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How Anxious Thoughts Can Hijack a Mediation

November 11, 2020  | 

{4 minutes to read} I recently attended a virtual lecture presented by Maryellen Dance, LMHC from Rochester, NY, focusing on fact versus fiction in terms of anxiety.

She had some very interesting suggestions to deal with anxiety that may be helpful, especially when you’re in a particularly anxious time of your life like separating from your spouse. Your fears of the future, or focus on the past, can hinder your progress in a mediation if they hijack your ability to be present in meetings and make proposals that are likely to lead to resolution.

Anxiety is a Pathological Liar 

It’s so easy to become entrenched in the spiral of anxious thoughts because anxiety does an amazing job of masking the present reality. And the longer that it’s been lying to us, the more difficult it is to see the irrationality behind it.

Dance proposes that there is an easy counter to it — reality and facts. You will need to be steadfast in your approach and repeatedly acknowledge the truth versus your anxious thoughts.

And if there is truth to your concerns, recognizing the anxious thoughts can help you to address the reality of your situation more positively as opposed to ineffectively reacting to the anxiety.

Anxiety Can Make Us Believe It’s a Good Thing 

But if I don’t worry about “x,” then “x” will happen. From personal experience, it takes much effort to step back and discern if your anxiety or worrying is helping. Is it productive in the sense of preparing for an actual event that will happen or motivating you to better attack a problem? Or is it just endless worry that keeps you from actually doing anything worthwhile, while negatively impacting your health and well being?

Dance suggests that when you recognize that you are beginning to become anxious, ground yourself in the present moment so you can then ask yourself, “are my anxious thoughts helpful?” For example, if you are anxious about your ability to pay your expenses, does that anxiety lead you to constructive action such as making a budget and figuring out a path to increasing your income? If these thoughts are not helpful to achieving an outcome, then try to recognize them as just another emotion that will pass.

Think About the Present 

Because anxious thoughts are by their nature a litany of rehashing past events, or anticipating the most awful outcomes that may happen, they prevent you from being present in the moment. While practicing meditation will help you to ground yourself more easily in the present, there are other steps you can take to bring yourself out of your head and into the present.

First, you have to recognize your spiral. As soon as you can see that your thoughts are taking you down that familiar road, stop. Dance recommends that you literally stare at an object in the room to bring you into the present moment. And take a few breaths to help you focus. 

Finally, we all have thoughts that make us feel anxious. That doesn’t mean that you should define yourself as an anxious person — which will just add another concern to make you feel even more anxious. Instead, try to recognize that these are just temporary, uncomfortable thoughts that will come and go. Having occasional anxious thoughts is normal. Letting those thoughts get in the way of being and living in the present moment is not.  

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

Attorney & Mediator
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Harrison, NY 10528
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