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How to Overcome Anxiety

By Frank J. Kinslow

Is your mind always where you aren’t? Do you forget what you just did because your mind was thinking ahead of itself? Are you overwhelmed by all the “things’ you have to do? Do you get frustrated with slow moving traffic, finish sentences for other people or clean your mental laundry in the middle of a conversation with a co-worker? If so, you are employing what I call futurethink.

Futurethink is unproductive thinking about the future and is harmful. Even if the outcome is positive, it always leaves us feeling stressed or unsettled. It creates anxiety, worry, stress, nervousness, dread and all number of phobias.

By definition, the future will never get here. The only thing you can know for certain is what is happening right now. Think of your mind as a rubber band. The more it dwells on the future, the more it feels stretched. Like that rubber band there is a breaking point. When the mind snaps you may suffer violent outbursts, migraine headaches, heart attacks, strokes or complete mental collapse. When your mind is focused on the present, it is relaxing the rubber band and creating a calm, productive and vital mental environment. This is what I call innerthink.

Do you remember how it was to be a child? Remember how fluid and easy your play was? The key to being an adult with a child’s heart is the same–learning to pay attention to what you are doing right now! Let’s try an exercise to demonstrate the value of innerthink.

Hold your hand out and look at it. Observe it for what it is, a hand. Do not entertain judgments like, “My hands are too small” or don’t add commentary like, “I remember when I broke my little finger.” Just look at your hand as if for the first time, or as if it belongs to another person. Note the texture of the skin, the way the skin forms around the knuckles, which finger is second longest. Slowly make a fist and see which knuckles bend first. Feel the muscles and tendons working inside the hand when you do. Wave your hand through the air and feel the breeze between your fingers. Rub your hand on your arm and feel the sensation of skin and hair on your palm. Then observe what the arm feels as your hand passes over it. Explore an object (A pen, a glass, or whatever is handy) by feeling it with your hand. Pay attention to the vibrant world of sensations and feelings, especially the feelings this object gives you. Do this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Think back to the experience you just had. During the entire exercise were you worried, upset, angry, sad, or anxious? Did you have thoughts about not paying the bills or about someone who has mistreated you? Immediately after you finished the exercise did you feel mentally awake, physically relaxed along with a general sense of well-being? When you are completely absorbed in what is, it cannot happen any other way.

It is impossible to worry about the future when you are paying attention to what you’re doing now. This is not deception or denial. You are not running away from your troubles, quite the opposite. Dwelling on the future, while ignoring the present, is the ultimate form of denial. It is the unfailing formula for anxiety.

Whenever you feel anxious, worried, frustrated or stressed you are practicing futurethink. The antidote to futurethink is innerthink, bringing your mind back to the present. Step outside and look up. Observe how the clouds and birds are supported by the sky. Don’t just look at the sky, look into it. Feel its depth and expansiveness. Notice how it makes you feel deeper and more expansive. Close your eyes and listen to every sound from every direction. Pay attention to everything, all day long. At the end of the day you will have more energy because innerthinking saves energy. You will be stunned at the strength and beauty and joy that blossom in your life just by being aware.

Read other articles and learn more about Frank Kinslow.

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