Feeling confused, stressed out, stuck in a rut? The chairs exercise could help
We all find ourselves in situations where there is just too much to think about, where we end up feeling anxious, confused and literally stuck in all of it.
So if you find yourself in one of these situations, and want to feel clarity over what to do, and generally feel less anxious and able to cope with it all, this is where a ‘time travel’ chairs exercise can be very helpful.
All you need is a couple of chairs / seats of some kind.
Step 1: Get it all out (sat in the first chair)
All of your anxieties, all of your worries, all of the things you're stressed about, all of the dilemmas, the thoughts, all of that stuff-say it. Really get it out. Really feel it and experience it as you say it.
What’s important about this is two-fold:
- The process of expressing emotions is extremely good for the body and mind. Not expressing them is said to lead to both physical and emotional sickness, and has even been linked to depression and disease. So, expressing them is a kind of cleansing for the whole body.
- Neuroscientists have proven that the specific naming of an emotion eg. “I feel angry” actually reduces it’s intensity – so just naming it will reduce it immediately.
Step 2: Move (to the second chair)
In this place, just imagine that everything worked out better than you could ever dream of.
Those six months, or one year down the line, whatever it is for you, just imagine that everything worked out better than you could ever have dreamed.
Really visualise what that looks like – what’s happening, where you are, whose around you, how you feel etc.
How this works:
- The act of moving to a different position actually enables your brain to think in a different way (again, neuroscientists have done experiments to prove this)
- By imagining a time in the future you are shifting your focus away from your Amygdala (the fight/flight/freeze survival part of your brain) and shifting it to your Pre-Frontal Cortex – the part of your brain that is concerned with your dreams, aspirations and goals.
You’ll notice that when you do this, you immediately feel calmer, you are able to think more clearly, and things feel much more manageable.
Step 3: Give yourself some advice
Then, from this place, look back at where you were a moment ago.
Look back at your present-day self in that chair.
All the worries, all the anxieties, all of the stuff churning around inside, and give yourself some advice.
Give yourself some words of wisdom from here, e.g. "take some time off, do the important stuff - make time for your loved ones and friends"
How this works:
- Because you are now in a calmer frame of mind (literally), you are able to access that wiser part of yourself – that was there all along, but was just incapacitated by all of that worry, stress and fear.
Step 4: Move back - and take that advice
Once back in your original position, place a hand on your shoulder and take all of that advice.
This is an NLP tool known as anchoring whereby you literally make sure something lands in your body, so you really do receive it.
- Write down these words – I promise you they will come in very useful whenever any anxieties or fears rise up again.
Step 5: Take action!
Now, based on this advice – do something about your situation.
Keep it specific, measurable, achievable, resonant and time related (SMART), e.g. I will take one day off this week (creating time and space) and meet up for lunch with a friend (giving me connection).
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