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Finishing Dissertation Hijacked by Severe Anxiety...

08 Oct

Mario is crippled by severe anxiety when it comes to even thinking about completing his dissertation.   He wants to know what he can do.  

Question:
 
Belleruth,

I have many stories I could tell you about the success I have had using your guided meditations.  Most recently, I recovered from heart surgery so quickly through listening to your meditations, that I went on a three mile hike 4 days after surgery with no problems! I'm happy to tell you more if you like.

But I'm writing for a different reason. I suffer from severe anxiety, and your meditations have helped tremendously. I am trying to finish a PhD dissertation in sociology and suffer tremendous performance anxiety - to the point I avoid my desk altogether for fear of panic attacks, etc.

I see a psychiatrist/therapist and have worked on this for years with only marginal success.  I am desperate.
 
It occurred to me that athletes use visualization to assist to optimize performance and I searched far and wide for anything even remotely resembling this for academic performance.  I found a good deal related to test anxiety, but nothing for what I'm dealing with.
 
I downloaded your Self-Confidence meditation and it is somewhat helpful, but not specific enough to my particular task of writing the dissertation.
 
I'm hoping you can point me to any meditations/visualizations you may know of  that specifically focus on imagining dissertation writing, calm focus on the project, confidence, etc.

Deeply appreciative of your work.

Mario

Answer:

Dear Mario,

So sorry you're going through this.  You probably already know that you're in good company, but that's probably small comfort.  I'm going to suggest a combination of tools and resources to give you the maximum zap for boosting you out of this hellish scenario.  

Forget about insight.  We're going for behavioral interventions and energetic biofield shifts here!

So, for starters, I'd like you to try some meridian tapping - EFT, to be exact, (stands for emotional freedom technique), which is very good for this kind of "high anxiety", if I can borrow a phrase from one of my favorite writers - Mel Brooks.

You can get a feel for it with Mary Sise's DVD, where you get to watch her teach her tapping technique to several different people with fears and phobias, one at a time - you are encouraged to tap along with her each time - until you have a good grasp of the method.  And then the final track is you choosing your issue and doing the tapping on yourself for that.  It's pretty effective, simple and non-threatening (although you might feel a little silly at first… but who cares if it works?).

This should make a dent, but if you want to delve deeper and do some tapping in a more individualized way that targets your dissertation/completion terrors, you could look for an EFT practitioner in your area by going to the EFT practitoner listing - or you could just call ACEP and ask.  

Another thing I'd like you to try is Healing Touch, because that is another very effective and relatively quick-acting method (check out this week’s update letter for more demonstration of this) that's just great for anxiety - it's similar to the profoundly calming energy work that's done through Reiki, if that helps you get a handle on it.  It feels great.  Coheres your energy and soothes your soul in ways that can mend you for weeks or even months after - long enough to finish that sucker!  

For this you need a bona fide practitioner, but I'm pretty sure you can find them in your area. To find a certified practitioner, go to the site or call the organization directly and get a recommendation on the phone.  

Also, I'd like to recommend a gem of a double-CD set called Free Yourself from Anxiety by Erin Olivo.  It provides a terrific perspective on this kind of intense anxiety and offers some first rate meditations as well.  

Emmett Miller also has a strong 3-CD set, called Freeing Yourself from Fear that's very effective for this, if you'd like to work with a man's voice and a slightly different but equally effective hypnotic technique.  

And finally, if you still feel like you need something more, you could try medication or even a beta blocker to help you get through this.  Don't be proud, Mario!  Just make sure you get evaluated by a pharmaceutically sophisticated psychiatrist or internist, who understands psychotropic meds and the kinds that would work well for your anxiety without doping you up.   

This combination should do it.  So go get that PhD!  You can do this!  Don't let anxiety hijack your dreams, dammit.  And let us all know how it goes.

All best,
Belleruth

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award