Severe stress or panic attacks are moments when you feel you have no control over what’s happening around you, you have no control over your mind and body, and is a direct result of uncontrolled excessive thinking about something – usually something negative. You’re expecting a result, you’re projecting your thought process into that future, and you’re looking at the consequences of that thing happening or not happening. It’s always in the future, it’s always result-oriented, and it always reflects some adverse effects of the desired result. If the result is not favorable, your mind is lost; you’re lost. You don’t know what to do.
Creating an Anchor
Panic attacks and sudden outbursts of anger or stress cannot simply be controlled by the environment or the situation that you’re in. Your mind is projecting itself into the future, and you are lost somewhere in the future. Unless you have a regular habit of learning how to come back to the present moment, you cannot simply spring to the present moment without an anchor. Even the thought process that “Okay, now you’re getting stressed, you’re getting anxious, just come back to your breath, just relax” can’t happen. You should have created enough opportunities where you have told this to yourself.
If you just try to do this for the first time, it is impossible, because where is the memory of it? It’s like this: When you are surrounded by a certain emotion, that emotion engulfs you completely. Relaxation is a different state of mind to stress. Stress and relaxation cannot be accommodated within the same emotional framework, because they’re fundamentally different emotions. The effects of stress on your body and the effects of relaxation on your body are opposite because they are opposite states of mind. Similarly, when you’re in a stressful state of mind you can only generate stressful thoughts. When you are lost in stressful thoughts, you can only be stressed. You can’t bring in an opposite thought process that will calm the stress level without creating the habit, without practice. This is where you need to understand how your mind and your body function.
Thoughts and Emotions
We tend to think that we can achieve everything just by thinking because it is possible. We can plan for the future, and we can do a lot of things with our thinking, but thoughts have no power over our emotions; thoughts are always subservient to our emotions. Thought is like a train that can only run on the tracks of emotions. If you change the track, put the thought on a different emotional track, it’ll simply run on it. If it is not compatible with that track, it will not run, but will just fall off. When you catch yourself running certain thoughts, you should know that you are in a certain state of mind.
You can conquer stress and panic attacks not with thoughts, but by changing your state of mind. This is where the trick is: You cannot use a thought to change the state of your mind, but you have to use something totally different. What else do you know apart from your thoughts? Is there anything else apart from your thoughts? Of course, there is!
Apart from your thinking and being lost in thoughts, you have a body. You have your legs, your hands, your breathing, your heartbeat, your muscles and bones, and you have your whole physicality. Why don’t you use your physicality to control your emotions? Why don’t you learn to use your body to control your emotions? That is the most practical, logical, and scientific way of approaching your emotions.
Recognizing the Cycles of the Mind
Instead of using your body in times of emotional distress, what youusually do is completely let go of it. You start searching for other kinds of thoughts to take control of your mind, which is just not possible because you are in a certain state of mind. When you are in a fearful state your mind can only generate fearful thoughts. Even if a positive thought tries to enter it, because the track is of fear, either it can run on the fearful track and become fearful itself, or simply drop off. A nice, positive thought begins, but it does not take hold in that state of mind. Even a positive thought becomes negative in a negative state of mind.
You need to understand that these negative states of mind are just habitual things that happen to us: They have no purpose. Just like the body regulates your temperature and keeps you balanced when you’re about to trip, the mind does the same thing. It sometimes puts you in a negative state, sometimes it puts you in a neutral state, and sometimes it jolts you – it scares you! Not for any special purpose, just because this is the way the mind functions. This is the way the mind sustains itself.
If the body gets too hot, it will sweat. That is its mechanism to cool down. When the mind is totally relaxed, when the mind is not agitated, is not disturbed, it craves for disturbance. When there is no disturbance, the mind is lost. This is when the “What am I? What is my purpose?” questioning begins, because for us, even relaxation is to be with certain relaxed thoughts. We really don’t know what it is to relax meditatively, relax existentially. Of course, there is some type of relaxation which will feel perfectly natural to you, but all of the relaxations are simply of the mind.
The mind cannot simply be in one state all the time, just like the body cannot be in one state all the time. You eat food, you do some exercise, and after a while it begins to get hungry. Why? It begins to get hungry because that is the process. The body has a cyclical process: Activity/rest, heat/cold, hunger/states of non-hunger. Our mind is exactly the same: Happiness/sadness, stress/relaxation. Because we have not accepted this nature of the mind, when the mind puts us into certain difficult and stressful situations, we tend to think it is something completely abnormal – it is happening only to us. “I’m not able to control what’s happening around.” In fact, that is the natural functioning mechanism of the mind. How you go beyond it is to fully understand the nature of the mind, is to fully understand how emotions work, and when you get into those negative emotional states you just need to hold on.
This will Pass
A single thought process that can conquer so much negativity is the idea that “This will pass. It’s not going to always be like this.” Even if you want to hold on to that stress, even if you want to make it permanent, you will not be able to. Eventually, whether you want it or not, you will come out of it. Since you have not chosen to be in that state, it is difficult to choose to come out of it, because it is a combination of a lot of things. It’s a combination of the way you have looked at your mind, the way you have looked at situations, and how long you have been in those stressful situations. It has become a pattern.
The only thing that you can do is to learn how to step away from all these thought processes and simply come back to the body. Just observing the breath, the sensations of the body, or switching your awareness from thoughts to just listening seems extraordinarily simple. In fact, it is simple. For example, when you’re taking a walk and you’re thinking about something – you’re thinking about the consequences of that thing, and suddenly there’s a rush of anxiety, stress.
Coming Back to the Body
Instead of thinking about consequences, just listen to what is happening around you. You might listen to the sounds of the birds, or the sounds of the vehicles, or people talking. Immediately you are shifting your landscape of reality from somewhere lost in your thoughts to what is happening around you. There is nothing really happening immediately around you that is causing you that stress unless someone is pointing a gun at you, or someone is threatening you. Thankfully, that kind of stress is rare; we don’t experience that sort of stress that often. The stress we usually experience is the one that we have created because of our mental process, because of our thinking.
Coming back to the body appears extraordinarily simple, and it is simple, but unless you have practiced it, you will not be reminded to do it. When it is really necessary, when it is required, you do not remember it because you’re in a different state of mind. When you do remember to come back to the present moment, you automatically relax. For whatever reason, the mind goes through that process of stress and comes back to relaxation. That is when you will remember, “I wish I could have just simply observed my breath. I wish I could have just simply sat and taken a break.” You will recognize how easy it is to step out of those states when you’re reflecting on those situations, and actually not in that state. “Why do I get into those states? Now I’m feeling happy. Now my life is good, but when I’m in those states I cannot control myself.” It’s because you are engulfed by that emotion.
Dealing with Emotions
When you’re dealing with emotions, you cannot give instructions. When you are engulfed by a certain emotion you cannot tell yourself, “All right, just sit and relax.” Even when you sit quietly, you will be stressed. Even if you run, you’ll be stressed. Even if you jump in the water to swim, you’ll be stressed because you’re in that emotional state. The only way to jump out of the emotional state is to use your body as the anchor.
This is difficult to understand if you start thinking in terms of concepts. This is not a concept: I mean exactly what I’m saying. I’m not interpreting anything. I’m saying that when you are beginning to feel the stress, just come back to the sensations of the body – whatever that is. Just shift your focus and awareness to the body; the stress of the body, the pain of the body, the way you’re breathing. Get into the existential framework that you are in at that very moment. That will bring you to the present moment. The first few times you will not be able to do this, you will only think about it later. After a little bit of practice, you will be able to do this easily. Then you will realize that everyone is going through the same problem – everyone.
There’s not a single person who is not suffering from stress, anxiety, or panic attacks. It’s just that they have learned how not to express it; they keep it hidden within. However, if you were to actually look at the minds of people, most of the time it’s terrifying because they have figured out that it’s not good to express that state outwardly. A lot of people don’t even seek help, because they think it is something totally negative. You will realize that everybody’s going through the same problem, and the solution is as simple as: Just step away from that mental process.
Bringing in Your Senses
As long as you have a mind, you will be stressed. As of now, you are dealing with the mind as if it is the only ingredient that is available. You are trying to cook a fabulous dish using only one ingredient: That is thought. You’re wanting to use it for everything. If you are garnishing, you’re adding thoughts. For taste, you’re adding the same thoughts. There’s no variety! Why don’t you bring something different to the dish? What is something different? You have five senses and your mind is simply an enveloping sixth sense – that’s it: The sense of thinking.
Sometimes just use your sense of seeing; just try to see, not think. Sometimes just listen, or just smell. Sometimes just taste. If you’re getting stressed, if you’re not able to do anything else, just take some chocolate and put it in your mouth, or have a cup of coffee. Even the simplest of things will work, but whatever you do, you’ve got to do it in reality, in the present moment, using your body. Anything other than thinking about a solution is the right solution. Anything other than, “How do I get over this problem? I have to find a solution to this. Let me think about it.” That is not the solution.
Don’t “Think” About it
Thinking about a solution for stress will stress you more, so the solution for stress is something totally different – totally different ingredients, a totally different flavor, which is your body. Using your body and your senses, you can absolutely control your emotional states. When you are beginning to notice that you are losing control of your mind and thoughts, just say, “All right, I want to move away from my thinking sense, to listening, to feeling, to being in the moment. With a little bit of practice, you will be able to do it.
Initially, the mind will not allow you, because it is more powerful. Your habit of being with the body has not kicked in, but the habit of being with the mind has become very strong, has become set in concrete. To break that, it will take a while. This is what mindfulness is. After a while, you will see what a beautiful asset the body is, what a marvelous friend the body is and what a bloody nemesis the mind is. The moment you see all these things clearly and begin to practice mindfulness, meditation, and being in the moment, gradually you will be able to go beyond your severe stress and anxiety. It won’t happen immediately. It won’t happen just tomorrow, but for sure you will go beyond it within a matter of a few months or a few years.
This is a proper, long-term, and permanent solution. If you try to get rid of stress just at that moment by drugs or alcohol or doing something that your body and mind don’t like, it’s only going to be a momentary solution. It’ll come back again. A gradual approach is always best.
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