HOW TO CALM YOUR OVERACTIVE MIND

I have a tendency to overthink things. You might too.

Your mind takes off and starts imagining the worst things that could happen in the future, or you find yourself looking back at the recent past and regretting your words or actions. Even worse is when we get caught up in judging and resenting the actions of an important person in our lives. 

Here are a few tools I use to anchor my mind in the present moment rather than in the future or past. 

 THE 5,4,3,2,1 TECHNIQUE  (Full blog post:  https://GigiLanger.com/anxiety-attack/)

Take a few slow belly-inflating breathes and remind yourself that your body is right here right now, and you can choose to focus your mind on the present moment rather than on the future or past. .

1. Name 5 things you can see around you (Examples: rug, painting)

2 . Name 4 things you can feel (feet on the floor, cool air on the skin)

3 . Name 3 things you can hear right now (a fan running, people’s voices outside)

4. Name 2 things you can smell right now (perfumed soap)

5. Name 1 good thing about yourself (“I am strong,” “I can help myself through this.”)

If you simply can’t focus, or if your body and mind haven’t yet settled down, take a few more belly-inflating breaths, and tell yourself that you can focus your thoughts on the present moment. Then do the exercise again.

It may take several minutes of repetition before your mind settles down.

According to independent.co.uk, “the trick, which relies on sensory awareness, is rooted in mindfulness – and apart from anxiety, it can help treat depression, addiction disorders, lower blood pressure, and relieve stress” (Harvard University Helpguide.org)

MINDFULNESS TRAINING 

It really helped me to take the “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR) 8-week course. It uses breathing and simple stretches to keep your mind on your body, and its research studies show impressive results (Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues from  University of Massachusetts Medical Center). More info here: Mindfulness-based stress reduction – Wikipedia   Really effective.

MIND REFOCUSING 
I often catch my mind worrying about the future, and when I notice this I substitute a quick little phrase to anchor me back into the now: “All is well right now.” or, “Help me to see this differently.” Also repeating a short prayer like the Serenity Prayer helps a lot.

The idea is to substitute a “right now” thought or sensation for our worries, fears, and stressful thoughts.

NOTE: In my experience, I often need to make the switch several times an hour (sometimes many times a minute!)

It will take consistent practice to retrain your mind to stay in the present. Keep at it and your life and health will improve.

Gigi Langer, a person in recovery, holds a Ph.D. in Psychological Studies in Education and an MA in Psychology from Stanford University. Through her writing, coaching, and speaking, Gigi has helped thousands of people improve their lives at home and at work. She lives in Michigan with her husband and Murphy, her cat.

Get Gigi’s new book, “50 Ways to Worry Less Now: Reject Negative Thinking” is available in audio, e-book, and paperback (5 Stars on Amazon). Click HERE

“Valuable, heartfelt manual.” — Publishers Weekly (BookLife)

“This book is a winner.” -Karen Casey, Hazelden author

IF YOU’RE ON A HUNT FOR HAPPINESS, YOUR THOUGHTS CAN’T SCARE YOU!

hunt for happiness gigi langer

We just finished “Hunt for Happiness Week,” and I wanted to share with you my favorite tool for dissolving the worries and negativity that block our happiness.

Stress is not a reaction to an event but rather to how you interpret the event.” (Sonya Collins)

How can you change the meaning you’re giving to the things that bother you? One method is to question your thoughts about the troubling situation. Chances are, you’re seeing it in a very scary way. But that CAN be changed!

One of the things that recently caused me distress concerned Judymy dear friend and business partner for over twenty yearswho was diagnosed with breast cancer. In between her chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, she continued to work at her usual hectic pace. I was terrified Judy would get sick again, and I didn’t want to lose her.

My worried mind whispered to me, “She should not work so much,” and it interfered with my hunt for happiness. Soon after admitting this, I began to seek a new way of looking at the situation.

Just in time, a friend invited me to attend a weekend course with Byron Katie, the developer of “The Work”—an amazingly powerful tool for examining and reframing our minds’ negative interpretations.

Tool Number 6. Is It True? [from 50 Ways to Worry Less Now]

Byron Katie gave me permission to use this illustration of her process. My responses to her recommended questions appear in italics.

  1. Write in your journal about a particularly troubling situation in your life. What’s wrong? What should be different? I am so worried about Judy. She’s had cancer, and she’s determined to work long hours even as she’s recovering from surgery and chemotherapy. I’m terrified her ambitious work schedule will make her sick again. Nothing I say or do has changed the situation. I feel stuck
  2. Select one thought to explore in greater depth. Write it at the top of a new page. Judy should not overwork.
  3.  Ask yourself, Is this true?  Yes.
  4. Ask yourself, Can I absolutely know it’s true? No, probably not . . . there might be times when it’s ok.
  5. Ask yourself, How do I react when I believe this thought?    I worry about Judy. I react by trying to do things for her. I judge her as not being able to take care of herself. I’m thinking about this way too much, and it’s robbing my peace of mind.
  6. Ask yourself, Who could I be if I didn’t believe this thought? What might my life look like or feel like?   Without this thought, I’d be more accepting of how Judy is dealing with her illness. I could stop worrying about her and meddling in her life. I could relax.
  7. What other ways of saying the original statement might be as true, or truer, than the original thought? (Original statement: Judy should not overwork.) (a) Turn the thought around to the opposite:  Judy should overwork.  In what way is this as true, or truer, than your original statement?   She realizes every minute is precious and she has a lot she wants to do. (b) Turn the thought around to yourselfI should not overwork.  In what way is this as true, or truer, than your original statement?      I’ve been working too much and I’m under a lot of stress. I need to take better care of myself.

The point of this exercise is to see that the meaning you’ve constructed is not necessarily the truth. In my case, I was afraid Judy would get sick again, and I thought she would stay healthy if she worked less. When I turned it around to the opposite, however, I saw that the decision was Judy’s to make and not mine, that working might be exactly what she needed.

As I turned it around to myself, I got a big dose of honesty. I realized my true concern needed to be with my own overwork. As so often happens, when we point an accusing finger at another, we find three other fingers pointing back at us. This insight prompted me to face my own whispered lie that if I didn’t work hard enough I would fail at my job. I had been worried about looking weak or imperfect, a hangover from my zero-sum-game days.

Whenever we detect false beliefs interfering with our serenity, it’s time to take a breath and acknowledge the scary unpredictability of life. Then we can use any of the 50 tools in “Worry Less Now” to face our challenges with courage and grace. 

If your hunt for happiness is thwarted by negative thoughts, try the “Is It True?” exercise. Be sure to select one of the damaging beliefs you’re holding about another person, and go through each step with it. You might be amazed!

gigi langer worry less now

Gigi Langer, PhD.  Many years ago, I used alcohol, romance, and professional accomplishments to soothe my frayed nerves. Over time, I discovered effective tools from therapy, recovery pro­grams, scientific research, energy work, and a variety of philosophical and spiritual teachings. I share those techniques in my blog and book so you can find peace of mind and wisdom, no matter what is bothering you.

worry less now

My award-winning book, 50 Ways to Worry Less Now, describes how I and others have defeated the faulty thinking leading to dysfunctional relationships, perfectionism, addiction, and worry about loved ones. Gain practical strategies through personal stories. Amazon: 4.8 stars (53 reviews) (Buy Paperback, e-book, OR audiobook HERE

REVIEWS:  Karen Casey, best-selling author of Each Day a New Beginning (Hazelden) “Even though I have been in recovery for more than 4 decades, and didn’t think another self-help book would make it to my treasured list, I was wrong. This book is a winner.” 

Anonymous Reader: “Your Book certainly transformed my life!  All I can say is, THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES OVER” 

SHRED YOUR NEGATIVITY—EVEN IN HOLIDAY TRAFFIC!

HERE’S A SITUATION SURE TO KICK OFF NEGATIVITY:  Imagine you’re on your way to an important doctor appointment and you’ve left just a little late. You find yourself waiting in a long line of cars with left-turn signals blinking.

When the cars finally begin to inch forward, you realize you might not make it through the light. You look at your watch, clench your jaw, and think, “I can’t miss this appointment.” Your stomach begins to churn as you imagine having to wait several more weeks to see the doctor.

Suddenly, a big black car cuts in front of you. He’s the last one to make it through the light. You bang your hands on the steering wheel and yell, “Who in the hell does he  think he is?” Then your mind whispers, “I’ll never get in to see the doctor! My symptoms will get worse and I’ll suffer even more. Why does this always happen to me?”

NEGATIVITY: THE CONSEQUENCES

It’s hard to keep such incidents from prompting a hissy fit, often with dire results. For instance, we might drive recklessly in the traffic or speak rudely to the doctor’s receptionist.

Or, when we arrive home, our frustration might cause us to hurt a loved one with critical or impatient words.

AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH

I’ll bet you’ve had similar experiences, especially with holiday traffic. I sure have. But after years of working with my negative thinking, I’ve discovered how to change it through Honesty, Power, Choice, and Growth Tools. Here’s how it looks in the traffic situation.

First, the driver honestly admits how upset she is, and tunes into the tension in her jaw and belly. She then notices, without judgment, her negative thoughts—for example, “I just thought ‘That guy is a real jerk!’ and I’ve convinced myself I’ll never make it to my appointment.”

She follows that realization with “If I can stop worrying, I can access the power of clarity.” She then makes the choice to cease upsetting herself.

She might seek a different perspective by thinking, “I have no control over this traffic. This would be frustrating for anyone. I’m willing to trust that I’ll get to the doctor at just the right time.”

To move her focus away from her irritation and fear, she applies the following growth tools.

She begins with the tool of deep breathing. In her calmer state, she tries to feel compassion toward the driver who cut her off. Perhaps he’s had a bad day or family emergency.

Finally, she uses visualization to imagine the office  receptionist being helpful and kind. As her negative thinking continues to make a bid for her attention, she persists in using these tools.

In a short time, the next right action occurs to her. She thinks, “I’m  going to call the receptionist and ask if I can keep my appointment if I’m thirty minutes late.” When her call is put on hold, she breathes calmly.

Soon, she learns that the doctor is behind schedule and being late is no problem. She relaxes and enjoys the ride.

ISN’T THIS APPROACH PRETTY PASSIVE?

Perhaps you’re thinking that the driver should have been more assertive, perhaps by immediately seeking a detour.

*Here’s an important point: Using these strategies does not mean that you never take strong action.*

They simply allow you to delay acting until you’ve gained a little wisdom. As a result of your new perspective, if you are meant to do something, you’ll have the direction you need.

Unfortunately, we don’t have as much control over external events as we might imagine, and fretting or forcing a solution often just makes things worse.

Next time you’re irked by traffic, try applying honesty, power, choices, and growth tools. You can experience the peace and goodwill of the season, no matter what!!

Gigi Langer Gigi Langer, a Stanford PhD, is a former teacher who quit drinking, only to find that her negative thinking, judging, and fears kept her in a cycle of worry, codependency, chronic pain, perfectionism, and overworking. Her award-winning book “50 Ways to Worry Less Now” (Amazon 4.8 stars) is available in paper, e-book, and audiobook. Honest, practical, simple. Relevant to anyone! Buy it here GigiLanger.com/buy

BE THE LIGHT, Even When It’s Really Hard to Do!

Be The Light

“Be the Light: Feel the spirituality inside you and shine it on others.”

Recently I gave an open talk (about my alcoholism) for a large group of women, and I’m so grateful that RecoveredCast.com posted it on their site. You can find it by clicking here — Or copy this link: https://recoveredcast.com/uncategorized/gigi-open-talk-recovered-1044/

After listening to the recording, a woman in recovery sent me this wonderful message describing how consciously choosing to be a shining light helps her–and others–through many troubling situations. Here’s what she wrote:

“I love how in your open talk you refer to spirituality as ‘a light. A light inside us. A light for others to see.’ ♥️

 “I was so excited to be able to pass a drug test, and get a real job, benefits, good pay. But then the place turned out to be very toxic. Gossip, fighting, and plenty of non-recovering alcoholics. I became sucked in very quickly. 

“I was fairly new to recovery and hadn’t learned many tools. I would sit out in my car every morning and pray to go in there and ‘Be the Light.’ To shine bright and help the hurting souls in there. I prayed for God’s will and the strength to not get sucked into the drama. 

“Afterward, I would go to meetings and share my ‘pep talk’ about ‘Being the Light.’ How it was helping me at work, reminding me to be the change. To spread compassion and love to those who are still sick. How I had to remind myself over and over. For example, I would be in the middle of the bickering, and I’d whisper under my breath, ‘Be the light. Be the light.’ Then I’d put up my boundaries and walk away.

“Next thing you know, other people in the program were talking about it. How they would find themselves in situations and would pray for the light. The light to rise above. For the light inside themselves to shine bright. 

“What a gift to be heard and, in return, to help others. Feeling the spirituality inside us. Shining it on others. Helping others, which then helps ourselves. Such a gift!”

Isn’t that absolutely beautiful? Let’s all try to “be the light” for the people and situations around us. I would LOVE to hear how you have used this idea in your own life. Thanks!

Gigi Langer Worry Less Now

Gigi Langer, PhD.  Many years ago, I used alcohol, romance, and professional accomplishments to soothe my frayed nerves. Over time, I discovered effective tools from therapy, recovery pro­grams, scientific research, and a variety of philosophical and spiritual teachings. I share those techniques in my blog and book so you can find peace of mind and wisdom, no matter what is bothering you.

Worry Less Now Cover

My award-winning book, 50 Ways to Worry Less Now, describes how I and others have defeated the faulty thinking leading to dysfunctional relationships, perfectionism, addiction, and worry about loved ones. Gain practical strategies, personal stories, and other helpful suggestions. Amazon: 4.8 stars (50 reviews) (Buy Paperback, e-book, OR audiobook HERE)

REVIEWS:  Karen Casey, best-selling author of Each Day a New Beginning (Hazelden) “Even though I have been in recovery for more than 4 decades, and didn’t think another self-help book would make it to my treasured list, I was wrong. This book is a winner.” Anonymous Reader: “Your Book certainly transformed my life!  All I can say is, THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES OVER”