A Quick and Effective Way for Dealing with Overwhelming Anxiety or Worry

by Nathaniel S. Prentice, MSW, LCSW

Feelings of overwhelming anxiety can be very uncomfortable. When I was in graduate school, I found myself easily overwhelmed by the fact that I would have 2-3 20 page papers due a week, and I would have problems sleeping as a result of worrying about the schoolwork that was due. Falling asleep was a chore, and I would wake up in the middle of the night wondering how I was doing in school.

Fortunately, I discovered a method that is very helpful for dealing with anxiety, stress, and overwhelming worry. I don’t have a name for it, but essentially it localizes the anxiety and shoots it out of you, then gives you a space to receive strength and courage that you may need to cope with the situation that creates anxiety. It is based in part on hypnosis protocols and “grounding” techniques used in therapy with people who have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as a therapy technique called Focusing, created by Eugene Gendlin.

I’m sharing it with you in the hopes that you will benefit from it. In sharing it, I hope that you will contact me and let me know what you think of it. I can be reached at nprentice@psychchoices.com if you have questions or comments about it.

These are the steps that I use when I do it and when I teach it to clients of mine.

  1. Notice your anxiety and rate its uncomfortableness on a scale of 1-10, 10 worst.

  2. Localize your anxiety: If it was in a place in your body, where would it be? What shape would it have? Would it be a solid, liquid, or gas? What color is it? Does it have a texture?

  3. Imagine hooking up tubes, or a line of light, or some other similar image to it. Imagine the tubes going from the object you identified to your shoulder and out through your index finger to the furthest spot on the horizon that you can imagine.

  4. Imagine the object of anxiety moving along the tube on its own (you don’t have to force it–it wants to go of its will) until it is at the tip of your index finger.

  5. Flick your index finger in the direction of the spot on the horizon and imagine the object of anxiety or worry flying out beyond the horizon to the furthest spot in the Universe.

  6. Repeat steps 1-5 as needed until you feel the anxiety is pretty much gone.

  7. Put your palm up in a receiving gesture and ask God, your Higher Power, the Universe, or your Best Self to give you the strength and courage you need. Sit and wait for it until you feel at least some change.

  8. When you are ready, notice how you feel and rate its uncomfortableness on a scale of 1-10, 10 worst to see if there is some change from your first score.

  9. Notice any new insights you may have now that you are more free of anxiety.

This technique is best used when you are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or worry for a quick break from the anxiety creating thoughts and feelings. I hope you enjoy it and would love to hear your feedback on it.


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