Is It All In The Mind? …

brain color colorful cube
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on

Let’s not beat around the bush here, my brain is a simple thing.

It is not made up of intense masses of grey matter jostling to be the first to find the answer to a question, to read and understand the contents of a (proper, grownup) newspaper, to remember anything politically intelligent, to finish (or even start) a cryptic crossword puzzle … No. It is not.

My brain is more about fluffy clouds of marshmallow trying to remember my children’s names and their dates of birth which is considerably tricky when under pressure (ie when someone asks me), where exactly I parked the car and even more worryingly why I have just walked upstairs for the second time – (what precisely was I planning on doing up there?)

No, I am not the brightest spark in the box and yet I have discovered this sad fact appears to have the most marvellous consequences, side effects if you like. I shall expand.

I have found that if I am having to do something that I don’t like (ie most things that don’t involve cups of tea, ginger nut biscuits, reading, writing and games of tennis) and therefore don’t want to do, I can trick my simple little brain into making the required task completely bearable.

So, to use an example here on holiday in France … Each and every day, in order to reach the empty part of the beach that the family like the most, we need to cross a river called the Huchet. This for me is on a par with putting pins in my eyes, eating my toenails and sucking on a random stranger’s too. It is not only freezing cold, but it is a murky shade of greeny brown where there is no likelihood of seeing ones toes and in terms of how deep it is, well apparently that has something to do with the moon, suffice to say, it varies from above knee level to (I’m about to cut my) throat deep. Unpleasant? Very, very deeply and with no pun intended.

However … If I distract myself sufficiently, it is bearable and I can wade across without too much of the drama queen in me squealing, complaining and writhing my body in the agony of it all. And how do I distract myself? I sing. I sing, just as I sang when cycling up those wretched mountains that the French call hills, not so long ago. I sing anything that I can remember the words to and anything that I cannot. Nursery rhymes work well, hymns and yes, happy birthday to me have all been uttered from my pursed lips as I step on tiptoe through the grisly, cold dark water.

If it’s truly bad, then I use another of my senses … touch. I flick my thumb nails onto my index fingers and dig in, hard.

If it’s worse than truly bad, ie up to the neckline, then I also start to use deep breathing.

So I’m puffing, singing and finger flicking and well knock me down with a dead fish floating past, we’ve reached the other side!

Now forgive me for being just a tad simple, but aren’t these tactics exactly what we use when we’re having a moment of anxiety or a panic attack? Are we not told to breathe in slowly and deeply? When we’re angry and seeing red and about to explode, did our parents and teachers not tell us to count slowly to ten until it passes? When we’re in labour (sorry gentlemen) are we not required to huff and puff our way through it? What I’m trying to say is, are these not all simply distraction techniques until the moment of unrest or pain has disappeared? Is our mind truly stronger than our body?

“It’s all in the mind,” my father used to say about seasickness. And yes, strangely, if I was kept busy out on deck, I never had any moments of queeziness, but perhaps hardly surprising when you’re clinging for dear life onto a mast whilst at a 45 degree angle to the angry sea and death is looking you in the eye.

Is it truly all in the mind and we can use distraction to obliterate any unpleasantness? Is this how mad people can walk across hot coals?

Clearly, with my simple little brain it works. If for you it does not, then you can pride yourself in the knowledge that you are a clever sausage. I’m rather jealous, but then again, perhaps you just need more intellectually stimulating distractions. Perhaps you could do the cryptic crosswords instead? Just a thought … Oh, and could you explain to me how to do them?

Katie xx

How clever are you?! Can you use breathing or singing to fob off anxiety, stress and pain? Or do you have another trick?

22 thoughts on “Is It All In The Mind? …”

  1. I have recently started using the 5,4,3,2,1 technique when I feel an anxiety attack coming on – I find 5 things I can see, 4 things I can hear, 3 things I can feel, 2 things I can smell and 1 thing I can taste and if it’s the middle of the night then I pretend I can see things that I know are there and include my breathing as one of the things I can hear. It works really well. If I find myself wading any rivers I’ll give it a whirl then too …. and probably sing too! The soundtrack of The Sound of Music always works for me 😉 xx

    Liked by 2 people

  2. When I have an unpleasant thought, say a memory of an embarrassing moment pops in my head, I usually find I have already started singing, like without purposefully doing it! It’s annoying, but amusing at the same time. I’m odd. But I wish I could break that habit!

    As for river bottoms, I used to hate them. Having grown up swimming in deep lakes with no chance of touching bottom, I see it in the range of gross all the way to downright dangerous. However, my bf is a fisherman, and I love fishing, so he started taking me fly fishing in waders. These are rubber boots with pants (all one piece) that come up over my chest with overall straps. I don’t seem to mind wading with those on, except when the current picks up or I can’t see the bottom anymore. Then I’m like… no effing way! haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooh I like the sound of the waders! That’s definitely what I need … and I love that you start singing without realising it! It’s like when I need to put a stamp on a envelope I start licking my lips because I think I need to lick the stamps (even though they’re all self adhesive now anyway and have been for years!). Perhaps we’re all a bit odd!

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  3. I think when the mad people walk across hot coals, they suddenly look down and remember there is fire beneath them, and then like the cartoon characters who have run straight off a cliff but don’t fall until they realise, they end up with third degree burns, but pay the docs to keep it quiet.

    But yes, that singing thing does work, coz I remember that Jenny woman doing that on I’m a Celebrity. She was trapped in a coffin with rats and cockroaches and sang her way through to the very end. Personally, I would not have uttered a note, as the opening of my mouth would have rendered 4 of those nasty insects to descend upon my tongue, then choke me to death. Or a rat would have decided to pee inside my mouth, and give me 3 weeks to live with Wiles Disease.

    Seriously though, my sister told me that she noticed whenever I am nervous around someone, I begin to hum crazily.

    I’m not so sure about the ‘all in the mind’ sea-sickness thing though. If your dear daddy had said that to me, the poor man would have ended up with bits of carrot all over his jacket.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! We love I’m a Celebrity and laugh all the way through it or shout at the telly! I just couldn’t do the whole being in a confined space thing … urgh … or eating the gross insects – actually any of it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nah, neither could I. If I was hungry because we’ve had no meals for 3 days, I couldn’t swallow a grub or eat kangaroo bits, because that would just make me too ill to eat the nice food later. I’m sure some of them end up with weird diseases after.

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  4. I’m a hummer. And I hum weird songs, one wouldn’t normally hum…like heavy metal songs. It works and its hilarious! I get a huge kick out of humming song that are usually growled and screamed out.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I like how this article is cleverly written, not to put anyone off 🙂 To be honest, I have not tried distraction techniques much, but slowly, am learning to do it. For example, recently I was disturbed by someone’s behavior, and usually, I would rattle it all when I speak to my mother. However, this time, I decided that I’d wait for a day to talk to my mother about it, because discussing any issue that has upset me only makes me more upset. Trust me, it was quite a struggle to not include it when I spoke to my mom. But guess what, the next day it was not even important enough for me to talk about it anymore. Distractions!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you’re so right … the irritation and anger does dissipate over time and just taking a deep breath and trying not to react instantaneously is hard but so much better than having a rant, then feeling slightly foolish, then having to apologise …. Well done you! But God it’s hard isn’t it! Xx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. With relatively minor irritations, I can distract myself — by humming, singing, deep breathing, or even calling time out before my feelings escalate. But with anxiety, it’s tough. If I can catch it before it crosses a certain level, I can call a time out or put things in perspective. But if I don’t catch it, it can be all consuming. I write about it here if you’re interested in my experience:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness this is a brilliant piece. I’ve reblogged it and I hope that’s ok … sorry it’s taken so long to read, I’ve been inundated with being back with normal life after the weeks away and have been a tad poorly. Thank you for this brilliant post – and I look forward to reading more. Battle on. Katie xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. There’s actually really cool eye exercises I came across recently.
    Though to be honest, when I’m freaking I can’t really calm myself down, sometimes watching a movie helps (which I should get back to doing).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll see if I can find the link, otherwise will try upload the exercises (I downloaded them) onto my blog. The upload option for some reason isn’t working though, so will see…


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