How to Empty your Brain to Reduce Stress & Control Anxiety – Write On!

Non-stop writing, stream of consciousness, free writing . . . it doesn’t matter what you call it – it can change your brain, change your day.

I’m not being overly dramatic as there is a body of research which shows that

simply putting pen to paper changes your brain to reduce anxiety & stress.

Write on! by Peggy

Easy Peasy Writing How-to

Choose a focus – a situation, feeling, thought and create a “topic Sentence”

If you can’t think of a specific begin with

 “When I ____________”,  Right this moment I am thinking . . . ” ,   “I am feeling . . .”,  

“I can’t think of anything to write because . . . “

It can be anything in the past, the present or the future.

  • Use a pen that writes smoothly and comfortable to your hand.  

Don’t use a keyboard since the act of writing with your hand is important.  Your small muscle movement is expressive (much like artistic expression, your handwriting is unique to you).  It doesn’t matter if it’s legible or beautiful as your hand movement registers with your brain in ways that tapping out letters on a keyboard do not.

  • Set a timer for approximately 20 minutes. It takes that long for your unconscious brain to push through your logical thinking processes.
  • Use a journal, a piece of paper, a brown bag- it doesn’t matter.
  • Start with your “topic sentence”,thought, feeling . . . just start. 
  • Write continuously for 20 minutes, never letting the pen stop. If your mind goes blank simply makes loop-d-loops with the pen until you have words to put down. Write quickly, spontaneously, intuitively.  It doesn’t matter what you write just put down on paper where your mind takes you.
  • Do not be concerned about spelling, punctuation or grammar.
  • Do not be concerned if it doesn’t make sense.

Read  research: How Writing About Past Failures May Help You Succeed In The Present

 click here

Ways to Cope in Uncertain Times

There is unprecedented anxiety in the entire world due to the pandemic.  Fear and anxiety is a normal response to unknown threats to our survival and well-being.  The problem for all of us is prolonged and chronic anxiety which elevates the stress response and lowers our immune response.

We have searched all our posts which address stress and anxiety to give you some tools to incorporate into your daily life and better cope with uncertainty.

Stressed out….

Click here for  FREE PDF of

The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit

to CALM, COOL & COLLECTED!

Have a look at these past posts: 

How to Reduce Fear and Anxiety in 30 Seconds

Meditation Changes Your Brain for the Better

Coping with family tension 

Six ways to meditate for those who can’t meditate

Comfort Eating Actually Comforts

Stressed? How to Activate Your Own Placebo

And from Curious to the Max:

ME a Stress Case? . . . I Don’t Think So. . . This Anxiety Reduction Technique is for YOU

Write On! How to Empty your brain to reduce stress

 

Click here for “Frankly Freddie: How to Social Distance and be Social” on Curious to the Max

How to reduce fear & anxiety in 30 seconds . . .

Affect labeling—the act of naming one’s emotional state—helps blunt the immediate impact of negative feelings and begin the process of reducing stress.

In a small study* of 30 subjects, researchers conducted a series of brain-imaging experiments in which participants were shown frightening faces and asked to choose a word that described the emotion on display. Labeling the fear-inducing object appeared to:

  • Reduce activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain in which the fight or flight reflex originates
  • Increased activity in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which is associated with vigilance and symbolic processing.
  • The brain’s perception of the images shifted from objects of fear to subjects of scrutiny.
  • Experientially, the fact that there is a name for what you’re going through means that other people have experienced it as well, which makes an overwhelming emotion feel less isolating.

How to “Affect label” 

30 seconds . . . as long as you don’t count the 15 minutes of moving.

*The University of California, Los Angeles. Study led by psychology professor Matthew Lieberman,

https://qz.com/989060/reduce-stress-and-anxiety-with-a-pen-and-this-simple-neuroscience-backed-trick/

Hot to stop your SuperWorry

Mind races.  Unsettling worry or concern repeats itself over and over.  No solution.  No relief.  Can’t sleep.  Can’t concentrate on anything other than your SUPER WORRY

It doesn’t feel like it but your brain is doing this for your benefit – Relentlessly focus your attention on a potential (albeit imagined) threat to help you stay safe.  Three parts of you brain start firing in lockstep:

  • The orbital frontal cortex gives you the feeling you made a mistake or there is danger.
  • It signals the cingulate gurus which generates the neurochemistry of anxiety.
  • The caudate nucleus usually allows thoughts to flow from one to another, but it stops doing this.
  • These 3 parts together keep person locked into worry, an obsession with something thy fear.

You may even realize that the worry is not rational, or the fear is not imminent.  It’s your brain locked into a feed-back loop and won’t let you escape from the worrying thoughts.

Mousey Worry by Peggy

You can rewire your SuperWorry into SuperRelief

Talk to your brain – silently or outloud:

  1. Thank your brain for doing what it was created to do.  Don’t be mad or upset with your brain. It’s a good brain.
  2. However, relabel the problem as a brain problem, not an imminent threat. The real problem is not what you fear, it is the brain is getting locked into a position and isn’t moving on.
  3. Pick something positive or neutral to focus on instead.  Ideally something pleasurable.
  4. Repeat this as often as necessary.  It takes time for your brain to understand it doesn’t have to protect you in this way.

Here’s an example:  Thank you brain.  You don’t need to keep reminding me that (an earthquake will happen, someone will break into the house, I will get fired).  I’m safe right this minute.

When brain focuses on something over and over, it strengthens the brain neuro-connections. When you stop the thinking the connections are weakened.  Think of it like a wilderness trail – The more the trail is traveled the path gets wider and the dirt gets more and more compacted.  Stop walking on the trail and it becomes overgrown, impassable and no longer used.

Use it or lose it 
Any deviation from the neuro-connection path weakens it.  Every time you interrupt and then stop the thought about the fear and redirect your thoughts it gets easier. The more you  practice the more the neural links to the worry weaken and new positive neutral pathways are generated.

PET scans have shown that the brain pathways actually change when you perform the four steps.

Use this process for small worries, not just big ones.  

Sources:

Norman Dodgie,  “The Brain that Changes Itself” 

Jeffrey M Schwartz, “Brain Lock”  

Can a good imagination make you anxious?

Anxiety triggers the stress response.  Anxious feelings are rarely about what is actually happening in the present but about the IMAGINED POSSIBILITY of what might happen in the future.  People with the best imaginations can create the worst possibilities.  

Anxiety and fear are “just” feelings in your body, they are not facts.  Your brain creates feelings to help you know how to respond to situations. Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and actual circumstance.  Fear and anxiety are there to help you cope, but they are made to cope with imminent danger.  However, your brain doesn’t do a good job of distinguishing among the past, present or future

When you are flooded with anxious feelings ask yourself, “Am I about to die or suffer severe bodily harm in the next 10 minutes?”

Take some deep breaths.  Getting oxygen to your brain will help you feel calmer.  

If the answer is no, take some time to look more objectively at the situation. (If the answer is yes however, run for your life.)   Separate your feelings from what is actually going on.  Examining the worst case, best case and most likely outcome will help you do this:

Worst Case

Surprisingly, looking at what the worst-case senario can help you feel better. This is because we usually don’t ask ourselves specifics of what horrible thing might happen and when we do, sometimes the most horrible outcome is not life threatening.

Best Case

Next look at the best-case scenario. What could go right? How could the situation turn out well? Doing this helps you imagine good possibilities signaling your brain that everything is ok.

Most Likely Outcome

What ultimately plays out is usually somewhere in-between the best and worst case.  Often, what happens is something you haven’t even planned much less imagined.  Based on past & present circumstances (not future imagination) what would be a neutral or ok outcome?

In Your Control

Make SPECIFIC action plans
Plan “A” is what you could do if the worst case you are imagining really happens. What is in your control? What is NOT in your control? Who might help you? What resources would you need? Do you know anyone who has been through something similar?

Plan “B” is about what action you can take right away. What is in your power, your control, to do now to impact the outcome?  Ask others for ideas or looking at what other’s in similar situations have done that worked is helpful.

Here’s the outline to use your imagination to create less stress.  

Write your answers down – it helps empty your brain:

1.  What is the worst case?
2.  What is the best case?
3.  What is most likely to happen?
4.  If the worst occurs, what is your plan/how can you cope?

How often have you felt anxious at best and terrified at worst from your own imagined possibilities?  

More importantly, how often has what you imagined actually happened?

 

 

 

 

 

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