“And this will be/The one moment that matters.”
— OK Go, “The One Moment”
One of the most disorienting aspects of anxious moments is the way our thoughts and physical sensations can race ahead of us. In these instances, we typically can’t quite catch up to our minds and bodies long enough to make sense of what we’re experiencing, which only serves to add to our already heightened feelings of worry and distress. Frustratingly, while everything is moving quickly on the inside, we often simultaneously find ourselves paralyzed on the outside.
A powerful strategy for overcoming anxiety consists of learning to play back these internal hyperspeed moments in slow motion. We’ll look at how to do this, but first let’s examine why this is so effective. For an illustration, we turn to a brilliant music video by the always inventive band, OK Go.
In their video, “The One Moment,” OK Go takes 4.2 seconds of footage and extends it in slow motion across the length of their song, which lasts nearly 4 minutes. When you first watch those 4.2 seconds in real-time, it’s almost impossible to make sense of what you’re looking at. It’s a head-spinning, chaotic blur of colors and explosions. But when you see the same moment slowed down, you begin to experience wide-eyed awe and wonder at every detail as it unfolds gracefully in time with the music.
Take a minute, watch it right now. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
At the end of the video, the same 4.2 seconds plays again, in reverse. When you see this “one moment” the second time around, suddenly it begins to make more sense. You can now pick out and appreciate individual elements (like bursting water balloons, shattering glass, and exploding guitars) to an extent you couldn’t before.
The same thing can happen for us after we’ve practiced putting our moments of anxiety into slow motion: we can begin to make better sense of all the fast moving pieces in ways that shift our entire experience and empower us to generate new responses.
Back to the question of “How?” Just as we can only put a moment caught on video tape into slow motion after the fact, we can only put anxiety into slow motion retroactively. In a calm, quiet moment, we can return to a recent experience of anxiety and review each detail of what happened, effectively slowing it down before our very eyes.
I created an easy format to help you practice this, you’ll find it here.
Once we’ve replayed the details of one anxious moment in slow motion, we begin to find a new ability to attend to all kinds of aspects of our experience that might have moved too quickly for us to observe before. The next time an anxious moment comes to visit, we are better prepared to pick out individual elements — even as they play out in real-time speed.
This gives us a new competitive edge in the games anxiety likes to play, because now we can more quickly make sense of what we’re experiencing. We gain a greater sense of control and mastery amid the chaos when we can say, “Aha, I know what is happening here!” As we feel more sure of ourselves, anxiety loses its grip on us. Disoriented and powerless feelings move to the background, replaced by a growing confidence that enables us to step forward into new possibilities for calming our thoughts and feelings.
Your most recent anxious moment can be the “one moment” that matters. Go ahead, play it back in slow motion. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
Featured image credit: Jeremy Bishop / Unsplash