Offering Online Therapy

I offer HIPPA compliant Video Sessions for simple and secure session for for all new and returning clients. No download required. Please contact me for more information or if you would like to schedule an appointment or consultation. Thanks you! Greg Carpenter LMFT

Friday, March 4, 2011

Practical Methods for Changing your "Mind"

Challenging our free floating – automatic negative thoughts and feelings is key to managing stress and staying connected to our best self. In Dr. Herbert Benson “The Wellness Book” his colleagues write, “When governed by strong emotions, the mind becomes a filter, letting into consciousness only those thoughts that reinforce that mood. Little else is allowed through.” (p.274)

Our own self- justification for feeling angry, worried or stressed strengthens the mental filter. Notice your reaction to shifting your emotional state next time you are angry, stressed or anxious. Most folk will experience some form of inner protest in the form of “…but this is how I really feel… this is me!” The answer isn’t to deny or repress these feelings (sometimes they are quite helpful and necessary). Rather, we want to notice them and reflect on whether they are needed. If not then we move to create a gentle shift.

Dr. Benson has a four step process that he recommends for stress relief (p. 184-5)…

Next time you are stuck in traffic and feel you blood pressure rise try this…

  • Stop – as soon as you catch yourself feeling stressed simply saying “Stop!” can interrupt the Negative Stress Cycle. This prevents your thoughts from going in the “awfulizing” where you mind jumps to the worst possible scenario.

  • Breath & Release Physical Tension – During times of stress most folk hold their breath, physiologically creating even more stress. Taking a diaphragmatic breath can elicit the relaxation response.

  • Reflect and ask yourself these questions: - Stopping the escalation of the stress hormones allows you to actually think about your situation. You can sift through helpful thoughts and feelings versus irrational beliefs and distortions.
    - “What is going on here?”
    - “Why am I so distressed?”
    - “Am I late or just racing against time?”
    - “Is it really a crisis that I am late?”
    - “If I am late what is the worst thing that will happen?”
    - “Will worrying about it help?”

  • Choose not to think so anxiously – now that you have stopped the stimulus – response cycle, taken a breath to divert your attention from the stress, reflected on the cause of stress, you can now choose how to respond and reboot your thoughts and feelings.

This four step process: Stop, Breathe & Release Physical Tension, Reflect, and Choose – can be turbo-charged by tapping several rounds on the Emotional Freedom Technique points as you go through each of the steps (click for The Basic EFT Recipe and points

An additional way to spice up Dr. Benson Four Step Model is to add what I call The Dimmer Switch. As you go through the four steps, just hold your hand over the correct eye while keeping both open. Here are the instructions for this technique...

The Dimmer Switch (One Eye Technique)

This is based on a bi-lateral theory of the brain (left is logical - right is emotional). That is an oversimplified explanation. Rate your stress or feeling intensity on a scale of 1 -10 (SUDS) Keeping both eyes open, place your hand over your left eye to block input. Hold for 60 seconds(or as you go through the four steps for stress relief. Relaxation breathing during this time will create added benefits. After one minute, rate your feeling intensity on the same scale. Most persons report a reduction of 2 - 4 in intensity. Repeat to bring further down in intensity. Combine this technique with Relaxation Breathing for best results. Some folk find covering the right eye to be more relaxing. Experiment and see which works best for you.

Last but certainly not least, simply put on your favorite relaxation or brainsync music and go through the four steps with the added benefit of sounds triggering the relaxation response (“What’s In Your Wallet? Stress and Music - Relaxations sounds or music is the easiest of the all the techniques. Just slip on the headphones and run the four steps.

Each of these techniques are highly effective individually. But in various combinations they quicken the results and multiply their effectiveness. Experiment with various combinations for customizing your own relaxation - stress buster toolbox.

Let me know how these work for you. Enjoy!

No comments: