You may be wondering, “What is a “hamster head”? Good question. Hamster head is an analogy for our undisciplined mind. Just picture a very active hamster darting around his cage, easily distracted and running on his hamster wheel getting nowhere. The hamster represents your thinking. To give you some examples of this thinking; there are what-if thoughts (worries), obsessive thoughts, and the “I have to figure this out” thoughts. This thinking is our undisciplined mind and a major source of stress.
The tricky thing is that you often look at your life situations like jobs, relationships, and school, and think it is the situations themselves causing your stress. And while there may be some inherent stress built into certain life events, it is the thinking (described above) about those events that causes stress and sometimes, anxiety.
So, okay, enough about the problem. How do you let go of this unhealthy thinking and start disciplining your mind? First step is to Pause and Pay Attention to your thoughts in any given moment. Ask yourself, what kind of thoughts are these? Repeating this action over and over again throughout the day will increase your awareness. Awareness is an essential step before change can occur. You may be worrying about the deadline at work, or your mother’s failing health, or your coworker’s bad mood. You may realize that you feel stressed and you are getting nowhere with this thinking (you are on the hamster wheel). Once you become aware of these thoughts, try to let them go and bring your attention back to the here and now through the present moment experience of your breathing, and your five senses. Notice your breathing. Notice what you are seeing , hearing and feeling in this moment.
Practicing consistently is the key. You are trying to replace a bad habit of the mind with a healthy one. The task I am describing may sound simple but it is very hard to do. So try not to get discouraged or frustrated with yourself in this learning process. Just Practice, Practice, Practice!
Suzanne Dorfman, M.Ed.