Drop the storyline. Buddhify user Dana reflects on these three powerful words to remember when anxiety has you in its grasp.
By Dana Jaffe
To say anxiety has always been a part of my life would be an understatement. Quite often, it takes the driver’s seat. It affects everything from little tasks to big decisions, and shows up both in my personal relationships and work life. Since it is so pervasive, I have to learn ways to turn it down and keep moving.
When I’m struggling with intense emotions or anxiety, there are a range of different activities that help me reorient myself and get to feeling better. Going for a run, talking to a supportive friend, or taking a drive in the mountains are some of my go-tos. However, given that difficult emotions tend to have their own schedule and show up anywhere, from the office and daily commute to when I’m out socialising, it’s not always practical to put on my running gear or disappear into nature. That’s why in recent years I’ve added meditation to my list. What’s different about meditation is that I can plug it in right away, as soon as I notice the anxiety.
It is so easy to get trapped in the false narratives my mind creates surrounding these emotions.
Anxiety is a beast, one that I battle with often. It brings up intense emotions that feel so real. It is so easy to get trapped in the false narratives my mind creates surrounding these emotions.
For instance, I am in my thirties and have just started cooking at home for the first time. The process of making a meal feels like a rollercoaster. It starts with the enjoyable, calm, and repetitive task of cutting and prepping veggies, followed by a period of chaos of putting things in pots and pans for the right amount of time, and culminates with enjoying a delicious meal that I’m extremely proud to have made myself.
That middle step is where I get caught in my storyline. During this time, the pace picks up, and as a novice, I need to let go of perfection. Maybe, I accidentally put 1 tbsp of butter in when the recipe calls for 1 tsp, or perhaps, it took me 20 minutes for prep work that is estimated at 10 minutes. Really, it’s no big deal. But my mind starts tell me otherwise and my anxiety takes over.
I quickly forget that I’m beginner and leave myself no room for error. My mistakes become 10x louder than any accomplishments. I’m so blinded by tiny imperfections along the way, I can only see failure. This level of self-criticism brings on a plethora of emotions including anger, sadness, and fear. Deep down I start to believe storylines like “I’m not capable,” “I’m not smart enough,” and “I can’t take care of myself.” Following these false narratives is exhausting. Going down that path, I have the urge to quit and I’m left feeling defeated.
The biggest problem is that I can stew in these storylines all night if I don’t do something about it.
When anxiety has me in its grasp, just remembering that three word mantra — drop the storyline — is immensely powerful.
One particular guided meditation, Fluid from Stress & Difficult Emotion, has been a game changer for me. This meditation teaches you to just sit with the emotion sans storyline. When anxiety has me in its grasp, just remembering that three word mantra — drop the storyline — is immensely powerful. I’ve found that this exercise helps me realise that emotions are more fluid and changing than I had previously thought.
Integrating this technique into everyday life can take a lot of discipline, but it is worth it. Every time I do this in the heat of the moment, it yields a cathartic release of a lot of unnecessary baggage I had attached to a simple, fleeting emotion. In situations where my mind is really running wild, I take the approach of playing the story out to the nth degree, really imagining the worst case scenario, then exhaling deeply, and finally letting it go. What an incredible relief it brings. It transports me back to reality, even if I’d been on the verge of tears or panic.
Knowing that there is a way to drastically shift my perspective in just five minutes is nothing short of magical.
Difficult emotions and the storylines that form around them can feel so solid and so real, but now I know that believing them is merely optional. The reason emotions become so solid is because we feed them stories. Fuelling the storyline only escalates the emotions, and when you follow that path, it doesn’t take long for a small setback to generate despair. This meditation has really shown me that when you can drop the story and be with the emotion as it is, the emotion softens, it morphs, it becomes more ethereal and manageable.
Knowing that there is a way to drastically shift my perspective in just five minutes is nothing short of magical. It feels like having a secret weapon in my arsenal. And now that I’m so familiar with the technique, even in situations where I can’t pull up the app and listen to it, I can recall the principles and tactics I’ve learned from it.
Dana Jaffe is a buddhify user who contacted buddhify to express her feedback and is now part of the team working on website and in-app content. The buddhify meditation that has helped Dana so much is Fluid, from the buddhify category called Stress & Difficult Emotions 2. Written and voiced by Lodro Rinzler, it explores strong emotions and how their effect can change when we loosen our fixed belief of their concrete solidity. If you don’t already have Stress & Difficult Emotions in your wheel you can add it via Edit mode or by switching to the wheel called Tough Times.
If you feel you have learnt something important through your meditation practice and you’d like your share your insight or experience we’d love to hear from you. Let Dana know via firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll get in touch.