Grief or anxiety attacks can hit anytime without warning. And sometimes we can get sucked into a negative spiral. Our mean mind takes over. Before you know it, we’ve fallen down a dark deep hole.
Don’t you think life would be a little better if you could draw boundaries around these attacks?
Keep them contained so the negative thoughts don’t consume your energy for hours on end?
That’s where shutdown rituals come in handy.
Cal Newport, author and computer science professor, wrote about shutdown rituals as a way to reduce work stress. He found that when working from home, it was easy to never feel finished. So, work stress bled into personal time. A shutdown ritual helps set boundaries around work.
Similarly, creating a shutdown ritual for grief or anxiety attacks reduces their severity.
Rituals are like habits in that they’re done repeatedly. But habits are unconscious, and rituals are practiced with intention.
Before you begin, write your intention in a when/then formula. “When I feel a grief or anxiety attack, then I will do a shutdown ritual.”
How to establish a shutdown ritual:
1. Recognize the anxiety or grief attack. Notice the beginning of a “negative thoughts
spiral.” Discern the ensuing roiling emotions. Name the emotion: fear, hopelessness,
2. Do something physical. Walk to a different room. Change chairs.
3. Next, start a breathing technique. Take a deep breath in, notice the temperature of the
air coming in, hold to a count of four, forcefully exhale. While exhaling, make a loud
roar (like a lion). Do this 3 times.
4. Then, say a magic phrase out loud. It could be something like, “Goodbye and good
riddance anxiety!” (Or substitute the named emotion.)
5. Finally, when thoughts try coming back, review in your mind the steps you just took.
Repeat your magic phrase.
I like to imagine negative anxious thoughts as the hot hissing of a dragon. I imagine pulling
out a sword (my magic phrase) and hacking at it as it retreats!
By taking physical action, you impact your thoughts and emotions. Action prompts feelings of
control and well-being.
Use a shutdown ritual to set boundaries and contain negative thoughts. Protect your energy
and stay grounded in the well-being within.
Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,
PS – Are you experiencing overwhelming grief because of a recent loss?
Please know that the above process isn’t a way to run from or deny your grief. We’re not stifling the necessary inner work.
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