I’m sorry that you are having a hard time. Believe me, I’ve been there. I don’t know anything about your situation, but I do know something about anxiety and panic disorder.
First, a little info about me. My name is Dave. I’m 53 years old and have had anxiety and depression on and off since I was about 13. Most of my problems centered around social events and dating. I would get so nervous that I would get a lump in my throat, upset stomach and nausea just thinking about it. It was terrifying because I didn’t understand what was happening.
I’m going to share what I have learned over the years as if I could go back in time and help my younger self. Hopefully, I can help you too.
For smart and creative people like us, our own brains can be our worst enemies. Certain situations can trigger our “Fight or Flight” responses at the wrong times. This is useful when our lives are actually in danger, but not much help when giving a presentation or on a date.
My goal is not to eliminate anxiety all together, but to manage it. What I mean by that, is to start some relaxation techniques while you are at a level 3 instead of getting yourself all worked up to a level a 7-10.
Our minds are able to turn a simple thing into a gut wrenching, stomach churning anxiety attack. Our internal dialogue can convince us that we are the biggest loser the world has ever seen. Negative thoughts or “self talk” is a sure fire way to make yourself miserable. Ask yourself this: If a good friend came to you with a problem, would you talk to them in same way that you talk to yourself? No, probably not. Thoughts can bring about feelings. Feelings can bring about body symptoms. Symptoms like nausea, lump in the throat, numbness in the hands, rapid breathing, etc..
This was by far the most frightening and confusing aspect of anxiety for me because the body symptoms reinforced the negative thoughts and feelings I was having. “This must be real! Why else would I feel this way!” It’s your brain’s way of trying to protect you from danger. Sometimes it gets it wrong.
Start to question your thoughts and feelings. “Am I really in danger?” “Am I really going crazy?” No, I’m not. I’m just feeling some anxiety and it will pass. Nobody has ever died from anxiety, even though it’s hard to convince yourself of that when you are in the middle of it. If you can think your way into anxiety, you can think your way out of it too. It takes practice. Your brain learned this method to protect you, but you can tweak it in a way so that it works for you instead of against you.
Every single anxiety event that I’ve ever had always includes rapid breathing, neck tension, and stomach/appetite problems. Rapid breathing leads to hyperventilation. Hyperventilation leads to poor oxygen to the brain and muddled, confusing, negative thinking. It would come on suddenly and was so terrifying that all I wanted to do was run away and hide.
I’ve learned to spot these symptoms quicker. At a level 3 instead of level 9. When you are at level 9, the negative thoughts are coming at you so fast that you can’t process them. Let’s not get to level 9 anymore, OK?
- Question the feelings and thoughts.
- Slow down your breathing. Google “Deep Breathing Techniques”. It’s a form of Yoga or meditation. Do this for at least 2 min several times a day. If you practice, you can do this without anyone knowing what you’re doing.
- Relax your shoulders. Do some stretches. Roll your head around slowly.
- Distract yourself. Do something you enjoy, clean the kitchen. Anything to get your mind off of what you’re thinking about.
- Celebrate small victories. Go out with friends, challenge yourself.
- You have more control than you think you do. It takes practice.
- The more you avoid stressful trigger situations, the harder it is to face them when you have to.
It’s a great feeling knowing that you can keep your anxiety at level 3 or below. Nobody wants to go through life at level 9 or 10. I hope I’ve helped. I’m still practicing every day. It takes a while to change the thinking that got you where you are. Be patient and be kind to yourself.
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