Here are 5 great little tools for when your mind goes on overdrive around a thought or situation. They work in a descending order- if 1 doesn’t work add or try #2 if that doesn’t work add or try #3 and so on.
REPLACE: Think about something else, look at something else, do something else. Try your best to pick a replacement that is healthy and wholesome. One of my favorite things is some vigorous tub scrubbing or cleaning in general but a run or other physical exercise works well as can making a call to check on how a friend is doing.
REFLECT: Look at the drawbacks of thinking this way- check in with the body. How does it feel to think this way? To be enraged, envious, fearful or anxious. Use caution, kindness and wisdom when investigating all feelings but particularly feelings of sorrow, betrayal, discouragement or doubt. We don’t want to reject these (or any) feelings outright. All feelings need time and attention to be processed. What we’re doing here is re-framing. Dropping out the content and focusing on the somatic, felt experience in the body.
REJECT: Ignore the thoughts. Much harder than it sounds right? This is similar to what we do on the cushion. We catch ourselves in the story- and we bring it back to the breath. In this instance- I’m usually doing # 1 or # 2 and I find my thoughts slipping back to the thought or event I’m trying to let go of. This is mindfulness at work- I’ve noticed and I go back to scrubbing, running or reflecting. This needs to be done with a good measure of kindness- it’s like we’re training a puppy. The energy behind the “rejection” is more of an even keeled “nope, nope, nope” rather than “ !$@#, what the, STOP!, cut it out already”
RELAX: This one is really good when you’ve been surprised by a sudden confrontation or situation that is triggering. If you’re in an active situation, walk away if you can. But these techniques can easily be used in stealth mode if walking away isn’t an option. Take some long deep breaths, do some stretches or go through the body contracting muscle groups and then releasing them. Remember you can do this in conjunction with the earlier techniques- be creative with it. See what works. No two situations are the same- we’re always adapting our strategies to fit the circumstances.
RESTRAIN: Restraint in this context is like a last ditch effort to avoid an impending outburst or violence. You’re right on the edge of unleashing a vicious judgement that you’ve been holding, like an ace up your sleeve. Perhaps the power of the emotion is urging you towards a physical confrontation. Violence towards your self or another. There’s an intention to harm here so action needs to be taken. There is a passage that describes restraint in the following way “like a large man would grab a weak one by the head or throat and crush him, beat him down”. My inclination is to see the constriction present in these emotional states and to further bear down using all of our awareness- compressing it towards the center as though the emotion was a star that was going super nova. Contracting inwards, crushing the impulse to do harm.