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Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are scary, unpleasant and can be debilitating. The sense of terror, the thought of impending disaster, the self questioning all add up to a very trying experience. That said, I am going to show how they are good for you, and how you can learn to manage and even enjoy them!

An important note: All through this process, I want you to be able to stay safe, and even defend yourself if needed. There is nothing here that asks you to give up control, or surrender to any outside force in any way. Part of why this approach works is that you are building adult skills that apply to real world situations. I also recommend working with a skilled therapist. There is nothing like hiring good help to improve your results.

A panic attack is when a current event triggers a disproportionate reaction. A huge amount of fear arises. The emotions create a positive feedback loop, i.e. snowball. Fearful thoughts get added to the mix. More anxiety builds. Eventually, the system gets tired and things wind down, but not before a scary time has to be endured.

Where did the fear come from? It wasn’t just from the triggering event. It was old fear that had been repressed- stuffed into some corner of the bodymind- now resurfacing. We have the ability to put aside fear when it seems in our best interest. We can bury the fear and do what needs to be done. Sometimes though, we forget where we buried it. It takes some energy to keep it covered up, but unless we get a new input we usually manage that.

One day something happens to uncover the buried fear. It can be days to decades later. There is always a reason, but it isn’t always obvious. Some thing, often a seemingly small event, overloads the system you created long ago to bury your fear.

This fear now seems irrational. It’s reason has often faded away long ago. You may have changed so much in the interim that the reason wouldn’t make sense to your current self. Things that are incredibly scary to a child are insignificant to an adult.

It’s common to think you might be crazy, and that really escalates the fear. You’re scared for no good reason, about some small thing, and it is getting more intense and you can’t figure out why. Probably, you shake, sweat, hyperventilate and your heart pounds. You may feel like you are floating off the ground, like the floor just dropped away, or even like you are hanging upside down. You body gets confused, and it isn’t fun. This is definitely a lot of fear and you can’t find what is causing it so you can’t solve it.

How do you get out of the loop?

First, acknowledge that you are scared. It’s hard work to pretend that you are not. Give yourself permission to take care of your self. Probably, at the time you repressed the original fear, you didn’t think you could afford to take care of your self. You needed to act, and did not have the luxury of time to feel your feelings. This time can be different! Remember that you have been holding this fear for a long time, and you have lived ok with it.

Second, look around. See what is going on and check to make reasonably sure that you are safe now. Moving your eyes starts to break the paralysis of panic. It also serves to heal times when you were overwhelmed and too scared to even look. A sense of safety makes it a lot easier to do this work.

Third, breathe- it always helps. Your breath is a link from your automatic systems to your conscious control. It’s also a way to loosen up your muscles and get ready for action.

Fourth, deliberately sense your feet and whatever you are standing or sitting on. This starts to settle you, and also makes you ready to take effective action if needed.

Fifth, move your body. Animals move and shake off after being scared. It works for humans too! Start slowly. Be systematic, going through every muscles and joint and getting it all moving again.

Sixth, remind yourself that fear always has a basis, even when it isn’t obvious. It might be an old fear coming up, or it might be a subtle thing that others are ignoring. By allowing your self to accept the reality of fear, you can begin to track the logic and understand where this fear started. It will feel much more like you are sane and capable.

With these simple tools you can begin to manage and direct your experience of anxiety.You will begin to have a very different perspective. Now that you have tools you can cope with these challenging moments of anxiety emerging (that are traditionally called “panic attacks”). The reality is there is no attack, just an intense healing happening.

You can shift from fearing the anxiety to welcoming the release. Old fear is being resolved, and you are becoming free to live more in the present. As you become familiar with the process of releasing stuck fear and re-activating your defense systems in a healthy adult way, you will also find that you have more respect for yourself. You made choices that worked.

Take a moment to congratulate yourself. In very challenging situations, you found a way to shift your fear into a holding area while you coped with the perceived emergency. Now you can put that fear down, and move on with enjoying your life.

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October 27, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. Great wisdom and information for those that suffer with this dibilitating illness. So often people are stuffed with drugs to remedy what many times can be handled naturally.

    Comment by Edwin Betancourt | November 4, 2009 | Reply

  2. beautiful article. I would love to read more of your ind=sights to this subject. I have so many girlfriends who have high levels of anxiety, including my own mother. The get minor panic attacks that freeze them from enacting their lives more fully, for sure. It robs many owman of a full nites sleep. it is huge. Especially, as women age. One has to wonder, if like you were saying, that so many “good girls” behave so mauch that they actually repress their angst inside, only to show up later and bigger.

    Comment by Elinor Silverstein | March 4, 2010 | Reply


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