Tame Your Mind – Tips for Senior School Students

Hi, Rocky Biasi here from humanconnections.com.au. I want to talk to you today in this video about a topic that I like to call, tame your mind, and specifically I want to send this message out to all of our senior students doing their HSC, but not just here in New South Wales, in Victoria, in Australia here doing the VCE, or any senior student in Australia or overseas. Especially during this period of history where we’re going through the COVID-19 period of history that we’re living through. This can be a really, quite a stressful time in regular times, let alone in these strange times. So I think it’s really important to be able to tame your mind, because I really believe this is one of the most important skills that you can learn as a human being. What’s the point in actually having physical health, money, fame, all of the things that the world says that you should have to be happy, and yet you’re not mentally fit and healthy?

This is part of my life’s passion that I’ve been on for the last 20 odd years. And I’m eternally grateful that I’ve learned the skill to tame my mind because sometimes our minds are not our friend. This is a quote that I absolutely loved by my good friend and mentor, Dr. David Lake, who says, “Sometimes your mind is not your friend.” And he says, “Is your mind your master, or is it your servant? Is it serving you, or is it not?” And oftentimes you’ll know it’s not serving you when it’s giving you stories that are running you down. That you’re not good enough. So on and so forth. Typically, what I’ve come to see in the work that I’ve done with students and with clients in my private practice over the last 20 odd years, is that psychological suffering, emotional upset, usually comes because we’ve got these stories in our minds that are on a particular timeline of the past or the future.

And I say the past is memory and the future is imagination. The only thing that you can know for sure is real is now. That’s it. That’s capital R reality. That’s how I refer it to. People sometimes get a little bit upset when I talk like this, because they feel like I’m minimizing, maybe past memories that were beautiful. We had this beautiful memory with our family, that was real. And I go, “Sure, it was real,” or even traumatic experiences. “We had a traumatic,” and they feel like I’m minimizing that. “We had this terrible traumatic experience, and you’re minimizing that. You’re saying it’s not real.”

Let me try to explain a little bit more about what I mean. And I teach with stories. So I want to use the story that I use in my Accidental Counselor workshops. Three days before my 18th birthday, I’m now 55, so it was many decades ago. Three days before my 18th birthday, my dad, who was only 49 at the time, younger than what I am right now, passed away suddenly of a heart attack. Now, why am I telling you this story? I’m telling you this story because it illustrates what I want to teach in this video very powerfully.

First of all, the point that, if I had my brother and my sisters with me, who all witnessed what happened that morning, if we were right here in front of this camera talking about what happened, we would give you varying accounts of what happened that day. So then the question is, well, which one was real? Well, of course, all of them were real, because they were real for us. That’s what happens. We go back, we look at the past, through our own filters. We recollect, we remember, we reminisce. And so through our filters, we can have varying accounts. The details can vary slightly. It doesn’t mean that what happened didn’t happen. It just means that we have varying accounts. And that may be what happened back then, or yesterday, or last week or three decades ago or whatever, wasn’t quite the way we’re seeing it right now.

The past is memory. The future is imagination. That morning, when my father passed away, he knocked on my bedroom door and he said to me, “Do you want a lift down to the station for work?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Well, jump in the shower,” because there was seven of us with one bathroom in that home. And he said, “Well, hurry up, jump in the shower and I’ll bring you to work.” I didn’t get to the shower. Neither one of us went to work that day because he passed away 15 minutes later, shockingly, suddenly.

Both of us thought we were going to work that day and neither one of us went to work. The future is imagination. The only thing that’s real is now. Your mind doesn’t serve you when you’re in the past and in the future, thinking about upsetting things. Future, what if? What’s going to happen? Will they like me? Will I fail? The past, bringing back upsetting trauma, upsetting from the past and bringing it in the present. And as I said, people sometimes get upset, but that happened to me. And I say, “Yes, happened, not happening.”

And so we’re not minimizing what happened, but let’s be clear. It’s not happening. But if you start thinking about it and focusing on it, then you will release cortisol, which is a stress hormone that will flood through your body, and your mind doesn’t understand what’s real and what’s imagined, because you are visualizing what happened in the past. It feels like it’s happening now. And you go into what we call this fight flight response.

So this is what we mean by the mind as master or servant. I wanted to share with you an article that I saw recently, this was just a week ago, it was on the 23rd of May. COVID-19 worries and study stress for HSC students, but there are signs of resilience. Well, this is really great. And you can see here, the student was actually talking about, I felt really anxious thinking, “Am I going to get a bad mark? When are we going to go back to school?” These are future focused thoughts.

Here’s another one. My mind was constantly asking questions that I couldn’t answer. Yes. So talk about taming our mind and the mind as master or servant. Let’s be clear about something. Every time you’re asked a question or you ask yourself a question, as you just saw there, your mind literally pulls you in that direction. Just do this for me. I’m going to ask you an absolutely random question. An absolutely random question right now. What are the colors of the walls in your bedroom?

Completely random. Engage in that question and see what happens with your mind. What are the colors of the walls in your bedroom? Now, if you engage with that question, your mind is going and visualizing and picturing the colors of the walls in your bedroom. It’s that simple. It’s that quick. It’s that powerful. That’s why asking questions that your mind can’t answer, means that your mind right now is your master. It’s not your servant. If you’re going to go back into the past and think about really beautiful memories, awesome. It’s serving you. If you’re going to think about the future and how you’re organizing your study and what you’re going to do, the human mind is amazing. And when it serves the human and human beings and humanity, look at the remarkable things humans have been able to achieve, but it’s not always serving us.

Sometimes it’s lording it over us. It’s our master. And we need to be able to tame that and adjust that. So I’m going to give you some strategies to help you do that right now. First of all, let’s have a look at this idea of identity beliefs. This is the story that you tell yourself about yourself. Look at what Ziglar says. He says that you can’t perform consistently in a manner which is inconsistent with how you see yourself. How do you see yourself? The strongest need in the human personality, Cialdini says, is to remain consistent with how we’ve defined ourselves.

So one of the big things that I see with young people in school right now is this whole idea of failure. So they think, “I can’t fail.” Sometimes I even hear stories like, “Well, if I don’t try and I fail, well, at least I know that I failed because I didn’t try.” Huh? Who is it that you’re actually kidding right now? Who do you think you’re fooling right now? You might be able to get away with that once, but there’s a cognitive dissonance in your mind is going to go, “Hey, let’s get real,” right? Because that’s not going to work for you. And unfortunately, one of the problems that I see with this whole idea of failure is that we get really upset about it.

In fact, here’s the problem that I see with failure. We identify with that. So if we get a bad mark or if we get a bad result, then we think, “So I failed this,” or, “I wasn’t good enough in this result, I’m not good enough,” or, “I’m a failure.” I mean, come on folks. Your results are not who you are. You are much bigger and much greater than the money you earn, the house you have, the car you drive, the job you’ve got. The results that you get in your exams. You’re much bigger and greater than that, don’t have such a limiting view of that.

Here’s the problem with attaching your identity with all of those things that I just mentioned, all of those things will go, right? They’re material things that come and go. Money, health, fame, fortune, results in exams, whatever. They come and go. So you want to hold onto character much more than those fleeting things. Identity beliefs are a real problem, because if you’ve got this belief that I’m not good enough, or I’m going to fail, or I’m a failure or any version of this, well, then it’s going to fuel these stories in your head that I was talking about, that are either serving you or not.

Well, if you’ve got a terrible or negative identity belief, obviously these thoughts are not going to be serving you. The belief may be, “I’m not good enough. Who would want to be with me? Who would want to be my friend,” or, “I’m not smart enough.” These types of beliefs are going to fuel what we call your self-talk, your thoughts, your perceptions about yourself and the world. Then they’re going to drive your emotional state. And then, and it’s going to make you feel upset and anxious and agitated. Then you act out and then you’ve got actions and behavior that often… That reinforce the negative underlying belief. So it becomes a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. I want to give you some strategies to end this video about how maybe you can manage this.

First of all, when you’ve got identity beliefs that are not serving you, you need to just ask yourself, “Is that true?” Now, is it true, not does it feel true, right? Is it true? I don’t really care whether you say yes or no, because even if you do say, “Yes, I’m a failure,” I go, “Really? You believe that?” “Yes.” Okay. I then will ask you what’s that like when you really think about that? And what people tell me is it’s terrible. I hate it. It makes me feel upset. I can’t think straight. I can’t do what I need to do. So it sounds like that when you’ve got this thought, it’s really creating a whole bunch of pain for you. Then I do this little framework here where I say, “Well, look, let’s just pretend for a second that you’ve got a 24 hour respite, you’ve got a break, a holiday from this thought that’s creating all this pain. You’re going to have to use your imagination. You’re going to have to pretend.”

And I say to people, “Are you up for that?” Usually they say, “Yeah,” very hesitant. Confused. Yes. And then I ask them the miracle question. And I say, “So how would you be different during those 24 hours when this thought, this belief, is not bothering you?” And typically people will respond with, “I’d be feeling happier. I’d be much more relaxed.” And so then you can ask them, “Well, what would you be doing differently during those 24 hours?” And then you get behavior, the positive behavior, the behavior that’s actually going to move them in the direction that they want to go. Then you can ask yourself or ask the person, “When will you try some of those behaviors?” So you don’t have to change the underlying belief. You just want to go through this process, identify the positive behaviors and emotions, and then start doing those, regardless of whether you think it’s true or not, just do the positive behaviors, have the positive emotions and look at what changes.

I want to share with you a couple of other techniques, breath work and breathing is really important to be able to manage your emotional state. And typically I say you’ve got to relax your body before you can start thinking your way out of a problem. Otherwise, if you’re in that fight flight state, your mind is not thinking straight. It actually blocks out the higher parts of the brain, like the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex that’s responsible for logic and reasoning.

So when you’re really worked up and stressed and agitated, try to relax the body before you start going into thinking thoughts, and changing that around. So breathing is critical part of managing stress, and you can check the website here, Headspace website, headspace.com, you’ll see the URL up here. It’s also in the slides, and there’s a whole range of different breathing techniques, including the box breathing technique.

So I want to just share that with you right now. First of all, just being conscious of your breath, how the body expands in the inhale, and how it softens in the exhale. Just be conscious, just pay attention to your breathing. That’s the very first simple thing about around breath work. There’s lots of different breathing techniques as you’ll see when you go to this URL. The other one is very simple. One where you can actually breathe in through your nose twice and then out through your mouth. Breathe in through your nose twice and then out through your mouth. And then this box breathing technique, which I think is really excellent. You’ll see this here. It’s really helpful. You go at that Headspace website, really helpful for extreme stress where you can practice the following process.

The box breathing technique is you inhale for the count of four, you hold your breath for the count of four and then exhale for the count of four and wait at the very end of the exhale for the count of four and repeat. This has actually been shown to calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system slowing down the breath allows CO2 to build up in the blood, which stimulates the response of the vagus nerve to produce feelings of calmness throughout the body. So there’s a few techniques and tips there to help you relax during this time.

Finally, the last one is one that is one of my favorites, which is a tapping technique. So this is where you get two fingers, and you can just tap on different pressure points as you see on the screen here, just different pressure points. You need to do this typically for five to 10 minutes. You’ve just noticed there that I’m just taking a deep breath voluntarily, just because every time I do the tapping, that’s what happens. It really helps me relax. You see the finger points on the outside of the finger at the base of the finger nail. So stimulating, you can use one hand on one side of the face. You can use two hands. Stimulating these pressure points, you can actually just rub the pressure points. You can just put pressure on them, but I find that tapping works the best. Now, there’s another deep breath. We’d normally teach the tapping technique in a half day presentation. So I know that that was very, very quick, but there’s lots of more information on the web, including our website, humanconnections.com.au about the tapping technique.

So I hope that this video around taming your mind has been helpful and useful as you’re going through your schooling this year.

 

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