Your 14:57 Minute Rule
We all have anxious moments in life where our brains get the better of us and it leads to catastrophic mind traps. The mind begins to spin with its worst case scenarios and continues to shout its bad advice ramping up our nervous systems more and more. For many people nowadays we immediately jump to our pills to calm the nervous system when it may be that we don’t need it. This is where the 14 minute 57 second rule comes in.
I was recently working with someone who gets caught in panicked reactions. Her usual routine was to grab a pill at any sign of panic coming on to calm the nervous system. It was as if this had become her only option, but she didn’t like the side effects of being a bit groggy later on.
What was another option?
We talked about employing a 30-minute rule. This comes out of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler. In other words, when the stimulus comes up, such as worried thoughts, fast heartbeat, labored breathing, or even light headedness, she was to tell herself to give it 30 minutes. If the symptoms were still there after 30 minutes then she could continue worrying about them and take the pill.
When it comes to panic and anxiety, often times what makes it so bad isn’t the initial stress of it, but the catastrophic worries and solution-based thinking that is akin to pouring kerosene on the fire. It’s as if there is already stress there and then we dump worry on top of it, which only exacerbates it.
So, my client went on her way to test it out. One day she was watching an episode on her IPad and something triggered her anxiety. She remembered our work and the rule we discussed. She looked down at her IPad and saw that there was 14:57 left on the program she was watching so decided to use that as the time she would wait until she worried about the symptoms that were there.
It was as if the show was her point of focus, her meditation, and she wasn’t going to entertain her wandering mind that was often wandering onto worries.
From time to time she did catch herself checking the time, but after the 14:57 was up, her symptoms had dissipated and she no longer needed the medication.
There’s a simple lesson in this and that is importance of having the experience that emotions come in the form of thoughts and sensations and like everything else in this world, they have a lifespan. Medication is not inherently bad in any way and can be helpful, but we also may have more ability to rely on ourselves than we thought.
She later said that after that experience there was a greater sense that she could rely and trust herself to handle the difficult moments and that things were going to be okay.
What would the days, weeks and months ahead look like if there was more of that knowing within each of us?
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.