Disempower the worst-case scenario thoughts with rational thinking
What can be helpful and reassuring is to remind yourself that the heart is the strongest muscle of the body and it is designed to take whatever emotional stress is created.
It doesn’t matter how many panic attacks we’ve experienced, your heart can take it all. It’s not going to give up simply because of anxiety. When we are anxious, we are basically giving the heart a work out. People work out all the time, they are not worrying when their heart is beating fast or skipping beats.
“It has survived every bout of anxiety and every panic attack and it always will.” Defuse the fearful thoughts with truth.
Don’t try to control your heart beat
It’s impossible to actually control our heart beat because it’s all happening on a subconscious level. By trying to control our heart, we just end up feeling more anxious and overwhelmed.
Leave it alone. Let the heart do it’s thing. It’s absolutely fine. Instead of trying to control it, just place your awareness on your beating heart and let it beat in whatever way it wishes to do so.
This will take a bit of practice to begin with because trying to control the heart is probably something you’ve done so many times that it’s become habitual. Don’t despair though because before long you will have replaced this habit with the habit of just allowing the heart to beat in whatever way it chooses to do so.
Try not to add second fear to missed heart beats
Please understand that during anxiety, it is perfectly normal for you to experience missed heart beats or palpitations. Don’t worry about this because no harm will come to you.
Remember, powerful hormones are pumped around the body during anxiety, so it’s only normal to have these symptoms. What keeps the fear alive is your fear of them. You have to trust that nothing is going to happen as a result of experiencing missed heart beats and/or palpitations.
I’ve experienced loads in my time and I am still here to tell the tale.
Don’t keep checking your pulse
Whenever we are anxious and worried about our hearts health, we make it into a habit to check our pulse just to make sure that our heart hasn’t stopped beating. Have you done this before? I certainly have.
Whenever my heart would skip a beat, I would freeze in sheer terror whilst my hand would quickly jump to my pulse. I was making sure my heart was still beating because I was afraid it might stop. This was so torturous. It was one the most unpleasant experiences I had.
The problem with constantly checking our pulse is that by doing so, we are feeding the anxious habit. The more we do it, the more we are affirming to ourselves that our heart might be in danger.
This will only cause more anxiety to spike through us. So, resist the urge to check your pulse. This isn’t going to be easy at first because the pull of the habit will be strong. Don’t beat yourself up for checking because it will still happen to begin with.
Just remind yourself that your heart can handle it and that checking it just adds more fuel to the fire. Instead of checking your pulse, replace the urge by focusing on something else.
Something that doesn’t require too much effort and something that you are interested in. This will allow your attention to be pulled away from the whole notion of checking your pulse.
The brain is watching our reactions. So, if we check our heart beat every time we experience a missed beat or a palpitation, we are sending a message to our subconscious that our heart must be in trouble because we are checking our pulse.
This vicious cycle is created because when we fear the health of our heart and check our pulse, more anxiety is created as a defence mechanism.
As a result of this, our heart rate increases which worries us even more and this leads to more anxiety being activated to keep us safe. It’ Try to remind yourself of this every time you feel the urge to check your pulse.
All you really need to understand is that the fear is coming from your own imagination. NOTHING will happen no matter how intense your heart feels.
Ask for more anxiety
When it comes to what helped me, I can only go by my own experience. When I was really fearful about my heart, I felt so scared. Understandably so because it honestly does feel as if our heart is going to explode out of our chest.
The trick to overcoming our fear of anxiety around the heart is to ask for more of the same. I read this in a book called Dare by Barry Mcdonagh which I highly recommend because it helped me a lot.
Paraphrasing Barry, he says if we are experiencing a tight chest we should ask for it to get even more intense instead of running away. This is because when we mentally run away (fear) our tight chest, we are sending a signal to our brain that this tight chest represents a danger.
You know what happens when you fear a sensation? You feel more anxious and panicky because adrenaline is released into the bloodstream to prepare us for danger.
Trust me, having a tight chest will not harm you in any way. Neither will skipped beats or chest pain. I know this is so much more easier said than done in the moment of experiencing a really uncomfortable sensation, but it is just that – an uncomfortable sensation which doesn’t signify any danger.
It will take a while before you are really comfortable with the ‘asking for more’ approach but persevere and you will find that your fear and your sensations will start to happen less and less.
The funny thing is, when you ask for more, you will start to feel like your panicky sensations feel less intense. This is because when we fear our sensations, we are basically adding another layer of fear into the mix so it’s no wonder it feels even more intense.
How do I know if the ‘asking for more’ approach is working?
You’ll know it’s working when you start to feel a warm tingling sensation in your body. Enjoy this sensation. It is actually really pleasant. This is what happened to me when I started to end my fear of sensations, especially around my heart/chest area.
When we stop fearing our anxiety sensations, we are allowing our body to return to it’s default setting of balance. In other words, when we are stuck in the cycle of fight/flight, our body is geared up to deal with a danger, so internal systems our compromised. Systems like digestion and breathing.
When we activate the kill switch which happens when we fully see that what we are experiencing isn’t harmful and we leave the door open for the anxiety and panic to come in, our blood circulation, respiratory and digestive system return to normal.
This is when the relaxation response has been activated. This is a feeling you can be truly grateful for. Pay attention to it and allow yourself to bath in this feeling.
To replace the habit of monitoring your heart, change your focus
In order to stop obsessing over our heart, it’s best to focus our attention elsewhere. Of course, we shouldn’t fight this experience and try to distract ourselves with the mentality of “I’m focusing on something else so I can get rid of my anxiety.”
Ironically, this actually places more emphasis on our anxiety and racing heart which will just create more of what we are already experiencing.
The way to break a habit is to replace it instead of trying to get rid of it as this will just backfire. Accept your experience, understand that nothing bad will happen to you so you don’t need to fear your heart and place your focus onto something that holds your attention.
When you find your attention getting pulled back onto your heart, repeat the steps above and keep at it. In time, this habit will weaken until eventually you’ll just stop doing it because when we stop focusing on something, the force of the habit retreats.
This is what honestly helped me deal with my anxiety I had around my heart. It’s a very common concern so don’t feel like it’s just you. Ultimately, we are just buying into our thoughts that either something bad is happening to our heart or something bad will happen in the future. But it’s just thought.
The sensations are not harmful. They are just a reflection of your thoughts in your body. Sensations and thoughts do not cause suffering. What causes suffering is our fearful interpretation of them.
Feel free to let me know what you thought about this article as constant feedback helps me out a lot. Constructive criticism is welcome too! 🙂
Have a pleasant day
Until next time