A ship drops its anchor so that it doesn’t drift away. It sails through waters shallow and deep, through conditions stormy or mellow. It adjusts. A ship’s most important purpose is to sail, not sink. Sounds simpler than it is?
You might think that this is an article about sailing, and you are right, it is. Except, you are the ship in this scenario. Try to entertain the image for a second; hold on to it, I’m going somewhere with this.
Now that the ship metaphor is set, remember Inception? you know, the movie about the double and triple layers of dreams; where nobody knows what’s real? Leonardo DiCaprio? I hope it rings a bell. If you’ve seen the movie, then you surely were left questioning its end. Was he still in limbo, or was that his reality? His totem never came to a halt.
Totems are objects carried by the characters through reality and in their dreams, where a single aspect of the totem (rotation, falling to one side..etc) helps them determine whether the current situation is a dream or reality. Those little objects were important queues to their sanity, to their perception of reality, they determined the kinds of decisions they made.
Can you tell where I’m heading with this?
Introducing the concept of anchoring in your daily life
Fortunately for most, determining the difference between dream and reality is not a major problem, Yet acknowledging the ridiculous levels of stress you have is. Wanting to stop mid day and scream that you profoundly don’t care about most of the things you pretend to pay attention to is not unusual. But, that stress is yours, your thoughts are yours and those experiences are yours to be lived. Still with me? In the chaos of everyday, you deserve a pause, a small time out where you anchor, where you remind yourself of what’s real. Anchoring helps you assess your surroundings, and act accordingly. To panic or not to panic? That is the real question.
How do you anchor?
There are many techniques to help you anchor despite the difficulties. Here are two that I’ve experimented with:
1- Carry your own totem, could be a bracelet, a key chain, a marble…etc anything tiny and portable. The trick is to mentally link that totem with a series of thoughts that center you. Picture this: You are in a stressful situation, you reach into your pocket to find your phone, but your fingers graze the soft surface of the marble. Now there is your queue. That is your anchor. Take a deep breath, don’t say anything, another deep breath, think about anchoring, as though your mind took a break, assess your situation, are my thoughts necessary? are my actions necessary? Do i really need to feel this way right now?
Consider your totem a stop sign asking you to calm down, a sign to straighten up your thoughts. It requires practice, but it is highly beneficial.
2- Physically remove yourself from the situation even if for a few minutes and take deep breaths, with the mental plan of calming down. Take yourself on a visual imaginary journey to a location you love, if only for a few seconds in your mind. I usually take myself into the center of lake Como, in Italy; it always does the trick. Other times I imagine myself seated at the highest top of a snowy mountain but feeling absolutely warm, and distant from every human and place on earth; also does the trick. Our minds can’t tell the difference between a physical and mental vacation, it’s all about conviction and attitude.
Lastly, Why is anchoring important?
In the midst of anger, frustration and hotheadedness you rid yourself of clarity, when you let your intense negative thoughts take over, you become blind, and most of the times you lose. So try identifying the situation and attitude you are having right now. Does it seem too difficult, overwhelming, stressful, dark and ominous? Then there is your queue to anchor. Once you do, your temper goes down, your heart races less and you notice the little clues surrounding you telling you exactly what to do and say.
Anchoring allows you to slow down and let go, it allows you to recalibrate. Think of it as a reloading of energy, reassigning of seats. You are the captain, not the situation. And a captain either sails with her ship or sinks with it.
So learn your anchoring techniques and give yourself a tap on the shoulder for not sinking today.