The video below explains some of the consequences that arise when we aren’t careful about how we manage our emotions and other negative experiences, and how the way we react to our emotions can cause us to suffer:
In a previous post we looked at some ways to practice letting go of thoughts, but it can often be difficult to let of thoughts because they have such a powerful pull, especially when the thoughts are related to a strong emotion.
In this post we’re going to look at some things you can do to get some separation from your thoughts when your emotions are particularly strong and you’re having some thoughts you’re finding hard to let go.
Steven Hayes, who developed Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), coined the term “cognitive fusion” to describe times when we are so tightly stuck to our thoughts, we become “fused” to them. When we’re experiencing cognitive fusion, we can’t separate ourselves from our thoughts. Our thoughts become our reality. We feel removed from the world outside of our thoughts, removed from our senses, from what we’re doing, and even from the people around us.
In a recent post we looked at how mindfulness can help us let go of our thoughts when we get caught up in ruminating or worrying or just thinking in circles. Letting go of thoughts is never easy, however, and in this post we’ll look at how simply watching our thoughts can help us let them go.
Thoughts pop into our heads all the time, and usually we don’t pay any special attention to them: they enter and leave our minds all on their own, just like a car that drives into our line of sight, remains in our field of vision for a few moments, and then drives along and passes out of our line of sight again.
It’s easy to get swept away by our thoughts, especially in the face of strong emotions. We get stuck ruminating and dwelling about the past, filled with guilt or regret. Or our minds start racing and we can’t stop worrying about the future and imagining all the things that could go wrong. Or we replay conversations over and over again in our heads, trying to make sense of them or figure out what we could have said differently.
When our minds get going like this, not only is it exhausting; these patterns of thinking tend to make us feel bad, intensifying the emotions we’re already feeling and generating additional negative emotions as well. Because this experience is so unpleasant, it’s natural to want to these thoughts to stop, and to be able to prevent yourself from even having them in the first place. We often wind up trying to make these thoughts go away, and shut them out completely and make sure they don’t come back. But just like we can’t control our emotions or suppress our emotions, neither can we control or suppress our thoughts.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety or distressing emotions, it can be diificult to know how to manage these feelings.
Often we allow our stress and anxiety and emotions to build and build all day without doing anything to calm them, trying to just ignore them and hoping they’ll go away. Then, when we finally can’t take it anymore and start feeling overwhelmed and desperate, things have often accumulated too much and begun to spiral downwards and it can be so hard to get any relief.
The more we allow stress and distressing emotions to accumulate, the more difficult they become to address. That’s why one of the keys to managing our feelings is to find ways to not let them build up so much in the first place.
One effective way to accomplish this is with an exercise called STOPP. STOPP is designed to help you stop stress and anxiety in their tracks, as soon as you begin to notice them, rather than waiting until they become overwhelming. Read More
- external events outside our control
- spontaneous emotions, thoughts and memories
- pain or physical sensations
Below you’ll find a number of guided MP3 files of mindfulness meditations and breathing exercises. You can play them from this page, or right-click on the download link and select “Save Link As …” to save them to your computer, phone or tablet.
Mindful Breathing Meditation: A mindful breathing meditation used in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). The entire meditation is 30-minutes in length, but a bell sounds at 10, 15, 20 and 25 minutes, so you can use this MP3 for meditations of different durations to suit your needs. [download]
When you focus your attention on your breath, things start to slow down. Physiologically, your heart rate slows, your blood pressure drops, and any tightness or tension you feel tends to relax. Breathing mindfully also calms your emotions, making them more manageable, and helps slow down a racing mind.
In the next post, we’re going to learn a few techniques to help you follow your breath, but first, it’s important to ensure that you’re breathing in a way that helps calm you, rather than in a way that can increase your level of stress.
In a couple of recent posts, we looked at some things you can do to help stop stress and anxiety from becoming overwhelming, and to give yourself a breathing time out from stress, anxiety and depression. In this post, we’ll look at a couple more techniques you can use to manage stress and anxiety, and to help your emotions from becoming overwhelming if you’re experiencing depression or anger.
The first is called the Three Minute Breathing Space, and it was developed as part of the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy program for people with depression. Like the Breathing Time Out, it’s a way to bring your attention to the present, give yourself a break from whatever stress or emotions have been building up, and then return to the rest of your day, more refreshed and focused on the present.
Just as a time out can be an effective way to help children calm down when they are acting out and starting to get out of control, when our thoughts and emotions start getting carried away, a time out is a great tool to help calm ourselves.