Do you often feel like there are a million things going on in your mind? Like your brain is caught in the tornado from The Wizard of Oz, but there is no fairy godmother to swoop in and save you? Never fear because you are not alone.
What is the tornado?
Let’s start with breaking down what is really happening when we feel our minds going a million miles per hour. This whirlwind feeling can often be connected to anxiety. Our brain has extensive, and almost magical, capabilities, one of which is the ability to dissect and analyze the situation in front of us. Now, this attribute can be extremely helpful should we be in a survival situation. In this case, we would need to think of all the possible scenarios so we can knowledgeably make the right decision to keep us alive. However, I think it is fair to say the majority of us do not experience survival scenarios on a daily basis…but our brain does not know that. Our brain reacts to needing to set a boundary with a friend as a life or death situation, and thus, we have our tornado.
In the example of setting a boundary with a friend, our brain may start to play out different scenarios that may occur in order to “prepare” ourselves for the attack to come. This includes a rush of adrenaline, a hormone that prepares your nervous system to fight or flee. In a non-survival event, this rush of adrenaline propels our minds into the tailspin of anxiety. Now we are not thinking logically about the situation, but we are thinking purely from an anxious perspective. From this perspective, we do not see or think clearly, which only brings on more anxiety.
Stopping the tornado
When we are stuck in the anxiety tornado, we often pick apart every possible event that could occur in every possible scenario. We may even try to predict the conversations that would take place so we can be prepared. However, none of these predictions are a reality. We will not know what will occur until it actually takes place, but there are still things we can do to break the anxiety tornado as well as prepare for an uncomfortable situation.
When it comes to refocusing our anxious energy, the first step would be to release yourself from the anxiety tornado that has been created. There are many tools that can be used to break the cycle. One example would be the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 tool. You begin by noticing five things you can see, then four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and lastly, one thing you can taste. This tool is excellent when it comes to refocusing nervous energy and bringing you into the present.
Evidence and Control
You are present and in reality, now what? Now you question the scenario with evidence instead of “what if” questions and overthinking. For a more in-depth explanation of this process, check out my blog post titled “Fact-Checking Your Feelings.” In short, you are going to analyze the situation using evidence and facts instead of having the anxiety take hold and spin you off into another tornado.
Another aspect to recognize is the things that are in your control versus the things that are not. We cannot control others or their reactions, but we can control what we think, feel, behave and respond to. With our newly acquired logical perspective, we can change or modify things we control while relinquishing the items we have no control over, thus, relinquishing the anxiety it brings.
After analyzing the scenario through a logical and peaceful lens and acknowledging what is not in your control, the once uncomfortable or stress-inducing scenario is no longer deemed as life and death. You can move forward knowing the facts of the situation and what you can control should you need to change or modify the situation. There may be more tornados in the future, but now you are ready to tackle them.
If you would like help managing overwhelming thoughts or emotions, give Tx Harmony Counseling a call at (832) 352-1600 or contact us here.