Steal This Anxiety Trick:
Oscar-winning actress swears by this strange
This is pretty creative.
Oscar-Winning actress, Emma Stone, opened up to Rolling Stone about her childhood anxiety. She used to believe her house was burning to the ground. She'd feel her chest get heavy... struggling to breathe... almost like the world was ending... Her anxiety was on -and-off like that for years!
Until one day she tried something new and different.
She wrote a book called I Am Bigger Than My Anxiety. In it, she sketched a little green monster propped up on her shoulder. This little monster whispers lies in her ear. The more she listens to it, the bigger the monster gets.
If it gets too big, it smashes her.
Or she can ignore it. She can keep working on what she's doing. The more she ignores the lies, the more it shrinks... until POOF - it vanishes completely!
So why does it work?
It's taking a feeling like anxiety and transforming it into a metaphor. You see, emotions can be very amorphous. It's tricky to grasp them. Let alone how to take control of them. So when you designate an image or metaphor to them, you're able to work with them a bit more. It makes them more concrete. Plus, some research shows this actually changes how the brain responds to emotions.
According to David Rock, in his book Your Brain At Work:
"To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system."
The key is finding a metaphor that empowers you though.
Years ago, someone told me, their anxiety felt like a wrecking ball that was smashing and destroying their life. Now I can't blame them. But this was not a very empowering metaphor. It was making them feel way worse... and...like they didn't have control over their challenge. You want to be careful with the metaphors you use. You want to grab ahold of metaphors that support you.
Here's another empowering one from the Buddhist tradition:
Imagine your mind is a waterfall. The water constantly crashing over the edge is your thoughts and emotions. Instead of being the cold current of water, you want to become the calm space behind the waterfall (they would call that mindfulness). Simply observe the constant torrent of thoughts flowing. Watching your thoughts from that distance. But keep that separation.
Can you see the impact of one simple metaphor?
Remember this doesn't mean you ignore the feeling. Or pretend it's not there. It simply means channeling the emotion in a different way, like Emma Stone discovered.
Whether that's a little green monster perched on your shoulder... turning off the radio of mental chatter... Or watching your thoughts fly by like cars on the high-way... there are endless ways to use this.
You may stumble across others or create even better ones than these. So let your creativity swim wild with this one.
Experiment with it.
Make it your own.
And find the one that works for you.
The Renegade Life Coach
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