In Part 2, I provided you with the tools to eliminate two of the squatters running your thoughts: the Inner Critic and the Worrier. Here are the tools to evict some more and to further help you master your mind.
Master Your Mind with Conscious Breathing
Squatter #3: The Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor
Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers, but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.
The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response, just like with the Worrier, so, the physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain.
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
- Shallow breathing or breathlessness
- Muscles tension
I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.
Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.
Breathe in through your nose.
- Feel the air entering your nostrils.
- Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
- Focus on your belly rising.
Breathe out through your nose.
- Feel your lungs emptying.
- Focus on your belly falling.
- Feel the air exiting your nostrils.
Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize. Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.
One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the Sleep Depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.
Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!
Squatter #4 – The Sleep Depriver
(He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)
I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep. Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.
- I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
- Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.
When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.
From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.
- For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.
If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!
You can also use this technique any time you want to:
- Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
- Shut down your thinking.
- Calm your feelings.
- Simply focus on the present moment.
Using Conscious Breathing with the Worrier
You can also use conscious breathing when the Worrier goes critical; when he hits fear and panic mode, making thinking difficult. Only in this case, you will exhale through your mouth, and make the exhale longer than the inhale.
You Can Be the Master of Your Mind, or a Slave to It
A sleep clinic just opened in my small town, which tells me how prevalent sleep disorders and deprivation are.
Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes. You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy. Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!
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