Let's be honest--the world is a mess right now. In addition to fighting to save your business during a pandemic-induced recession, you're dealing with riots, social isolation, murder hornets, cannibal rats, etc. With headlines like these, you could be forgiven for just completely freaking out every once in a while.
While the occasional emotional meltdown is entirely understandable, it's also unpleasant and unwelcome. How do you deal with these moments of panic? According to Brown University psychiatrist Judson Brewer, all you need is one hand and your breath.
A simple trick to clear your brain of anxiety
In a TED Ideas post full of medical terminology, Brewer explains in detail how anxiety clogs up our short-term memory (which is analogous to a computer's RAM) with repetitive worries, killing our ability to think productively. The key to getting your brain working again is dumping all that anxiety. Mindfulness is the way to do this.
That might sound intimidating. Do you need to spend months or years sitting on a pillow working on a practice? If you're so inclined, that certainly will do your brain and your health good. But to halt a moment of panic, all you need is a dead simple trick called five finger breathing. Here's how Brewer describes it:
Step 1: Place the index finger of one hand on the outside of the pinky finger on your other hand. As you breathe in, trace up to the tip of your pinky, and as you breathe out, trace down the inside of your pinky.
Step 2: On your next inhale, trace up the outside of your ring finger, and on the exhale, trace down the inside of your ring finger.
Step 3: Inhale and trace up the outside of your middle finger; exhale and trace down the inside of your middle finger.
Step 4: Continue finger by finger until you've traced your entire hand.
Step 5: Reverse the process and trace from your thumb back to your pinky.
Just reading this sounds soothing to me, but if you need convincing, Brewer explains how the technique works: "When you're able to use up your RAM with multi-sensory and multi-location awareness, you can forget what you're worrying about, even if it's for a few moments. As you do this, you're also calming your physiology down, so if those thoughts come back, they won't be as convincing because they won't have the same emotional tone."
So next time you feel panic creeping in, simply take a minute or two to try Brewer's technique. It won't turn around the economy or send those murder hornets packing, but it should at least reset your brain so you can think through our troubled times more clearly.