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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Overcome Fear and Anxiety with These 4 Mindset Shifts

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Overcome Fear and Anxiety with These 4 Mindset Shifts

It’s your first day on the job. You’re at a meeting of 40+ colleagues.

“Listen up every one, here’s our newest team member!”

All eyes turn to you.

“Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us all an interesting fact about you?”

Instant panic.

Adrenaline levels? 11/10.

All words gone, replaced by sub-Saharan dry mouth.

Blushing, trembling or total amnesia…Sound familiar?

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You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority.

This is just one of the many common types of anxiety we can experience. Whether it’s social gatherings you’ve talked yourself out of, holding back at work in fear of judgement, or catastrophizing situations before they happen, anxiety can manifest itself in different ways for all of us.

If this is a daily battle for you — an exhausting and defeating inner battle that’s preventing you from truly living authentically and being in the moment — then you should be applauded. You’re already ahead of the pack because you’ve made that conscious decision to find out what anxiety is and how to overcome it.

Rest assured, you’re going to find out.

What You Need to Know About Anxiety

Did you know that nearly 300 million people[1] suffer from anxiety in some form? These feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease that arise in reaction to (or in anticipation of) something painful or uncertain are, sadly, “normal” feelings to experience.

It may be normal because many people experience it, but it’s not something you were born with (although there are some genetic tendencies that can mean you’re more prone to it). It’s actually something your brain has learned how to do.

Have you ever seen an anxious or self-conscious baby? Coming out of the womb worrying if they sound weird or look funny? So you see, anxiety is something that we’ve learned to do. It’s “normal” because a lot of us have learned it.

How? Glad you asked…

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The Subconscious Mind: A Friend or Foe?

To understand how anxiety can be “learned,” it’s crucial to understand that anxiety isn’t something that happens on a conscious level. It begins in the subconscious mind. It’s the reason you can’t just switch the anxiety off (as much as you want to!) because it’s not a conscious process.

The distinction between the conscious and subconscious was effectively illustrated by Sigmund Freud’s[2] iceberg analogy. He likened the tip of the iceberg – the bit that sits above the water – to the conscious mind. It’s the bit we can “see,” and it’s the smaller of the two. It’s the least informed and it helps you talk, think, move, and act in daily interactions.

For example, if you’re hungry or if you trip and hurt yourself, your conscious mind sends the signal to get food or find painkillers.

Then there’s the rest of the iceberg, the part that’s submerged underwater – seemingly invisible – and crucial to the structure as a whole. This, Freud said, represents the subconscious mind. It holds your memories, feelings, and habits and controls your emotions. It can learn things like how to create anxious feelings because it’s malleable, meaning it can change and be influenced by our life experiences. Scientists call this phenomenon neuroplasticity[3].

“The idea that the brain can change its own structure and function through thought and activity is, I believe, the most important alteration in our view of the brain since we first sketched out its basic anatomy and the workings of its basic component, the neuron.”[4]

From the time you were born to the age you are now, your mind has been changing and forming new neurological patterns. Whether they are good or bad depends on what you’ve been through. Panic attacks, depression, and suicide are all things that happen when your subconscious has taken on some pretty destructive thought patterns, telling you that you’re not good enough, you don’t deserve to be here, or you can never be “fixed.”

This is because, as human beings, our subconscious minds[5] are programmed to lead us away from pain and toward pleasure. It’s human instinct, and it likes what’s familiar to it. Moments of impact in our life cause us to make new patterns or break old ones, but ultimately the longer you do or think something, the more it just feels natural and begins to happen automatically.

How Did I Learn Anxiety?

When it comes to anxiety, your subconscious mind learned to cause feelings of worry, unease, and stress when a specific trigger was pulled. It’s different for all of us, but if your trigger is public speaking, for example, your automatic reaction after being told about it could be a knotted stomach, dread, and images of you failing or looking nervous. And those images are played over and over again.

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Take a moment and think back to a time in your life — your first ever memory of feeling anxious, scared, or judged in some way. You might struggle to think of this consciously if it’s a particularly painful memory. That’s something the conscious mind has the power to do (not the subconscious). It can prevent the immediate recall of painful memories so that you don’t have to feel that pain again.

However, sometimes we need to address them, but it’s more effective to do so in a trance-like state during mediation or hypnosis, so you can really remove those conscious limitations…because your subconscious remembers everything. It remembers being bullied at school. It remembers when you struggled to make friends. It remembers that traumatic car accident. Whatever it might be, your subconscious filed that memory along with the pain associated with it, and it’ll do anything it can to stop you from feeling that pain again.

How does it do that? It makes you feel anxious, of course! The more anxious you feel, the more likely you’ll refrain from facing that pain again. Anxiety is actually trying to help you, but if you’re still reading, then chances are anxiety is not doing anything good for you now.

It’s preventing you from living a happy and free life where you can make friends easily, or get up and speak confidently, or feel relaxed in everyday situations, etc. Knowing all you know now, you’re well on the road to overcoming fear and anxiety. The next step is putting it all in action.

Mindset Shifts to Overcome Anxiety

First, to learn how to overcome fear and anxiety, you need to reflect on some situations that might have led your subconscious mind to form this understanding – everyone’s different, and your brain has created this reaction for you solely because of something it heard, saw, or felt in the past.

If you really struggle with this part, therapists (particularly hypnotherapists who specialize in communicating with the subconscious mind), can lend a hand here. Then, in order to change the pattern, you need to change it at a subconscious level – by shifting your mindset – and there are few ways you can do this.

1. Hypnosis

One of the most effective ways to reprogram your subconscious mind is through hypnosis. It’s a trance-like state, similar to meditation, where you can dialogue with your subconscious mind and give it positive suggestions.

During hypnosis, your brain waves shift from beta to alpha, meaning your subconscious mind is open and willing to listen to new thoughts and ideas. Hypnosis is not scary, and it’s not mind-control. It’s a direct way to talk to the subconscious, and it’s something you can do with a certified hypnotherapist or RTT therapist, or you can simply find the hundreds of free downloadable resources on the internet that can help you shift your mindset.

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2. Creative Visualization

Start meditating. Ultimately, the more you practice calming yourself down, the better you’ll be at it. Visualize yourself in the state in which you’d like to be. See yourself living calmly, happily and confidently – see it in great detail. Spend some time every day doing this with a good soundtrack and you’ll see that your thoughts and your mindset will begin to change.

3. Change Your Language

Stop identifying with anxiety and fear. If you’ve ever said, “my anxiety,” “I’m an anxious person,” or “it’s just the way I am,” then you’re owning it. Anxiety and fear are NOT who you are – it’s just something you do, and that’s ok. Soon it’ll be something you used to do (i.e. say “I feel anxious sometimes” instead of “I’m an anxious person” or “I have anxiety”).

4. Self-Talk

Did you know that your mind will believe to be true anything you continually say to it? If you tell yourself every day that you’re bad at public speaking or you always get anxious at work, then guess what? That’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Whether you write it down or say it aloud every day, list out the attributes of the person you want to be and tell yourself every day, for as long as it takes, that you’re that person. You’ll see just how effective this is.

When you identify the cause of anxiety and fear, it’s important to say thank you. Speak to the anxiety:

I understand why you came into my life, but I know now that I attached the wrong meaning to [event], and I no longer need to believe that I’m [not good enough/different/a bad communicator]. Today I’m deciding that I don’t need it anymore. Anxiety no longer serves me.”

Final Thoughts

These are genuine, proven methods that not only reduce anxiety but will help you overcome it for good. Your brain is malleable, and it can change. You just need to tell it how you want it and be gentle with yourself. You’re only human!

More Tips on Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Tim Trad via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Daina Worrall

Lawyer, C. Hypnotherapist and RTT Therapist - Personal Development & Mental Health

Overcome Fear and Anxiety with These 4 Mindset Shifts Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice) How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist) How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances

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Last Updated on November 8, 2021

How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

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How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Do you often feel stressed for most of your day? Maybe you always feel a burden that you just can’t get rid of? Focused meditation might be your answer.

In this article, I’ll explore what focused meditation is, how it differs in the pool of many styles of meditation, and how to implement and start this practice today. Likewise, I’ll highlight the benefits of a focused meditation practice for your overall health.

What Is Focused Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.[1] Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:

  • Mindfulness – this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
  • Concentrative – a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point; be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space you’re meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
  • Moving – this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.

Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase (also known as mantra) or a sound (such as Om).[2][3]

Whatever you settle your attention on becomes the focal point. None of these object examples are better than others—they are simply choices depending on what you’re looking to get out of your practice. For example, practitioners will choose candle gazing to interpret the images the flame makes in the shadows while others will choose a mantra because that particular phrase or word empowers or heals them.

How Does It Differ From Other Meditation Styles?

All meditation styles and practices overlap and build on each other. Their basic foundation is the same: to bring the practitioner insight and introspection.

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There is no right or wrong way to meditate, however, the various types of meditation can enhance particular qualities. Based on your personality and needs, one type of meditation may be more useful to you than the other. The 9 types of meditation are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Spiritual meditation
  • Focused meditation
  • Movement meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Loving kindness meditation
  • Visualization meditation

Focused meditation, specifically, is the practice of focusing on one single object for the duration of the practice. How this differs from other meditation styles is that it gives the practitioner something tangible to do: focus. It’s almost like giving your mind an action to perform—listen to this sound, repeat these words, watch this flame, etc. This is also one of the reasons why this particular meditation style is great for beginners!

One of the biggest challenges in any meditation practice is that the mind gets carried away and we lose ourselves to random thoughts. This “obstacle” is actually a style of meditation in and of itself called Vipassana.[4] However, in focused meditation, we give the mind something to do so that it’s not simply left to its own devices. This type of meditation is beneficial for beginners and for practitioners who prefer some structure and guidance to their meditations.

The Benefits of Focused Meditation

In this style of meditation, what you’re really doing is exercising your mental muscles. Your brain is highly affected by dedicated and concentrated meditation practice.

Scientists have performed countless studies on focused meditation and have found that active meditators have more gray matter volume in their brain and, therefore, offsetting the cognitive decline that comes with aging. So, not only does practicing focused meditation help you learn how to focus better on certain tasks, but it also improves similar functions, such as memory. [5]

Likewise, it helps in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which our society is currently crippled with.[6] By settling your attention on an object, you are essentially building your ability to observe your thoughts and sensations from a place of objectivity. This allows you to detach from negative self-talk that is often the breeding ground for depression and other mental illnesses.

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From a guided meditation for focus to practicing it yourself, daily meditation for focus comes with several benefits:

  • It’ll reduce stress
  • Help you to control anxiety
  • Enhance your self-awareness
  • Improve attention span
  • Helps you to focus on the present moment
  • Increase your creativity and imagination
  • And boost your patience and tolerance for things.

How to Practice Focused Meditation

Here are six tips to help you practice focused meditation. Based on your availability and interest, these tips may change and evolve. That’s the point: to create a structured practice that caters to your needs.

1. Find a Comfortable Seat

As with any meditation practice, comfort is truly key. The physical body responds to meditation practice by alerting you to whether it is comfortable and supported or stressed out and in pain. This is best observed in practitioners who tend to slouch and lose the tall, supported spine that is essential to meditation practice.

A simple rule in meditative sitting is to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. Therefore, choosing to sit in a chair instead of on the floor may be a smart decision or perhaps propping yourself up on a cushion. For meditation techniques overall, it does not matter how you sit. All that matters is that you are supported and comfortable sitting for some time.

2. Choose Your Object of Focus

Every meditation training session is going to be different because no single day is the same for any one person. Therefore, experienced meditators know that choosing an object is more about listening to what you need at this time versus following any doctrine or “rule.”

If you’re not sure and have a hard time deciding, make focusing on your breath and pay attention to the inhale and exhale is a good option. Then, assign each inhale and exhale a number, and once you reach 10, start over. This is one of the simpler methods of keeping your mind occupied—by giving it a task. This also trains your mind, and over time and with practice, your mind will easily focus on an object without too much effort.

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3. Set Your Desired Time or “Go With the Flow”

If you have a structured routine and would like to stick to your schedule, by all means, set a gentle timer for how long you’d like your meditation to be. This is also your opportunity to throw out the notion that any meditation has to be a certain length of time to be correct—it does not.

Likewise, if you have the time, you can also listen to your body and come out of your meditation when you feel it’s right to do so. This is often a beautiful practice of listening and tuning in.

4. Relax Your Body as You Focus on Your Meditation

Typically, when we are focusing on something, we tend to tighten our body. Observe this next time that you’re concentrating on something: your jaw will tighten and your shoulders will squeeze up towards your ears.

As you sink into your meditation, keep this in mind and check in with your body every once in a while. Let your shoulders sink down your back and release any tension through your jaw and face. Lastly, relax your brow and let your eyes be heavy in their sockets. Then, return to your object of meditation. Observe if your meditation changes at all by relaxing your physical body.

5. Return to Your Breath and Object When You Get Distracted

Notice that I didn’t say “if you get distracted.” That’s because you definitely will drift off with random thoughts or get pulled away from your object of focus. In meditation, distractions are almost guaranteed. Therefore, it’s your opportunity to practice detaching yourself from feeling guilty or inadequate to continue.

Over time and with practice, you will find it easier to stay with your object of focus. In the meantime, however, notice when you get distracted. Pause and take a big breath in and out. Check in with your physical body and relax. Once you’re ready again, return to your object of focus. Meditation is simply one long cycle of wandering and coming back to yourself.

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6. Journal Your Experiences

When your meditation practice has ended, another powerful practice is to jot down any experiences that you felt. There may have been insights and “downloads” that you acquired during your session that you may want to record.

Likewise, you could write about any challenges that you faced. These are great lessons that will continue to show up for you, and it’s nice to keep a journal of them to see how they evolve and progress over time (and they will). Lastly, you can write about what works and what doesn’t, as far as picking your objects of meditation go. This way, you can learn what you most associate with and feel comfortable with.

While these steps are simple, it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re starting out with a guided meditation for focus, loving kindness meditation, or transcendental meditation, anticipating failure the first time you try these things is healthy. Furthermore, congratulate yourself for even making slight progress like noticing and returning to the present moment and noticing the sensations you experienced.

Final Thoughts

If practicing meditation causes you to feel distracted and unsupported, give focused meditation a go! With the help of an object to bring your attention to, it structures your meditation time and offers guidance and support.

Dedicating yourself to this style of meditation will help increase your memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better cognitive function. Even though any style of meditation is a powerful way of taking care of your mental health, focused meditation gives your mind a tangible task with which to grow and strengthen.

More About Focused Meditation

Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

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Reference

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