Dear Candy: Q & A
Updated: Jun 15
Q: Can you address how to decrease rushing? Or incrementally train on it?
A: Rushing is a part of your nervous system being stuck in fight or flight. I would get clear on what the thoughts are that contribute to rushing, and treat them as automatic negative thoughts. Do some rounds around these thoughts, as they are likely (as least in part) triggering the rushing. The next piece that is important to add in here is grounding exercises: coming back into the present moment, the here and now, over and over again. A really simple way to do this is by "dropping anchor", as it is called in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). There are many ways to drop anchor. It typically involves first acknowledging what is showing up for you (i.e. rushing) without trying to get rid of it, then redirecting your attention to the present moment. You can start by pushing your feet into the floor, pushing your fingertips together, perhaps stretching your arms or moving your arms and legs purposefully, seeing and recognizing that while you can't control the feeling of rushing, you can control in this moment how you move your arms and legs. From here, look around your environment and notice three things you see, two things you hear, one thing you can feel. Perhaps include taste and smell too, if appropriate. This will help to bring you back to the here and now and help you to be more intentional about how you interact with the things you are doing. The goal is not to get rid of the feeling of rushing, but rather to make space for different choices when that feeling comes up (so it doesn't overtake you and dictate your actions). This exercise can be done relatively quickly (in less than a minute) or for longer more extended periods of time.
The key, like any kind of retraining, is to repeat it often, both in moments of rushing and moments of non-rushing so that you build your capacity to use the tool. Your mind will come up with all kinds of reasons of why you can't or shouldn't do this, or decide that it is not going to work before you even try. When this happens we have a choice; we can listen to those thoughts and let them dictate our actions, or we can notice them and give it a try anyway because we know that if we keep doing what we've been doing all along, change isn't going to happen.
This exercise can also be considered a form of incremental training. As you are noticing the impulse to rush and choosing to do this exercise rather than immediately getting into rushing, you are training yourself to respond differently. You can also add an elevated emotion afterwards (or during) to create a positive association with not launching into rushing, indicating to your brain that you are safe and content by making this choice.
Here is a link to free guided audio exercises on dropping anchor created by Russ Harris, one of the leading figures in ACT.
Q: Can you please address how to incrementally train on calm if a person doesn't feel anxiety but knows it is there?
A: Incremental training is typically used for something that currently triggers you, where you are trying to change your brain's association with that particular thing. In this case of anxiety, I would choose situations, circumstances, events that typically trigger anxiety (regardless of whether it is felt or just in your thoughts). If you are looking to address ongoing low level anxiety where there are not necessarily triggers that make it worse, then I would look at doing mindfulness or grounding exercises, in small ways, repeatedly throughout your day, to reset your nervous system.
Q: Any suggestions for training on Annie's meditation? I am able to listen to it but am very distracted and not able to focus on the instructions to relax. I have tried practicing by having it play in the background to get the brain used to it and also by slowly increasing the time I listen trying to focus but still am so distracted it does not seem to benefit me.
A: There are many different types or forms of meditation. If one isn't working for you, then try another. I highly recommend the Insight Timer App, as there are a ton of different types of guided meditations of varying lengths that you can experiment with and see what appeals to you and fits better with your needs. Often people doing a scripted brain retraining program get stuck in rigid thinking - if they don't do it exactly how it is designed or don't do all the parts, they are not going to recover. That simply isn't true. There are many ways to retrain the brain and many different meditations that serve the same purpose. Be willing to try out different ways of doing the same thing. Of course this requires us to have an understanding of what it is that we are trying to accomplish so that we can pick a suitable alternative.
Also remember that teaching your brain to focus on one thing at a time is a skill. As with any skill, it takes time and practice to develop. Every time you catch your mind wandering and bring it back to present moment, you are reinforcing the neural pathways that help you to focus. Doing this is building your skill. There is a lot of value in that, so rather than seeing it as a negative that you can't focus, see you catching yourself and returning your attention to the present as a positive. Repeated over time, those pathways get stronger and it becomes easier to keep our attention and concentration on one thing.
The other factor that influences our ability to concentrate is our nervous system. When we are in a stressed state, focusing becomes all the more challenging. There have been times in the past where I had to do Joe Dispenza's meditation twice (50 minutes long each time) in order to settle my nervous system enough to focus and stay in an elevated emotional state. I chose to stay in meditation until I reached that level of settledness because that was Dr. Joe's advice at the time - don't get up until you feel differently. And it worked. It just took a lot longer some days, and that is okay. And if we don't have two hours, we bring mindfulness into the present moment as we go, we focus on the movements we are making, we do our activities with intention, we stop and connect with our breath, and we repeat this throughout the day to create a new baseline of settling in our system.
Q: In your experience have you ever run across any examples of certain diseases/symptoms that rewiring would not work well to alleviate or cure? In the beginning of rewiring, everyone always stresses the point of putting everything under the umbrella of limbic system impairment, so this was a question I've had for a while.
A: In my experience, pretty much every condition can benefit from rewiring the brain and calming the nervous system, at least to an extent. This is because rewiring the brain and calming the nervous system have a direct impact on all the major systems of our bodies, including brain function. As we come out of a stress response and back into a state of wellbeing, our immune system is boosted, our detoxification & digestive systems start working more efficiently, our cardiovascular & respiratory systems are being signalled in ways that are conducive to optimal wellbeing, we have access to the frontal lobes in our brain so we can make better decisions, problem solve, and feel more able to see the bigger picture and handle the events/situations that are arising in our lives.
That being said, limbic system impairment isn't always the whole picture and sometimes it can be helpful to have other physical supports in place to help speed up the healing process. For example, people working with Lyme disease have, at times, benefitted from physical supports for the body at the same time as rewiring. I have also witnessed people in the acute phase of a concussion, finding that rewiring the limbic system was only part of the picture. They benefitted from functional neurology in addition to rewiring, where other parts of the brain could be targeted and rehabilitated at the same time. I myself took a supplement regimen to support adrenal function for a year, which I started a couple of months into the rewiring process for chronic fatigue. I have no doubt it had a positive affect on my recovery. I believe that rewiring the brain is definitely a component to pretty much any issue, but again, it isn't always the whole picture. It worth starting with retraining though and seeing how far you can get before considering adding other things, because sometimes it actually is enough on its own, and I have yet to see a condition that hasn't been helped in some way by retraining.
Until next time!
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Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com