Stuck in a Rut?

   Written by on February 1, 2018 at 2:14 pm
Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Are you feeling confused, stressed-out, or just feel like you are stuck in a rut?  We all find ourselves with these feelings at times.  Sometimes we have just too much to think about; we end up feeling anxious, confused, stressed, and literally stuck in all of it.

For those situations, when you just want to say “Calgon, take me away!” try the time travel chair exercise.  The purpose of this exercise is to help you feel less anxious, less stressed and help you find your way of coping.

All you need is a couple of chairs (and a little privacy).

Step 1 is called “Get It All Out.”  Sit in the first chair and voice out loud all of your anxieties, all of your worries, all of the things you’re stressed about, all of the dilemmas, the thoughts, all of that stuff-say it.  Really, get it out.  Really feel it and experience it as you say it.

Step one has two benefits.  The process of expressing emotions is extremely good for the body and mind.  Not expressing your emotions leads to both physical and emotional problems, and has been linked to depression and disease.  So, expressing emotions is a kind of cleansing for the whole body.  The second part is that there is scientific proof that the specific naming of an emotion such as “I feel angry” actually reduces its intensity.  Just naming your emotions will reduce it immediately.

Step 2 “Move.”  Move to the second chair; now just imagine that everything worked out better than you could ever have dreamt.  Close your eyes and think that in six months, or a year, whatever it is for you, worked out better than your wildest imagination.  Meticulously visualize what that looks like – what is happening, where you are, who is around you, how you feel, everything has worked out just as you planned.

Why does this help?  The act of moving to a different position actually enables your brain to think in a different way.  Yes, scientists have done experiments to prove this.  By imagining a time in the future, you are shifting your focus away from your Amygdala – the fight/flight/freeze survival part of your brain.  You are shifting to your Pre-Frontal Cortex – the part of your brain that is concerned with your dreams, aspirations, and goals.  You’ll notice that when you do this, you immediately feel calmer, you are able to think more clearly, and things feel much more manageable.

Step 3 “Talk to Yourself.”  From the second chair, give yourself some advice.  Now look back at the first chair, where you were a moment ago.  Think of looking back at your present-day self with all the worries, all the anxieties, all of the stuff churning around inside, and give yourself some advice.  Give yourself some words of wisdom; for example, “take some time off, make time for your loved ones and friends.”

How does this work?  Step two literally puts you in a calmer frame of mind and you are able to access that wiser part of yourself.  A wiser part, that was there all along, just stymied by all of that worry, stress, and fear.

Step 4 “Take The Advice.”  Move back to the first chair, your original position, place a hand on your shoulder, repeat, and acknowledge the advice.  This is a tool known as anchoring.  In a nutshell, anchoring is done by pairing physical touch with a feeling you want to have.  You may have used anchoring before and not even known it.  Have you ever put a rubber band around your wrist and snapped it each time you were tempted to do something?  Say you don’t want to swear anymore.  Each time you swear, you snap the rubber band.  Ouch!  The idea is that you begin to associate pain with swearing, which makes you not want to swear.

Write down your words of advice so you can read them when anxieties or fears rise up again.  And, you can follow your own advice.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7

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Call us with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions; our phone number is 434-808-2637.

About Cheryl & Dennis Gowin

Cheryl Gowin, Counselor and Dennis Gowin, Director of Discovery Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues or questions at 434-808-2426 or dgowin@discoverycounseling.org.

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