Today’s post was written by guest blogger, Sue Ludwig. Sue is a neonatal occupational therapist and a published poet. She is a consultant to neonatal intensive care units around the country and a national speaker. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.
“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”
“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.
During the last week of summer my kids and I joined friends at a large nearby amusement park. It was there I had a Piglet moment. And it wasn’t even about the hundreds of rides that propel my kids at Mach 5 into the stratosphere.
We were walking down a wide shaded path when we heard a loud, “Boom!” Startled, we turned to see that a wooden sign about 5 feet in length had fallen off a storefront facade. My inner Piglet said, “What if one of you had been standing there? That could’ve really hurt someone.”
As usual the kids nodded saying, “Yeah, wow,” and moved on.
However my brain was now thinking, “Ok, I was fine with them riding big roller coasters, but signs? I’ve never even thought about signs!” Suddenly they were everywhere, these ominous signs.
My inner Piglet was on a roll.
We have all been Piglet. We see big things looming. We imagine what could happen IF. We spend precious energy and time being anxious about the question marks in our lives. From falling signs, to our health, to the job market, to what could’ve happened if the guy behind us hadn’t slammed on his breaks.
What’s helpful about this Piglet triangle of fear, worry and anxiety is…well…
Sometimes we think we MUST worry about things because if we stop worrying then that’s EXACTLY when something’s going to happen. Right when we’re peacefully unaware.
We become so lost in our thoughts and fears we couldn’t respond to an opportunity or situation if we had to. It is another way we remove ourselves from the present. We’re not actually living our lives anymore. We’re all up in the future’s business or in what could’ve/would’ve/should’ve happened in the past.
Pooh’s response above is classic Pooh. The simple, wise thought of someone who sees the situation for what it is, and what it is not. This is Pooh as sage.
Why do Piglet moments matter?
We all get a little Piglet-y at times, so what’s the big deal?
The big deal is when that anxious voice becomes the soundtrack to our lives. We unconsciously create the fear-filled life we thought we were avoiding with all our worrying.
Because what we habitually think, becomes.
How to Let Go of your Inner Piglet
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained brain scientist and author of My Stroke of Insight, stated that when emotions like fear, anxiety and anger are triggered, they produce a set of physiological responses in our body. You know the feelings: shallow breathing, tightness in the chest, upset stomach and so on.
Our body’s physiological response to these emotions only lasts 90 seconds. Yes, just 90 seconds. So, in the absence of any true fearful situation, our bodies are over this stuff in a minute and a half.
Meanwhile our brain continues to run the familiar loop: “Oh no, more danger, bad things happening, must be on guard.” We make that loop in our brains deeper and deeper by feeding it these thoughts. It literally becomes a neural rut. Default mode.
The great news is we can rewire our brains to do this instead:
Triggering event occurs
Physiologic response (90 secs)
Quick assessment/no actual danger
Look how quick that was!!! Much like Pooh saying, “Supposing it didn’t.”
It is the stories we keep telling ourselves, our neighbors, and families that keep the anxiety alive long after the event. And while on the phone recounting our fears, the 10 year olds in our lives are waiting for us to help them with homework. We are not present except to our stories.
We’re off living in the past or future, but not in our very own kitchen, with the people who want and need us.
Try this today:
1. Practice being your own observer. Find yourself in a Piglet moment (this will probably happen today if you pay attention!)
2. Observe how long your body feels uncomfortable. Let it feel that way for a minute or two.
3. Resist the urge to tell 10 people what could’ve or may happen. Literally tell your brain you have no need for those thoughts anymore. Let go.
4. With practice, watch your anxiety plummet and the space and productivity you experience multiply.
5. Repeat this like a ritual when negative thoughts appear and watch your brain rewire itself with better thought patterns.
Your inner Piglet will visit now and again. But he will no longer take up residence.
Pooh, however, is always available for counsel.