Naming your emotions is a remarkably effective method for making them less intense.
Whenever you are feeling anxious (or fearful, angry, sad, ashamed, embarrassed, etc.) – you can begin the process of transforming that emotion, by calling the emotion by its name.
How can putting your experience of anxiety into words dilute its impact?
Anxiety is essentially an emotion expressed through the right hemisphere of the brain. When we name the emotion, we engage the left prefrontal lobe of our brain and this seems to bridge the gap between thoughts and feelings. Making an emotion the object of our cognitive scrutiny seems to diminish its raw intensity. It allows us to take a step back from the emotion. Rather than being caught up in the endless stream of thoughts and feelings, we can now metaphorically stand on the bank and watch the river flow by instead.
This method of labeling might sound silly at first, but ...
the research tells us it works. For example, neuroscience research by Matt Lieberman showed how acknowledging your anxiety can move reactivity in your brain from the automatic and reactive centres to the more conscious and deliberate ones.
In one study, participants in a brain scan were shown negative emotional images. When asked to label the emotion the images invoked, neural activity moved from the amygdala region (the seat of emotion) to the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain in which we do our conscious and deliberate thinking. In other words, purposefully acknowledging anxiety lets you pause your visceral reaction, allowing you to choose a more enhancing response.
You don't have to scream how you feel ....
it might be enough to say your emotion quietly to yourself. Just find what works best for you. Say to yourself: “Right now I feel…”
When I use this technique I say: "Hello anxiety my old friend, it's good to see you again. I know you're trying to help but I'm in control and I don't need you right now." I like to sing this to the tune of Simon & Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence which has the opening line: "Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again ....".
Writing about your anxiety helps too
As well as saying your emotions aloud writing them down in a notebook, in some detail can also help to reduce their intensity. Describe the way you are feeling when you become anxious. Use as many extreme, even exaggerated, fear words as possible because this can help dilute the intensity of the anxiety being experienced.
A surprisingly simple yet powerful technique
Naming Your Emotion/Feeling is a surprisingly simple technique that you can use to break the cycle of negative thoughts that are fuelling your anxiety. It can work not only for anxiety but any uncomfortable emotion/feeling that has a tendency to escalate. I recommend you give it a go.
And remember to pay attention to your pleasant and joyful emotions too. The more you’re able to recognize them and say them out loud, the more fully you’ll be able to enjoy those good feelings.
This is technique just one of many techniques I teach my anxiety and stress clients. If you are struggling with anxiety or stress and would like to be free of that struggle, call me today on 021 056 8389 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name & number, or use the Book Now button below.
Go well Tony
REMEMBER - "When you change your mind you change your life."
Tony helps people of all ages live their lives free of unnecessary stress, anxiety and depression, and be happier, healthier and more fulfilled.