There are a few things which have helped me to effectively deal with my anxiety and panic attacks. I’ll now share what these things are and how they’ve helped me.
Internal Acceptance of my anxiety
This approach completely changed my whole relationship I had with my anxiety. I was always at war with it, trying to mentally push it away or escape from it. As you may know by now, this approach only seems to empower the anxiety. What we resist, persists.
The truth is, however, a paradoxically “healing” experience happens when we stop fighting the anxiety and completely allow it to be, as it is, without wishing to escape from it or change it. This, I know, sounds very strange to most people. “What do you mean accept it? How could I accept something which has been plaguing my existence for so long?” I get it, I would think the exact same thing if I hadn’t applied this approach.
Please understand that this type of acceptance isn’t that giving in, defeatist type mentality where you accept a life of anxious suffering. This is nothing like that. The acceptance approach I’m talking about is learning to give up the fight with our anxiety. It is very empowering!
Making any attempt to mentally reason, escape or fight off anxiety will only serve to perpetuate it.
The resources which promote the inner acceptance approach are authors such as Dr Claire Weekes, Barry Mcdonagh and Paul David.
Here are a few books from the authors I’ve mentioned above:
- Hope and Help For Your Nerves by Dr Claire Weekes
- DARE: The New Way to End Anxiety And Stop Panic Attacks by Barry Mcdonagh
- At Last a Life By Paul David
- At Last a Life And Beyond by Paul David
Flow: The Psychology of Happiness by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
This is taken from Amazon:
“What really makes people glad to be alive? What are the inner experiences that make life worthwhile? For more than two decades Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied those states in which people report feelings of concentration and deep enjoyment. His studies revealed that what makes experience genuinely satisfying is ‘flow’ – a state of concentration so focused that it amounts to complete absorption in an activity and results in the achievement of an ideal state of happiness. Flow has become the classic work on happiness and a major contribution to contemporary psychology. It examines such timeless issues as the challenge of lifelong learning; family relationships; art, sport and sex as ‘flow’; the pain of loneliness; optimal use of free time and how to make lives meaningful.”
This helped me deal with generalised anxiety disorder because I learnt to use my free time wisely and practiced engaging in activities that required all of my attention. By doing this, I learnt to appreciate life a lot more and as a byproduct, I stopped fixating on my anxious thoughts and sensations. Tying in the acceptance and allowance approach with activity immersion really allowed the anxiety to fall off of my shoulders, with the passage of time.
The activities which help me get into the flow are writing, researching topics I include in my writing, reading fiction, exercise (running and going for long walks whilst listening to music or an audiobook), listening to engaging podcasts, learning a challenging song on guitar, playing tennis, playing football, spending a large amount of time drawing and painting, playing video games which include a challenging story line and so on.
The Buteyko Breathing Method
The Buteyko Breathing method is all about learning to breathe correctly so we can reset our breathing to a normal level. Did you know the correct way to breathe is by keeping our mouth closed and breathing through our noses? I didn’t, at least not for most of my life.
When we are going through anxiety and panic, we spend quite a lot of our time in a hyperventilation state. Our breathing becomes shallower and we experience symptoms like shortness of breath. In order to breathe more easier (or so we think), we start to breathe with our mouths open and this becomes habitual.
Did you know that breathing through the mouth encourages hyperventilation? I certainly didn’t! Basically, we are keeping ourselves in this cycle by our incorrect breathing. Usually, we are told to take deep breaths but taking deep breaths actually leads to more hyperventilation as it increases our breathing volume. The Buteyko Method teaches us that in order to breathe better, we need to reduce our breathing volume. When suffering from anxiety and panic, it’s a lot better to breathe through our mouths and practice taking shorter breaths.
The books I read on this topic were…
- Close Your Mouth: Buteyko Breathing Clinic Self-Help Manual by Patrick Mckeown
- The Oxygen Advantage: The simple, scientifically proven breathing technique that will revolutionise your health and fitness by Patrick Mckeown
The Linden Method by Charles Linden
The Linden Method is an anxiety elimination program which focuses on dealing with the culprit responsible for the development of these emotional disorders. The culprit being the amygdala which is a small pair of almond shaped organs in the brain which job it is to regulate anxiety levels.
What determines our anxiety levels from either rising or dropping down to a normal level is how we respond to our anxiety and what behaviours we carry out. If we respond to our anxiety with more fear, then we will keep the anxiety levels stuck at a high level. If we carry out anxious behaviours, then the amygdala will make a decision to keep the anxiety benchmark level high.
In a nutshell, it promotes the idea that we can overcome our anxiety by changing our behaviours.
Why is The Linden Method different from other therapies or programs?
It’s different because it is unique. It focuses solely on recovery rather than on anxiety management techniques. Instead of focusing on what may have caused your anxiety or allocating blame, it goes straight to the root cause and through a structured process, allows recovery to naturally happen over time. It’s the only online therapy that offers accredited coaching and it been showing people away out of their anxieties for over 22 years. This program doesn’t believe we should focus on the anxiety because focusing on anxiety only magnifies the problem.
Here’s what didn’t help me
Whenever I talked about my anxiety, it made me feel a lot worse. Okay, at the time during a talking therapy session it felt reassuring to know it was just anxiety but after the sessions I came away feeling just as bad as I did before I had them. I now understand why I felt worse and that’s because every time we talk about how we are feeling, we are reinforcing the anxiety. In essence, we are reactivating our anxious emotional response by talking about it.
Jumping straight into the deep end certainly didn’t help me overcome my anxiety. To anyone who is suffering from severe anxiety, I would never recommend putting yourself in situations which make you panic, especially when you’re in really high anxiety. Our brains are going to be highly sensitised at this point so anything we do to create extra panic just isn’t worth it.
I always advocate the “baby steps” philosophy. I believe this is the most sensible and comfortable way to move out into the world and face situations which scare you. The beauty of taking baby steps is that it allows you to build huge momentum and a natural return in confidence levels. When we do face a challenging situation that makes us feel uncomfortable, we will be in a better state emotionally if we ease ourselves in slowly overtime.
If, for example. you haven’t left the house for a while, it would be silly to assume you can travel on an air plane to another country wouldn’t it? Start really small, start in the shallow end. If that means just walking to the end of your road then that is perfectly okay.
If you are suffering from social anxiety and have made avoiding people into a habit, instead of putting yourself out there in big overwhelming situations, start by texting a friend, then when you feel ready, phone her/him. Eventually as your anxiety levels come down through understanding, acceptance, changing behaviours, a shift in perspective, then you will feel inspired and more confident to do a little more.
The next stage could be to go for a short walk with your friend or invite them round your house for a get together. Do you see how giving yourself plenty of time with baby steps can help you swim your way into the deep end in a smooth and steady manner, without jumping head first into it?
The point is to slowly, at a level you’re comfortable with, reintroduce yourself to the world again. To the places and situations you would normally be in but haven’t because of anxiety.
In all honesty medication made me feel like a zombie. I didn’t take it for long but whenever I did take it, I experienced some horrible and scary side-effects. I’ve been brought up to always rely on natural approaches when it comes to mental and/or physical ailments.
Naturally, taking medication gave off the impression that I was ill in some way because I using drugs to make myself feel better. Having this perception hanging over me made me feel more anxious.
EFT stands for emotional freedom technique, also known as tapping. This is when a person taps certain parts of your body in order to relieve the anxiety. Does it relieve anxiety? I certainly didn’t in my experience. When I look back on it now, it seems rather silly to me, but we live and learn as the saying goes.
To anyone who has tried this therapy and has had success with it, then I’m very happy for you 🙂
I sat in a shed with a hypnotherapist for an hour. He guided me through a visualisation exercise accompanied by peaceful music. Trying to relax when one is suffering from high anxiety is such a challenging task. The more we try to relax, the harder things get. This brings about frustration and naturally increases anxiety levels.
He also gave me a couple of sheets of paper. The part about avoiding certain foods was helpful. One of the other bits of paper included positive affirmations. These were to be mentally practiced to counteract negative thoughts. From my experience, this was exhausting and mentally draining. I would practice these positive affirmations with great effort, trying so hard to mentally stop negative thoughts from arising. I also now know that this is a futile exercise.
It’s a massive waste of time. The more we try and stop negative thoughts from popping up, the more likely it is that we’ll experience them. This is because of the psychological term called Paradoxical Intention which means the harder we try to stop ourselves from thinking an anxious thought, the more chance we’ll have at thinking about it. This approach does nothing but promote resistance and resistance is never conducive to healing ourselves from anxiety.
When we replace an anxious thought with a positive thought, we are sending a message to ourselves that we are not positive enough already and so our mind will react in a negative way.
The only reason I tried these therapies is because I was promised they would help me put a stop to my anxiety disorder. For the ones which actually sound ridiculous, (no offence tapping) they were done out of sheer desperation as this is what happens when a person is suffering from severe anxiety. You just try whatever is available, even if that thing makes you feel worse.