Helping leaders emerge


Taming Anxiety: How to Stop the Spin Cycle

We all experience racing thoughts from time to time. One of the most common complaints leaders share with me is that they suffer from spinning thoughts: while falling asleep, in the middle of the night, prior to the start of their day, or before and during difficult meetings.

Last week, I heard about using the TEB cycle to stop the spin cycle from Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School Dr. Luana Marques, on Ten Percent Happier’s Taming Anxiety Meditation Challenge. I’m sharing this because it is simple, practical, and it works!

More on TEB, Taming Anxiety, and Stopping the Spin Cycle

Dan Harris, ABC News journalist and host of the Ten Percent Podcast and Meditation App, shares how the TEB cycle can help tame anxiety, Harris defines anxiety as …

  • a state of uneasiness and apprehension about future uncertainties, and/or
  • overestimating a potential threat, and/or
  • underestimating your ability to cope with that threat.

TEB stands for thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Understanding and working with this cycle can help your brain hit the pause button (interrupting a catastrophizing mind), identify what is happening internally, and relate to situations differently. In this practice, you train your mind to be more intentional in what thoughts you follow and become more tolerant of strong emotions. By doing this, you will better cope better and become more deliberate in your actions and behaviors.


How Does Observe the TEB Cycle Work?

Step One: Awareness of Thoughts: Become aware of and even interrogate your own thoughts, recognizing that you do not have to believe all of them.

Ask yourself …

  • What am I thinking?
  • Are my thoughts true?
  • How much are my thoughts influenced by the outside world (society, culture, family, etc.)?
  • What thoughts can I challenge?

Step Two: Awareness of Emotions: Become aware of and be with strong emotions and feelings without immediately reacting to them (unless, of course, you are in real danger).

Ask yourself …

  • What am I feeling?
  • How might I be with these strong emotion without responding right away?
  • Some clients find the practice of journaling allows them to become more aware of, accept, be with, digest, and ultimately let go of strong feelings and emotions.

Click here for The Beautiful Monster meditation, a practice for managing strong emotions.

Step Three: Awareness of Behaviors: Once you hit the pause button and have allowed enough time for your nervous system to settle and mind to clear, identify the best set of actions and behaviors to take that reflect your values.

Ask yourself …

  • What are some practices that I can engage in to help me best manage this situation? (See below for some suggestions.)
  • Once the mind has settled, what is my best course of action?
  • How do I want to behave?
  • What is my best intention for how I want to show up – for myself and others?

Suggested practices that may help settle your emotions and clear your mind as you observe and work with the TEB cycle …

  • Bring attention to your body by focusing on the sensations of your feet on the floor, hands on your lap, or back against the chair.
  • Take deep breaths to the count of ten.
  • Practice straw breathing (breathe in to count of four and then out through pursed lips to the count of six or eight as if blowing through a straw)
  • Spend time in nature and pay attention to the sounds and sights around you
  • Click here for Energy Management and Reframing (the 3 P’s) tips

For a Deeper Dive