August 8, 2003

Anxiety as Misdirected Attention: A Case Study

by Judy LeClair

Jim, age 55, had anxiety attacks. He had experienced a reaction to an anti-depressant medication normally very effective for anxiety, and since that time was being treated with an anti-anxiety medication. He wanted to learn how to manage the anxiety so that medication would not be necessary.

Jim reported that he felt anxious a lot of the time and especially when driving. He was afraid that he might have an anxiety attack and get into an accident. He spoke of his other health concerns and said that he had always been rather preoccupied with aches and pains and unpredictable workings of his body. He was afraid of having a heart attack, he experienced pain in his left shoulder and he felt restless and anxious lying in bed in the morning. In short, he gave a good deal of attention to his body and its workings.

First we discussed attention and how we form attention habits. He agreed that the amount of attention he gave his various ailments played a big part in how all-pervasive they seemed. He just did not know how to move his attention away from these areas that caused him so much anxiety.
I suggested a couple of strategies that I have used to bring attention from an inward focus to an outward focus. He listened, but was not convinced they could work.

At the next appointment we discussed the anxiety he felt on waking in the morning while lying in bed trying to relax. I suggested he get up and do something. Simple, effective and he liked the idea. I then spoke to him about the course material I had just received from the ToDo Institute for the distance learning program Working with Your Attention. I asked if he would like to try some of the exercises. He was going on holiday and I wanted him to have fun, relax and hopefully learn about the power of attention. He took a copy of the 30 exercises and off he went for 2 weeks.

At the next appointment he looked relaxed, tanned and was eager to tell me about the exercises. They worked! He admitted that he had thought it all too simplistic at first. But, after trying some of the exercises, he was convinced. He had actually experienced the power of shifting attention. Now he was sure that he was not sick and did not have heart problems. He was up with the birds in the morning and loving it. He still has some aches and pains but he knows that they are not serious, just a sign of aging.

Jim is gradually weaning off his medication with his doctor's help and is down to a very low dose.
My experience, working with people who suffer from anxiety and panic, is that treatment often requires several sessions, some medication and a lot of practice of new skills. Initially, Jim's case looked like it might take a while to treat since the anxiety and his preoccupation with his health were both longstanding problems. Yet, from start to finish, I spent 2-1/2 hours over 3 appointments with him. In conclusion, I learned two very important lessons. First, never make assumptions that because something is long-standing it is therefore complex and intractable. Secondly, working simply is the best way to start (and in this case finish).

Judy LeClair is a counselor with training in Japanese psychology living in rural Ontario, Canada.

"The mere act of trying to hold the mind to a single point, an act with which higher forms of meditation begin, teaches the beginner in a radically concrete and experiential way that he or she has little or no control over the mental flow. All attentional training starts with this failure. This is the great step in the wok of objectifying the mental flow, that is, of seeing it not as something that 'I' am doing, but something that is simply happening. Without this realization no progress can be made, for one must first know one is in prison in order to work intelligently to escape."
�Philip Novak

Posted on August 8, 2003 4:17 PM

I feel an immediate sense of releeef when I study morita therapy, it must be the pin that pops my ego.

Posted by: shane eisiminger on August 24, 2009 10:59 PM

I wou ld like to get certification . Where can I get a copy of these exerecises
504 837-5004 504 339-4342
Musette G.Buckley

1117 Papworth Ave
Metairie La.70005

Posted by: Musette G. Buckley on August 12, 2009 2:26 AM


These exercises for anxiety come from ToDo Institute's month-long annual long-distance learning program "Working with Your Attention." You can read more about it at

The program includes a copy of the audio recording "Life Is a Matter of Attention" which can also be sold separately. (For information on the CD, please visit


John Holiday
ToDo Institute

Posted by: John Holiday on October 3, 2005 9:21 AM

Please let me know where/how I could obtain a these 30 exercises for anxiety. I have several clients that would benefits greatly from it.

Posted by: Sue Ellis on October 2, 2005 3:29 AM

Please let me know where/how I could obtain a these 30 exercises for anxiety. I have several clients that would benefits greatly from it.

Posted by: adele gagnon on June 26, 2005 5:49 PM

I too would like to obtain a copy of the 30 exercises. Thank you,

Posted by: Eric on June 14, 2005 10:30 PM

Great article. Where may I find the 30 exercises?

Posted by: Ingrid on December 17, 2004 2:50 PM

Nice article. Could you please send me the 30 exercises.

Posted by: ray on May 26, 2004 3:28 PM

Is it possible to mail me these 30 exercises?

Posted by: Ravinder on May 20, 2004 5:52 PM

I too would like to know some of these exercies to manage anxiety .
I will be attending a training program in June and it is very important to me personally and for my health. So I would like to manage the tasks assigned without the anxiety which I have experienced in the past.
Many thanks

Posted by: Marilyn on May 16, 2004 12:57 PM

I would also like to know the exercises. I recently started CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) for constant anxiety... only had 3 sessions so far but feeling optimistic :)

Posted by: Lorri on September 16, 2003 8:28 AM

I myself am a survivor of manic depressive
Illness. I was so ill at one time that I
was diagnosed as paranoid shcizphrenic bor-
derline personality. In 1999 I had shock
treatment. After 40 years, it was the
only thing that cured me.

Now at 51 I am going to school to be a
massage therapist. My class requires me
to find alternative modalities for the
cure of mental illness/anxiety disorder.
Please explain to me the cure that worked
for this gentleman.


Joyce A. Caldwell

Posted by: Joyce A. Caldwell on September 7, 2003 3:12 PM

I think that attention is a powerful tool
when it is trained and directed.

Posted by: Jay Bender on September 6, 2003 4:13 PM

I love these articles, so true. I'd like to know what some of the 30 exercises mentioned above were!

Posted by: Henry on August 10, 2003 8:08 AM


Posted by: Mary Holm on August 10, 2003 1:35 AM
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