The Switch Off

By Greg Byrne, ARCVic member (March 2005 Newsletter)

I have been battling anxiety for many years.  I have developed a technique I call “the switch off”. I have found this to be very helpful and so I would like to share this with other people struggling with anxiety. 

Suppose you are at a shopping centre and you get an attack. A worrying thought comes into your head and causes a lot of problems. Did this thought come from something you saw in the shopping centre? Did it come from overhearing a conversation or seeing someone who reminded you of a past incident? Or did it come “out of the blue”.

Let me suggest that regardless of how it arose you were “ripe for it”. Possibly because of something to do with your serotonin levels, or whatever else causes your problem, you were susceptible to an attack and it would have come whether you were at that shopping centre or not.

Having an insight into what is happening can enable you to deal with this sort of problem.  There is an old saying in this game that what you say to yourself is this: “I’m in no state to deal with this now so I’ll put it out of my head until I am”.  That is all very well and good, but it’s easier said than done.

Remember the old advertisement about the lady’s hair spray? “It wont’ happen overnight but it will happen”.

How many things in life are like that? I could mention sports training, weight loss, singing lessons, piano playing and so on. Perhaps I could mention giving up smoking or drinking.

This is a special kind of learning. If you learn biology, history or chemistry it’s a matter of simply studying a textbook and learning off a lot of stuff so you can repeat it in an examination.

This is more like learning French where you have to DO IT. The only way to learn to translate into French is to PRACTICE doing a lot of sentences using the textbook examples. The only way to learn touch-typing is to practice it.  So if you say that “I’ll worry about this later” doesn’t work for me, then I’m sure it doesn’t, but it will work for you if you keep at it. Keep doing that for several weeks and eventually it will work.

I’ve got a slight variation of “I’ll worry about this later on” business. I say, “This is an attack and has nothing to do with my situation now”. So I put it out of my mind. What I do is SWITCH OFF. It’s only a variation of the “I’ll worry about this later” idea but some people might find it helpful. The idea of switching off may be helpful in that it is more dramatic. Once you turn off a light all you have is darkness and the light can’t come back until you switch on again.

IT’S NOT A 100% SOLUTION

No it’s not a 100% solution but it’s a great help to me. The more you do it the better you’ll become and in a few short months you will be much improved.  This can make quite a difference to you and not only help you with abnormal anxiety related to your problem but even normal anxiety related to real problems that you should be anxious about. But remember if it is a real problem and requires practical action from you, make sure you take that action. So that if you should be anxious about being behind with studies or assignments make sure you do study and do your assignments.

I believe that everyone could benefit from this technique even if perfectly healthy. So many people get into such a state over mounting problems that they are almost incapable of effective action to deal with those problems. Dealing with practical problems requires calmness and determination to really get stuck into what has to be done.

TWO ASPECTS TO IT

If you have a worrying thought there are two aspects to my approach. The first is to recognise that the thought is not from any practical thing in your life now, and, in my view, is related to a lack of serotonin in the brain. That is the most crucial thing because it involves insight into what is really happening. If it is something related to serotonin then just SWITCH OFF.  If it’s a problem to switch off then get involved in your favourite hobby or if you are out at a shopping centre go and have a look at products you are very interested in such as say home theatre, computers or new dresses (if you are female). This will help with the switch off phase.  The SWITCH OFF phase can only work if one recognises that the problem has no practical origin in one’s life now.

SUPPOSE I’VE DONE SOMETHING WRONG IN MY PAST LIFE

None of us are perfect and we’ve all done things we aren’t very proud of. Either you are going to apologise to that person you have wronged, or compensate him financially, or simply resolve never to do it again. But there is no point in getting into a flap about it. Before compensating anyone financially I suggest that you discuss it with someone you trust first. THEN PUT IT BEHIND YOU. The person you have wronged is probably no angel himself.