Caregivers’ Corner: Tricks to Tame Anxious Thoughts

Joan Jackson
By Joan Jackson March 15, 2012 01:00

When your brain careens around the block for the 39th time, worrying the same worry or making the same list, it’s time to make it stop.

Stress and anxiety can send our brains into hyper-drive, causing thoughts to loop over and over, interrupting our sleep, and making it hard to complete even simple tasks. It’s exhausting.

Most of us know it helps to keep notepads next to the bed and in the kitchen, to record the 2 a.m. “Darn, I forgot!” and to capture our endless day-to-day “to do” list. However, like the memory of a bad song that just won’t go away, there are times when intrusive, compulsive thoughts keep on running.

Here are three approaches to stopping those thoughts. Try each, and use the one that works best:

1. Close your eyes and count backward from 50 by sevens until you run out of numbers. When you run out of numbers, firmly say the word “Stop” out loud. Effort is important, but accuracy is not. The point is simply to stop the mind chatter. If numbers are easy for you, start at 100.

2. Close your eyes and visualize a small object that is familiar and has neutral associations for you. It should be something you’ve handled frequently over a period of time. With your eyes closed, imagine its color, shape, weight and texture, everything that you can remember about its appearance. When about a minute has passed, firmly say the word “Stop” out loud.

3. Visualize a place that is familiar to you. Pick one that has pleasant or neutral memories for you. It should be outdoors, a place that you go walking, fishing, biking, or just to sit and relax. Imagine it in your mind, the landscape, the horizon, the foliage, the colors, the sky, and the smell. When a minute has passed, firmly say the word “Stop” out loud.

It is important to actually say the word “Stop.” It tells the subconscious mind that you’re really done. Move on to a simple activity immediately afterward. If you poke around to see if the intrusive thoughts will come back, they will. Instead, take a few deep breaths, go brush your teeth, load the dishwasher, or take a short walk.

Jackson is a partner with Peter Carrillo in Practical Dreamer (588-1835). Services include free caregiver support groups sponsored by Area 12 Agency on Aging.

© 2012 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Joan Jackson
By Joan Jackson March 15, 2012 01:00