Practice 3: Let Go of Worries and Physical Tensions

Let's review briefly. When you first notice yourself obsessing, begin by accepting it. Then choose either to postpone the obsession or modify the way you are obsessing.

After you have done either of those two, then your next task is to let go of those worries and return to your daily activities. If you're like most people, you will become physically tense and anxious when you try to stop these thoughts, so you also need to let go of those tensions.

There's two steps to take at this point. The first is to decide to stop the intrusive thoughts or images and reinforce your decision with positive statements to yourself. Mentally support yourself by saying such things as, "That thought isn't helpful to me right now; now is not the time to think about this; this is irrational, I'm going to let it go; I'm not about to argue with this thought." Literally sub-vocalize this kind of statement, and help yourself believe your own words. Don't just mentally recite lines you don't hold to be true.

Before you practice any of these options, be sure that you are really committed to getting rid of the particular worries you are addressing. Make this decision during a time when you are not in the throes of your obsessions--when you are feeling relatively calm and can gain perspective. Make sure this is a firm decision. Then choose an automatic response that reflects your position. For instance, you might decide that the next time you notice that you're worrying, you will write down, verbatim, every thought that comes into your mind until you start repeating your statements. Then you will tell yourself, "I know these worries are irrational. I'm ready to move on now."

So the first step in letting go of your obsessions is to make this clear and committed statement of intent. The second is to practice some brief relaxation technique. There are a few simple straightforward breathing skills that can be used at this time to help with letting go of your tensions. In the Don't Panic Self-Help Kit, I have created a separate tape to help you practice those skills. When you are ready to learn them, listen two or three times to the tape entitled "Practicing Your Breathing Skills." Your ability to relax your body on cue in a brief period of time may require some repetition of these skills. So once you learn the breathing skills--like the Calming Breath or Calming Counts-- practice them 10 - 15 times a day for several weeks. They take less than a minute and a half to practice. So use them during times of transition, such as right after you get off the phone or while waiting in the car at a stoplight. Then they will be ready for you during tense times.

Again, let me advise you to use breathing skills to help you when you are letting go of your obsessions and trying to relax your body and quiet your mind. They are a very helpful part of your program. So if you are using the Kit, start listening to the breathing skills tape in the next day or two, and learn to apply those techniques.