Anxiety is not a condition for those who don’t care an awful lot about how they are perceived or how well they perform on paper. Anxious people tend to be high achievers, academically or career driven, have a hint of perfectionism, and usually have someone encouraging them to be all they can be. So what happens if you fall short and don’t meet your quota for the week? What if you don’t make that commission? What if you bring home a B on your next report card? The questions are endless and for the anxious the answers are always a terrifying possibility. The worst-case scenario is the one we think about first.
How much of that sounds like you? I know many of us are sitting at home and nodding our heads thinking, “Yeah, that’s me alright!” So what do we do? Just muscle through until we meet our own outrageously high standards? Do we rely on others to reassure us that we are making the cut, that we are good enough? I can only speak for myself but I can only imagine that waiting around for someone else to take action to ease my worries would make the situation feel so much worse! So let’s be more proactive about our worries and be our own encourager, our own soothing voice.
That sounds easy . . . right? No, I know that is actually very difficult but start small and you will be able to walk yourself through bigger and bigger situations. Recently we have been getting a lot of interest in the information we post on anxiety, panic attacks and treatment for both, so I have broken down the best tips to working with your anxiety symptoms in a way that gives control back to you. Check in over the course of this next week for more information about anxiety treatment you can do at home! Stay tuned . . . .
Have you been using your two “P”s? Or are your thoughts getting away from you, pulling you into a spiral of worry and doubt? It is so easy to let our brain take the reins and just run wild, the only problem there is that when it starts running there is no telling where your brain will drop you. Rarely do your thoughts bring you down the nice garden path to leave you surrounded by sunshine next to a babbling brook. That just doesn’t happen. No, our thoughts leave us locked out of our car in an abandoned parking garage in the middle of the night. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to end up in that garage. I would rather lead my thoughts to take me to the garden – after all it’s my brain and the thoughts are coming from me!
So that is when you pull out the POSITIVE and PRODUCTIVE thoughts. These are your two “P”s. When we struggle with worry or anxious thoughts it is easy for them to pull us into a dread spiral where everything gets ten times worse that it actually is. As soon as you notice yourself spiraling – or better yet, when you know a situation usually causes you to worry, stop those thoughts and replace them with something positive and/or productive.
If you know that you can pay your bills this month as long as nothing unexpected happens you may be the type that will worry about everything under the sun that might happen to you. You could get into a fender bender on the way to work, you could catch that flu that’s been going around and have to go to the doctor, your kids might have a surprise field trip or class expense they swear they told you about weeks ago. Ruminating about these hypothetical situations does not serve you. At least not well anyway. Have a list for yourself of positive things you can be thinking about, things you enjoy or that make you happy, and a list of productive things you can do, either activities or making a mental check list. If this scenario sounds like you, positive thought replacement would be thinking about the last vacation you took, how relaxed and happy you were or thinking about one of your kid’s milestones like the first day of school. Productive thought replacement would be making a list of groceries you need for dinner or actually writing down that list of groceries.
Positive and productive thoughts are basically a distraction. This is the way you can reclaim the direction of your thoughts and take charge of your mental destination by thinking about something that serves you well. So be proactive! Make a list of positive thoughts that are meaningful, happy, and relaxing to you; then make a list of productive thoughts that can occupy your mind and potentially save you some time down the road. And finally enjoy the moment where you can reclaim the direction your thoughts are traveling to reduce your worry and control your anxiety.
If you have experienced a panic attack you may have felt like this:
Your heart races and you can’t think straight, you might be sobbing or dry heaving. You can’t catch your breath and your body is shaking. You don’t know what is going on but you know something is wrong and it feels like you are dying. Maybe it feels like a heart attack or like you are going crazy.
You can check out this video of a Victim of Panic Attacks to get a better idea
Panic attacks or anxiety attacks can strike at any moment, sometimes they happen at home, sometimes at work, even in the car. They are difficult to predict and harder still to stop. You may be more likely to have panic attacks if anxiety runs in your family, if you are a planner, or if you experience a lot of stress for a long period of time. Sometimes people without a history of anxiety or panic will have a panic attack after a personal loss or a significant life change.
Does any of that sound like you? If you have had a panic attack before it is likely that you are afraid of having another one, you may even be avoiding the place or situation that triggered your last one. The fear of panic here makes sense, that is a very scary experience and it feels terrible, but holding on to the fear may increase the likelihood that you will have another panic attack. But what do you do instead of worry about having another attack? After all, you can’t outrun this thing or ignore it until it goes away.
Has anyone ever told you to just breathe? That sounds like a pretty flimsy fix for a full blown attack, but deep breathing is the only action you can take during a panic attack to regain control of your body. When you using deep breathing it triggers your parasympathetic nervous system to help regulate your body and get things under control. The more you practice the better you are at controlling your panic response.
So how does that work? Find a comfortable seat and relax your muscles. Rest your arms and settle your legs. If you have a clock or a metronome (anything that can keep a steady beat) use that to count a deep belly breath in for 4-6 counts in through your nose. Then exhale through your mouth for 4-6 counts, same number out as you took to take in. As you exhale purse your lips together like you are pushing air through a drinking straw. Continue to use this deep breathing until you feel more relaxed and in control of your body. Practice deep breathing at least once a day for about 5 minutes, this is a great way to start your day or a nice way to wind down before bed. Remember the more you practice the better you are at taking back control!
I don’t know how many of you have flown “standby” before, but the process goes something like this:
You register for the flight you are hoping to get on. The screen that shows the number of seated passengers that have checked in continues to fill in seats. As boarding begins everyone gets on the plane but you, even though you have been at the airport for hours and have been checking and double checking the numbers. If, and only if, there is an empty seat on the plane you are able to board and get closer to your destination. If the plane checks in full, you stay where you are and scramble to find a new flight.
This method of travel can be one of the most stressful ways of getting from point A to point B or it can be an adventure, a problem-solver’s paradise. It all depends on how you come in to the situation. If you have only one option, only one flight that will get you where you want to go you can be pulling your hair out worrying if you are going to make it on board or if your plans will fall through. For those of us who are problem-solvers, looking at the flight schedules and visualizing all of the possible flight connections can be an exciting puzzle! How can you work the system to arrive where you need to be and maybe hop into an unexpected city along the way?
Do you see how different these two perspectives are? When we are rigid with only one option, a black or white scenario, we can worry ourselves silly and stress over circumstances that we have little control over. The other side of this scenario is that we come to the platform with a flexible outlook. From that perspective success is more likely and you may even enjoy the experience. Regardless of the situation, strive to have an open mind and enjoy the possibilities that present themselves.