Mindfulness and EMDR: Your Path to Peace of Mind
Anxiety can feel overwhelming. The more you try to control it, the worse it gets. You try to make it better by avoiding the things that are making you anxious. Then you realize your life is becoming smaller and more limited because of it. When you start to feel like a prisoner of anxiety, how do you find the way out?
The Path to Peace of Mind
Together, mindfulness tools and EMDR therapy can be used effectively to alleviate anxiety and create your individual path to peace of mind:
Mindfulness tools help you manage anxiety in the present
EMDR therapy (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) helps clear the roots of anxiety from the past
Part I - Mindfulness Tools to Alleviate Anxiety in the Present
There are three points where we can intervene to alleviate anxiety: thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. For example, let's say that getting negative feedback from your boss makes you terribly anxious. Your thoughts might be, "I'm totally incompetent," "They're all gonna figure out I'm a fraud," or "I'm not as good at this job as everyone else here." You might then have anxious feelings in your body, such as heightened heart rate, shallow breathing, or sweaty palms. You behavior might be to berate yourself for doing something so stupid. In this case, putting yourself down is your automatic reaction to your own anxious thoughts and feelings. and so it is called your “reactive behavior.”
With mindfulness, you can learn to take a pause before the reactive behavior:
The goal is to stop reacting mindlessly to your own thoughts and feelings, and choose a meaningful behavior instead. With mindfulness, you learn to stop, slow down and take a pause when you're upset. You learn to use mindfulness skills to calm your mind. Once you are calm, you are free to choose meaningful behaviors in line with your values and what is important to you, rather than mindlessly reacting to your thoughts and feelings. In this example, rather than berating yourself, you might choose to be kind to yourself by giving yourself a break and then choose how you'd like to learn from or respond to your boss' feedback.There is freedom in the pause.
Part II - Clearing the Roots of Anxiety with EMDR
With mindfulness practice, the goal is to learn to calm negative thoughts and feelings, so they have less effect on you and your behavior. With EMDR therapy (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), the goal is to actually change the thoughts and feelings that automatically come up in response to a particular situation or "trigger" in the first place.
We start with the current situation and try to figure out why this situation brings up these particular thoughts and feelings. Why do you automatically feel anxious and think "I'm incompetent" in response to your boss' criticism? Somewhere in the past, it is likely that your brain learned your current anxious reaction from a similar situation or a similar person. Whenever you have an upsetting experience, your brain records the experience vividly. This way it can bookmark all the sensory elements of a situation for future reference. This is your brain doing its job to keep you safe. That way when a similar situation comes up later, your flight or fight reaction is automatically triggered to prepare you to protect yourself. This automatic reaction may have been useful in the past situations to help keep you safe, but may no longer be helpful in current situations.
Using EMDR therapy, we go back and teach your brain that it no longer needs to respond to these kinds of situations in the same way anymore. With EMDR, we can desensitize past situations so the fight or flight reaction is no longer triggered in the present.
Instead, you start to automatically respond to the same situation with more positive thoughts and calm feelings. For example, you may notice your boss' feedback doesn't bother you anymore. You don't get anxious and automatically berate yourself. Instead, you feel calm and confident. It becomes much easier to simply fix what's needed and move on without giving it much thought.
With EMDR therapy, you typically start to notice that things that used to bother you don't bother you so much. You feel less automatic anxiety in certain situations. You may notice feeling more confident and a greater sense of peace. Using mindfulness to calm your mind in the present and EMDR to clear out the roots of anxiety, we build your personal path to peace of mind.