Drop the struggle and the anchor

When we are in the middle of the emotional storm of our thinking, thoughts are churning repetitively in my minds we feel completely overwhelmed. In the middle of this storm of thoughts, a memory may be triggered which takes you down memory lane and you can start smelling the fragrance of the past.  This is an opportunity to invite yourself to practice the drop the anchor exercise to act as a circuit breaker for the chain of disruptive rumination and worrying that may have been ignited.


This is a useful skill for handling difficult thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, urges and sensations in an efficient manner. There are three simple steps so that you can start developing more self-control over problematic behaviours and focus your attention on the activity you are engaging in.


Step 1 – A: Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings

The first step is to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. Adopt the role of a curious detective to silently and kindly acknowledge whatever is showing up inside you and label your thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, sensations and urges.  This includes the difficult and uncomfortable feelings too.


Step 2 – C: Come back into your body

Gradually start coming back to your body.  There are various was you can do this. Start pushing your feet firmly into the ground. Straighten your back and sit upright. Bring your fingertips together. Begin to slowly stretch your arms, necks. Bring your attention to your slow breath.


Step 3 – E: Engage in what you are doing

Start engaging in what you are doing. Look around the room you are in and mentally name 5 things you can see.  Notice 3 things you can hear. Is there any smell or taste in your nose or mouth?


The part of the brain that is engaged when you come back to the present moment is known as the pre-frontal cortex which is responsible for planning, problem solving and controlling your emotions.  MRI scans suggest that after a mindfulness exercise, the grey matter in this area becomes thicker which helps one with their creativity.   The area of the brain which is responsible for memory and learning known as the hippocampus becomes thicker after practicing mindfulness. There is a direct link with the stress response system in the brain known as the amygdala which becomes smaller.[1]


Dropping the Anchor is one of the exercises of Acceptance Commitment Therapy which has been developed from laboratory studies of how humans learn to use language and thought.  The results of over 150 randomised trials consistently revealed that ACT is an effective psychological approach to help individuals with an array of mental health difficulties as well as helping one to live better lives the one aligned to their own innate values. [2]


Whilst you go through you ebbs and flows of life, you have unlimited access to this tool to anchor yourself in the present moment. Go through the three steps cycle 4 to 5 times so that you can engage in this practice for a 3 to 5 minutes daily.   To start off with practice this daily for a minimum of 21 days and allow it to be part and parcel of your life. Once you it is engrained your daily routine, it will be easier for you to access it when you need it most.




[2]  Sinclair.M &  Beadman.M (2016) The Little ACT Workbook: An Introduction to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: a mindfulness- based guide for leading a full and meaningful life. 1st edn. Bath: Crimson Publishing

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