A Simple Way to Cope When Life Feels Out of Control

A Simple Way to Cope When Life Feels Out of Control

When you’re feeling worried or anxious, you want to feel better now, fast, pronto! And now with the coronavirus pandemic, more than ever, we’re all feeling on edge, and that’s perfectly normal. How we respond during these difficult times, however, can make all the difference in the world when it comes to our overall health and well-being.

In my new ebook Conquer Worry and Anxiety, you’ll find dozens of feel better fast strategies to help you cope in these stressful times. Here’s one method that can help you get out of the “fight-or-flight” mode and into a calmer state.

Use Hypnosis, Guided Imagery, and Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Many people associate hypnosis with loss of control or stage tricks. But doctors know it to be a serious science, revealing the brain’s ability to heal medical and psychiatric conditions.

Using hypnosis, guided imagery or progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) can quickly decrease the fight-or-flight response in a wide variety of conditions. Research shows these techniques have many benefits, including lowering anxiety and depression.

Learning hypnosis, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation is simple; there are many online audios that can guide you. You can find several audios on our BrainFitLife site, and you can certainly do it yourself.

5 Steps to Reach Deep Relaxation

Below are the instructions I give my patients to help them go into a deeply relaxed state. The skill builds over time, so it is important to practice this exercise to gain mastery. Set aside two 15-minute periods a day and go through the following 5 steps:

Step #1

Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap. Pick a spot on the opposite wall that is a little bit above your eye level. Stare at the spot. As you do, slowly count to 20. Notice that your eyelids soon begin to feel heavy, as if they want to close. Let them. In fact, even if they don’t feel as if they want to close, slowly lower them as you get to 20.

Step #2

Take a deep breath, as deep as you can, and very slowly exhale. Repeat a deep breath and slow exhale three times. With each in-breath, imagine taking in peace and calmness, and with each out-breath, blow out all the tension—all the things getting in the way of your relaxing. By this time, you’ll notice a calm come over you.

Step #3

Squeeze the muscles in your eyelids, closing your eyes as tightly as you can. Then slowly let the muscles in your eyelids relax. Imagine that relaxation slowly spreading, like a warm, penetrating oil, from the muscles in your eyelids to the muscles in your face—down your neck, into your shoulders and arms, into your chest, and throughout the rest of your body. The muscles will take the cue from your eyelids and relax progressively all the way down to the bottoms of your feet.

Step #4

When all the tension has left your body, imagine yourself at the top of an escalator. Step on the escalator and ride down, counting backward from 10. By the time you reach the bottom, you’ll be very relaxed.

Step #5

Enjoy the tranquility for several moments. Then get back on the escalator riding up, counting to 10 as you go. When you get to 10, open your eyes, feeling relaxed, refreshed, and wide-awake.

Quick Tip to Help You Remember the Steps to Relaxation

To make these steps easy to remember, think of the following words:

  •  Focus (focus on the spot)
  •  Breathe (slow, deep breaths)
  •  Relax (progressive muscle relaxation)
  •  Down (ride down the escalator)
  •  Up (ride up the escalator and open your eyes)

If you have trouble remembering these steps, you may want to record them as you read them aloud and then do the exercise as you listen to the audio.

You can find many more calming strategies in Conquer Worry and Anxiety, a new ebook by psychiatrist, neuroscientist, brain-imaging expert, and 12-time New York Times bestselling author Daniel G. Amen, MD.

If you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, and worry, know that at Amen Clinics, we offer in-clinic and Telehealth services (via telephone and video conferencing) to help our patients. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also fill out our form fill and a care coordinator will get back to you within 24-72 hours.


  1. More than likely this comment will never be posted but I’m compelled to inform the good doctor of his omission of the most important coping skill know to humanity…Prayer…You don’t have to read any doctor, expert books, take and expensive seminars, or medical treatment…Sit quietly, ask Jesus to hear your prayer…

    God Bless…

    Comment by Dr. Henry Sinopoli — April 8, 2020 @ 9:04 AM

  2. I am a licensed marriage, family & chil counselor and I can’t agree with you more Dr!
    It’s #1 on my personal list & my recommendation list!

    Comment by Lee McHatton — April 8, 2020 @ 9:09 AM

  3. I agree. Praying for God’s complete healing and Presence is comforting. Reaching out to friends helps too.

    Comment by Judy Frederick — April 8, 2020 @ 10:07 AM

  4. Absolutely Dr. I love this! It even says in the Bible, that Jesus prays for us too! How cool is that?! That alone is so comforting.

    Comment by Alexander Ferguson — April 8, 2020 @ 10:16 AM

  5. Hello Dr. Henry Sinopoli, thank you for your comment. We have another resource available from Dr. Daniel Amen during this time that touches on your point. Here is a link to a free online resource for prayer: https://amenclinics.com/blog/bible-verses-to-remember-when-you-are-in-need/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 8, 2020 @ 10:23 AM

  6. What are the ways to “pray”. I share mine here.
    I meditate, not to a God per say and certainly not to any earthly or religious figure but I feel I can do the same if not more through connecting to the true nature of our shared existence in matter, energy and soul/spirit.
    I’ll explain.

    I connect myself to the common energy of our world through silent meditation and pass on my compassion and wishes for wellbeing through I tension and transference.
    It a realizing we are all made of the same stuff, with the same fuel of the universe and we are all connected by it. So, I share positive, healing and compassioniinate energy through changing my own state of being and offering that love and compassion and wellbeing to all who need it.

    Comment by Mitch Fortier — May 6, 2020 @ 6:29 AM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Contact Us