When I was at anxiety rock bottom and my symptoms were so extreme and they were so bothersome and I felt like I was never going to get better my mindset was that anxiety is going to get worse, I’m never going to feel better. The more that I engaged in those thinking patterns, the more that that mindset really hit me, the more than it became true.
We’re going to talk about how you can change your mindset and one of my favorite strategies to do it. This strategy comes from the ACT Method Anxiety Breakthrough Program that I made from my decade of experience in Clinical Psychology and naturopathic medicine to help people send anxiety to the sidelines where it belongs. This exercise has changed thousands of lives and I want to share it with you today, it’s called the plot line pivot.
I want to tell you a story about Susie and Susie lived in the hunter-gatherer days. She is well attuned to the signs of danger in the brush while out gathering berries and gathering snacks for her family. While gathering, she hears a little tiger growl in the distance and her body snaps into action. Before she logically realizes it, a signal starts in her limbic system (which is the center of the brain) and this limbic system activation causes a cascade of reactions that go down through the brainstem, the hypothalamic pituitary axis to tell the adrenal glands to release cortisol, epinephrine and other stress hormones. Before she knows it, her heart is racing so her cells and muscles can get energy and blood, she’s breathing faster so she can oxygenate and keep up with the demand, her blood pressure is rising for her to run and her body is deprioritizing the blood to her fingertips so that it can send all that blood to her vital organs. This causes some numbness and tingling. Her metabolic activity is rising, her muscles are clenched, she’s running and her body is pumping as she is zigzagging at lightning speeds, her thoughts are sharp, crisp, intrusive and sudden to calculate the next moments.
Do any of these changes sound familiar?
In Susie’s example, she is dealing with actual and acute danger. She hears the tiger and her body goes into this automatic response that happens before she can even think logically about it. The body creates a chemical cascade of signals that help her run safely away from the danger. These responses from the body help keep her alive!
If Susie didn’t have these responses, she may have continued eating berries and then became the tiger’s lunch. What if Susie had these same sensations while trying to go to sleep at night? If her heart was throbbing, her muscles were twitching, she felt very tight and contracted, her breathing was fast, she had numbness and tingling, her body temperature rose, she might call this a panic attack. The body is now producing the same changes in a panic attack that were happening when she was in actual danger and the only difference between these two things is context. Our body responds based on the context when we’re in danger but when we’re dealing with panic, stress, and anxiety, the context isn’t lining up with the danger.
What we have to do is shift our perspective and shift the context. An example might be is noticing that you are having all of these bodily sensations, your blood pressure is rising, your heart is throbbing, your breathing is faster, you feel hot, you feel the urge to move, you can tell your brain:
“Oh, you’re going into an activated state right now. I am getting signals that my body feels like I’m in danger.”
There are one of two things we can do:
Resisting the information is commonly what we want to do. We want to do anything to get calm on command. We want to suppress it, distract, and we want to engage in compulsions that help reduce those sensations. We want to run, exercise, take a xanax, do anything we can to avoid those sensations. But then what happens? THEY GET WORSE. The information gets louder and louder and louder and if we’re suppressing that information, the body (in an attempt to create homeostasis) is going to keep dialing up the fight, flight, freeze response.
The singular most powerful thing that you can do to stop anxiety from continuing to happen is to start receiving the anxiety. What we resist persists. In anxiety, amazingly, if you start to receive that information and just notice and let it come and let it go, your body will no longer need to give you that data.
Think about it like waves in an ocean. Inevitably, the waves are going to come and you can be sitting on the ocean trying to do everything you can to smack those waves away, push those waves back but you’re still going to experience those waves. If we allow ourselves to receive those waves, notice those waves, notice the heart racing, the muscles clenching, notice the vision getting blurry when you try to read things up close, noticing all of those things and then changing the context to – “Okay, my body is producing these signals. I am actually safe but my body, my limbic system, is communicating otherwise for whatever reason. We can start to explore whatever reason for sharing the information and I’m going to receive it.”
Resisting is refusing to tolerate the moment.
Receiving is where you just be in the moment.
What does being in the moment even look like? What does receiving look like?
What does resisting look like?
The answer is no.
What I would encourage you to do is the Plot Line Pivot exercise. This technique can be used if you deal with insomnia and you need to deal with your perspective and your context of insomnia or if you’re depressed or if you’re in a situation where you can’t change it, you don’t have control over changing it and you can either suffer or just accept it. In any of these moments when you feel like it has to be one of the other there’s a way that we can put you in a space to deal with that in this is what we’re talking about next.
The plot line pivot is where we intentionally create space to feel the waves, feel the anxiety or emotions. Whether it’s stress or anger or irritation or resentment or fear or analysis, when the brain is racing, the muscles are tightening, the heart is pumping and you can’t feel your fingers or your face, when these things are happening we want to notice and feel it. But, we don’t want to go on forever, we want to be the ones who are in control over that. To do this, we must go into one plot line, we hold the space, we receive the space, we are in that moment and then we do a plot line pivot.
Here is an example:
When you have anxiety, notice what anxiety feels like, write it down, write down all of the bad thoughts you are having. Notice where you feel it, do you feel it in your chest, do your lips go numb, I have all these catastrophic thoughts, I’m going to die, I’m going to go insane, my health is failing, all of the thoughts that you have, whatever they are, write them down. And then just notice them. Notice the wave, the feelings and then put a timer on your clock so that you can hold that space in that moment for as long as you deem appropriate and then you’re going to pivot the plot line.
The next step is when you start to change your body and you start to change your plot line. Start to imagine a time when you felt really good, when you felt really confident, when you felt like a badass. For me, I feel really good, confident, on top of the world when I’m teaching and I’m able to make a difference in the lives of my students and my clients. I feel a change in my posture and feel a change in my voice, a change in my body. See if you can think of a time when you felt really confident or really good or maybe you don’t have that moment so you can imagine emulating what that might feel like. Look at somebody who you admire, Belle from Beauty and the Beast or Wonder Woman or somebody who’s a leader, a mentor. Now close your eyes, I want you to notice the difference. Notice how you can bring your shoulders back, take a breath in and exhale. Notice the confidence, the relaxation. Notice your eyebrows, where your tongue is positioned in your mouth. Notice a half smile on your face.
Practice this for a predetermined amount of time. Start to own more of your badass self.
With the plot line pivot, you’re actually going to rehearse going back and forth between these states of feeling anxiety to being in control and receiving the emotions.
The difference is changing your mindset and changing your attitude. There is importance in noticing the data your body is giving you and honoring that space.
If you are looking to take a supplement with this technique, I recommend taking it at the end. Set a timer for 1-minute of receiving, and then 1 minute of going back into your confident self, repeating that two or three times ending in confidence and then set a hard stop. After ending with confidence is a great time to take a supplement like the Calm-on-Command Bundle*. Or even doing self-care.
We talked about how to change your attitude about anxiety and strategies that you can use to create a new plot line so that you don’t have to be the victim to anxiety. We talked about what you can do so that you don’t have to resist anxiety because what we resist will persist. We can’t change our problem we’re not willing to have. Start using this plot line pivot.
If your nervous system is getting stuck, I highly recommend checking out some amino acid supports and botanical supports. My favorite go-to that is quick and easy is Calm-on-Command. Learn more about the bundle and order it today!
*The statements made herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a physician or healthcare professional.