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Habits Die Hard: How to Retrain the Brain

09/06/2014 13:27 BST | Updated 05/08/2014 10:59 BST

Both my therapist and intuitive reader told me that I need to "stay on course;" my reader was referring to my life's path, and my therapist was referring to my journey through the anxiety. If you think about it, the two aspects they were referring to completely depend on each other; they have a symbiotic relationship. However, I want to address the navigation through anxiety. I've had 32 years of thinking the same way, consistently initially reacting to everything with nervousness, tension, and stress. I want and need to change that knee-jerk reaction to one of calm and peaceful response. It's not fun having my stomach gurgle, my heart beat faster, and my mind race all the time.

I've been on a quest to find inner peace. I've been diligently meditating daily, exercising, going to therapy, and practicing mindfulness as best I can, (focusing on my breath has been an integral part of this), in order to reach my goal of changing my knee jerk reactions. In order to do this, I've had to follow a path of practicing calm. Inevitably, I veer off this path at times. Do you recall, in The Hobbit, when Gandalf tells Bilbo and the dwarves to stay on the path in Mirkwood? Anyone? Well, Bilbo and the dwarves end up falling off the path and become disillusioned by the hallucinations the bewitched forest bestows upon their minds. They end up confused, lost, and then trapped in the giant spiders' webs. That's how I feel when I follow the knee jerk reactions of anxiety. I completely fall off my path and become lost and tangled in the web of my own intense, needless worry and irrational, intrusive thoughts.

My therapist told me that every time I veer off, I need to "restart, reframe, & rock it out." Allow me to break it down.

Restart: Every time I catch myself off my path, I need to stop and evaluate what I'm doing. I need to become aware and mindful of what thoughts just pulled me off the course.

Reframe: I need to retrain my mind to think differently. This is way easier said than done, but no one claimed that this job was going to be easy. It's like breaking a 32 year old chain-smoking habit. Instead of going for my figurative cigarette (anxiety, nervous thinking, worry), I need to go for some Nicorette or Chantax (an alternative to the figurative cigarette). I need to break the old habits of directly going to the negative; I have to destroy those old neuro-pathways that have always led me to worry. I need to reframe my perspective, assess evidence, think rationally, & allow myself permission to think positively.

Rock it out: This was my therapist's lingo to appeal to my youthful, rebel-rousing spirit, but essentially what she meant was once the restarting and reframing is done, then it's go time. Once I've restarted and reframed, I can live. I can move forward and do what I'm meant, need, and want to do.

Old habits die hard, but I'm working on it. I'm going to cut myself out of the tangled webs as Bilbo and the dwarves did. Restart. Reframe. Rock it out....Restart. Reframe. Rock it out...Restart. Reframe. Rock it out...

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