Methods for Dealing with Anxiety
When we are dealing with deadlines and the anxiety it incurs, there are at least a couple of ways to help with that.
How to Deal with Anxiety:
The Top Down Approach. As alluded to in Part 1 of The Stress of Working in the Entertainment Industry, Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk recommended two methods at altering stress. The breathing technique that I teach is a bottom’s up approach and is extremely effective in the heat of the moment. However the first part, the top down approach is required for long term change. This is more of treating the disease than treating the symptom. Mindfulness is where we’re going.
Long term stress actually shrinks the hippocampus. The hippocampus is involved in cognitive functions like learning and memory. As stress increases, there are many changes in the hippocampus which relate to synapse plasticity, neural activity, neurochemicals emission and other things that can really put a damper on your ability to function and can even contribute to psychopathologies such as depression, PTSD disorders and even schizophrenia.
So what does all this mean to you? It means that there are long term benefits to getting your stress under control. Ignoring this long term has really bad effects on you and your mental and even physical health.
I have a technique that I teach for meditation known as the No -thing Meditation.
When you breathe in think and say to yourself (but not out loud) “I’m not my body.” When you breathe out “I’m not my mind.” You can also do this via a mantra but I prefer to use the English verbiage. It just seems to work. The point of the exercise is to get to “Tabula Rasa.” A blank Slate with No-Thing in your mind and not focused on your body. It is at this point that you are singling out Spirit. So to re-iterate, when you breath in say silently to yourself, “I’m not my body,” when you exhale “I’m not my mind.” In it’s essence this is a Kabbalistic concept related to the emanation of the Kabbalistic concept of the Tree of Life.
Caveat: Thoughts are going to enter this space. Once you are aware that they are intruding, thank them and move them off to the side and go back to the meditation. This seems to lead to a deeper relaxation and level of meditation. Do not beat yourself up over this “failure.” It is no failure, it’s just what is known as “the monkey mind” and is inherent in all humans.
To Start, Do this for 10 minutes in the morning, and ideally, 10 minutes at night. If you can’t do 10 minutes then do 5 minutes and work up to 10. Where we are going: work up to 20 minutes per sitting. As you get accomplished with the technique you can change things up, bring in Divine White Light, Affluence or imagine that your feet grow roots and that you are connected to the earth (if you need grounding.)
Plato had a concept of mind body and spirit as being part of a three legged stool.
If you’re not your body, and you’re not your mind, all that is left is Spirit. Even if one is an atheist the concept of calming the bio-machine (body) and the software that runs it (mind) has efficacy. Many of my patients have described themselves as being troubled in spirit. When one is pressured by the cares of this world and the mind is working overtime, it has the same effect as putting us in a vice and we feel the pressure.
What we are attempting to do here is train the mind (the pre-frontal cortex) to take control and just observe our thoughts. Not judge them or criticize them, just be present, be here now and observe them and acknowledge them.
Ram Dass has come up with an interesting concept known as “Cultivating the Witness.” It’s absolutely one of my favorite ideas from him and it leads to the ability to cultivate mindfulness, which is what Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk has identified as the premium method for dealing with stress and and anxiety.
“The witness is actually another level of consciousness. The witness coexists alongside your normal consciousness as another layer of awareness, as the part of you that is awakening. Humans have this unique ability to be in two states of consciousness at once. Witnessing yourself is like directing the beam of a flashlight back at itself. In any experience — sensory, emotional, or conceptual — there’s the experience, the sensory or emotional or thought data, and there’s your awareness of it. That’s the witness, the awareness, and you can cultivate that awareness in the garden of your being.” ~ Ram Dass
I am Bill Leavitt and I am an Anxiety Therapist in Burbank, CA. I specialize in treating anxiety in the entertainment industry. If you are struggling with stress and anxiety and are in the Burbank, San Fernando Valley or Greater Los Angeles areas do give me a ring or send me a message. Allow me to help you overcome these plagues on your life. These are a couple of techniques but I’ve got a bunch more to share depending on your unique situation and circumstances.