible,” “overwhelming,” and “disastrous” when this isn’t really the case.
For most of us, most of the time, our stress, fear, and anxiety have as much to do with the stories we’re telling, as they do with what is actually happening. In this article, we’ll explore a simple, yet powerful strategy to free ourselves from negative stories and move us into greater relaxation, confidence, and inner power.
Let’s begin by making a simple connection—between uncomfortable feelings and your thoughts. When you start to feel stress, fear, or anxiety do you also hear phrases in your head like: “I just can’t do this,” “It’s too hard,” or “Everything is falling apart”?
These phrases are voices of fear and limitation that can run like broken records through our minds. They may come from past experiences of failure or frustration. Or they might be past negative judgments made by our parents, teachers, or peers that have become recorded in our minds. Yet, do these past mental judgments really reflect what is real and possible for you now? Just because they may have applied in the past, do they have to apply now?
Here’s a simple way to neutralize and overcome this habit of negative story-telling:
The next time you feel stress, fear, or anxiety rising up, stop what you are doing and insert a mental pause. Take note of the words that are going through your head, how you feel when you think this way, and what you are doing at the moment. Make note of the part you are playing in this situation.
See if you can observe these things without judging them as good or bad. To help you do that, see if it’s possible to adopt the point of view of a curious observer—maybe one who just arrived from another planet. You can smile as you make your observations to lighten your mood. The key here is to shine a little light on what you are thinking and feeling on the inside and how that relates to what you are doing on the outside.
Then, observe what is actually happening around you. Witness the details of the situation as if you are that outside observer. Make note of what is going on, who is involved, and how it relates to what you are thinking, feeling, and doing.
Once you’ve been able to observe some details of what is happening inside and around you, ask yourself a simple question:
“What is the easiest, simplest step I can take right now that will move this situation in a positive direction?”
Sit quietly and see if any thought, feeling, or image comes up. Try not to rush to fill in an answer, but just see if anything presents itself to you.
If could be as simple as “Relax and take a deep breath.” It could be an action such as “Go and apologize to that person” or “Call this person.” It could be a subtle nudge to “Write down this thought” or “Search for that class online.” Whatever inspiration arises, no matter how small, take that action and see what happens.
When you get in a habit of following your subtle inner nudges and have some positive results, you gain confidence in your ability to discern inner guidance and take effective action. This type of thing tends to snowball in a good way. Great things are built from small actions.
So, what is the easiest, smallest step you can take right now that will move your life forward in the direction you desire?
Enjoy your practice.