How do you shift from a state of stress, anxiety or frustration to a state of calm clarity?
I get asked this question, in slightly varying forms, on a regular basis. I’d like to share with you a simple technique you can use anytime to help you shift your state of mind to a more effective one.
Before I do, it’s important to understand the bigger picture.
Most of the time it’s not so much that we can’t do it, it’s that we don’t remember to even try. When we’re in a state of stress, anxiety or frustration we’re consumed by it… meaning, we are stressed, anxious or frustrated, and so we don’t even think about changing it.
Without the thought or impulse to actually change our state, no technique is going to work, because we won’t think to use it.
It starts with a moment of awareness… this leads to choice.
To have a choice, we need to recognize where we are. When we objectify what state we’re in, when we’re aware of how we’re feeling, we instantly have the possibility to change it.
I say “change it”, but it’s not in the way you might think.
Objectifying your state.
It’s so simple and it works! We don’t need to get complicated. Our emotions, stress and overthinking will complicate things… Keep it simple.
What do I mean by objectify?
It means taking a moment to consciously pay attention to how you feel and give it a name.
For example, if you’re anxious, pay attention to how it feels in your body. Is there tension in your body somewhere specific? How does your breathing feel? Does it feel restricted? Is your body full of nervous energy? Do you want to run away from whatever situation you’re in? Maybe it’s your own thoughts creating the anxiety?
As you pay attention to how you feel, just say to yourself “I feel anxious”, or “That’s anxiety.”
Most importantly, refrain from judging how you feel. Judging it will only get you more entangled into the stories and drama of it. You’re not trying to label it as good or bad, you’re not trying to push it away, you’re just observing it objectively.
Why does this work?
It creates a sense of separation between you and the emotion. You’re not pushing it away!
By objectifying how you feel, you create space within yourself.
As long as you’re consumed by the emotion, there is only the emotion. Your experience is the intensity of the emotion and it feels like you have no control… Because you don’t! The stress, anxiety or frustration is running the show and you’re being taken for a ride.
As you objectify and observe it, there emerges a sense of you and the emotion. This is important because the more you can observe it, without judgment, the more you’ll realize that you are not the emotion.
In giving it a label, or a name (in the example above “anxiety”), this also helps to create space by giving you a greater sense of you that’s not the emotion, and the emotion which is not you.
The beauty of this is that as you recognize this separation, your state of mind will naturally shift as a result. You don’t push the emotion away, you just gain space between you and it as a result of being present with your emotion. It’s the space that brings the underlying stillness which facilitates calmness and clarity.
In the process of observing it, you’re also training your ability to focus and be present in the moment. Feeling it and observing it without judging it strengthens your mind to make you more resilient to emotional fluctuations in the future.
The next time you’re stressed, anxious or frustrated (or whatever emotion you’re consumed by) remember to:
- Take a moment to consciously objectify your emotions and feelings and give it a name.
- Don’t judge yourself or the emotions.
- Stay present with it and allow it to create space between you and the emotion.
A Broader Use
This technique can be used anytime you’re feeling emotional to help you in the moment, but it can also be used as a regular practice to help you cultivate deeper self awareness, strengthen your mind and create a new baseline for your life of calm, stillness and clarity.
Take 5 – 10 minutes every day, or even a few times a day, to sit quietly and observe how you’re feeling. Not judging how you feel or your performance, just being present in the moment with yourself.
Find a bigger sense of you beyond the emotion.