When you live with debilitating anxiety, any moment can become one that creates a slow-rising panic within you. Life is normal one second and the next, you feel your chest tighten and your heart begin to race. You may begin to hyperfocus on future events and find yourself getting lost in “what-ifs.”
To make matters worse, you may then begin to berate yourself for allowing the panic to get the best of you and begin to believe that all of those what-ifs are indisputable facts.
Luckily there are many powerful tools and techniques you can use to manage your anxiety effectively.
The minute you feel a panic attack coming on, the first thing to do is stop and gain control of your breath. Deep, slow breathing sends a signal to your brain that you are safe. Controlled breathing is one of the most powerful ways to activate your body’s relaxation response. It will take your mind and body out of “fight, flight, or freeze” mode and put it instantly into a calmer and more relaxed state.
Accept That You are Anxious
It’s important to always remember that anxiety is “just a feeling.” And like all feelings, it can go as quickly as it came. You are having an emotional reaction to a string of thoughts. Accept your anxiety because trying to pretend it’s not happening will only make matters worse—you will develop a fear about the anxiety. The result is that you now have to deal with the initial anxiety AND the anxiety about the anxiety.
Let’s be clear—by accepting your anxiety, you are not resigning yourself to a life of eternal misery. You are not throwing in the towel and trying to suddenly like your anxiety. That’s not it at all. You are simply living a more mindful existence, being in the moment, and accepting whatever is in that moment with you.
Your Emotions Cannot Kill You
One of the most frightening things about a panic attack is the feeling that you are having a heart attack. But you aren’t. Your brain can and will play tricks on you, trying to get you to believe that you are in physical danger. But the truth is, you are not in physical danger. You are having an episode based on emotions and it will pass. You will recall that all previous anxiety attacks also passed. Remind yourself of that as many times as you need to.
Question Your Thoughts but Don’t Fight Them
When your panic attack begins, your mind begins to throw out all sorts of outlandish ideas at you, hoping some of them stick. These thoughts are intended to keep the panic attack going.
Before you take any of these thoughts as reality and truth, question them gently but don’t fight them. For instance, if your mind throws things out like, “No one here likes me. I am for sure going to screw this up. I probably left the stove on. I’ll no doubt get stuck in bad traffic on the way home and maybe even get a flat tire so I will then be stranded”. And on and on and on…
Question these ideas gently and mindfully. Are you TRULY not liked by everyone around you? Most likely not. Are you really going to screw up? Probably not. Traffic? Well, maybe but a flat tire? Chances are no.
Always question your thoughts gently and curiously. You will usually find the majority aren’t very realistic or probable.
Personalize Your Anxiety
Similarly to a person who is in your life whether you like them or not, consider the anxiety as part of your life. Speak to the anxiety as though it were a person. Tell it that you believe you have a mutual dislike for each other, and that you’re wondering whether you can try to get along. Try saying something like: “I don’t like how you make me feel. I think you also don’t like me, otherwise you wouldn’t make me feel this way. Makes me wonder, can we try to get along? I think that’d be good for both of us.”
You may even want to give the anxiety a name. A personal name. That way you can occasional ask what it needs from you. As in, “Hey you, I noticed you trying to get my attention just now. Want to chat? Is there something specific I should be paying attention to?”
Picture somewhere serene that brings you peace and calm. Maybe this is your grandparents’ old house or a lake you’ve visited before. Maybe it’s that fantastic beachfront condo from your last vacation. Just picture it in your mind’s eye and really put yourself there. See it, smell it, feel it. Feel how calm it feels to be in this space that is perfectly comforting and safe.
Use these techniques the next time you experience an anxiety attack. They should help you feel much calmer much sooner.
If you would like to explore help and empowerment, please get in touch. Let’s start your empowerment journey today. Click CONTACT to start a conversation about ways I can help.