Article- Parenty Blog- June 2020
Blast Your Anxiety Away
A scientific brain hack to bust through your fears! Take action steps to move beyond what’s stopping you.
I came across this technique last year by Mel Robbins(author, television host and motivational speaker). It seemed too simple but I tried it and it worked. It’s become one of my regular ‘self-help tools’, especially the last few months, and I’ve even taught it to my 6 year old daughter. It truly can assist anyone and everyone. If you don’t believe me, then numbers don’t lie… Her first TEDTalk where Robbins shares this method has been viewed by over 23 million people!! Here is the link if you’re interested to watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/mel_robbins_how_to_stop_screwing_yourself_over?language=en (it’s 21mins, so sit down with a cuppa tea).
It’s called The Five Second Rule. I’ve summarised it in my own words and given you the basic steps to try it for yourself. Whenever you have an impulse, you have a 5-second window to either take action or slam the breaks. If you have fears, depression or anxiety constantly troubling you, try this:
Step 1: When you start to feel your anxiety, anger, fear or overwhelm bubble up inside you, your body will send you a signal. Your heartbeat will race, fists clench, jaw tightens, stomach twist. Whatever your body signs are, you feel it and become aware of it.
Step 2: Next you implement The Five-Second Rule, which is counting 5-4-3-2-1… only backwards works. (I’ll explain why just now). Hit the pause, count and take some deep breathes. What you do here is interrupt your thought process. Or as I call it, the negativity spiral.
Step 3: Then you have a Go-To-Thought and/or vision to repeat and visualize. Example of calming thoughts: I focus on the positive. I am grateful for my family. I can do this. I am capable of. I can handle this. I am okay, it will be okay. You may vision yourself standing in a forest, walking on a beach or on top of a mountain. Your favourite place in nature usually is a good one to go with. You have now successfully interrupted your thought waves of destruction!
You may ask, what makes this highly effective from other de-stress techniques? (I thought the same). Here is the basic explanation: When you count backwards your brain has to focus and it engages your pre-frontal cortex which is the part of the brain to process planning, decision making and self-control.
Usually, our stress thoughts go directly to the amygdala (back of brain) which is where emotional behaviour and motivations are processed. It then triggers stress hormones, causing an increase in your anxiety, confusion and elevates fight/flight/freeze responses in the body. You can now understand why you can’t shake off or get a grip of the fear or anxiety.
Whereas, if you re-route the neurons (brain waves) to the pre-frontal cortex, you access clear thinking and keep your body in a neutral zone. This will support you to move through and process the problem or anxiety much easier.
I truly hope you will give this a go and please teach this self-regulation tool to your children as well. You can share a rocket analogy: Ask them to put their fear, anger or worry into a rocket ship, countdown(5,4,3,2,1) and then launch that rocket into space. This will bring them a sense of release as they’ve connected to their imagination which helps kids (and adults) to bring our creative mind into play. It has an immediate effect to ease tension and stress response. Then you can squash that problem with calm, solution-driven, rational thinking.
As quick as 5 seconds come and go…this rule can rescue you, from being swallowed up by your anxiety. Rather re-direct, take action and reach the stars of happiness and potential you’re destined for! 5-4-3-2-1 and GO!!