Below are 3 suggestions to address the reactions associated with anxiety and panic.
1) In most cases, simply taking a few moments to practice some simple relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing, can allow our body to calm down. When we deliberately take slow deep breaths, we are indirectly telling our body that all danger has now passed; as a consequence, our body will stop producing adrenaline and our arousal will cease.
To begin, we can place our hand on our chest. Breathe in and out of our mouth, taking a big sigh, so that we feel our chest moving in and out against our hand. This is chest breathing, a shallow form of breathing that often occurs as a response to stress. Rapid chest breathing quickly gets oxygen to the muscles so we can fight or run away from whatever is stressing us. Heart rate and blood pressure go up, and we feel anxious.
Now we can place our hand on our stomach below our waist. Breathe in our nose like we are smelling a flower. Then we can purse our lips and breathe out our mouth like we are blowing at a match. We will feel our stomach move in and out against our hand. This is abdominal breathing or deep breathing, the kind of breathing we did naturally as a baby and still do when we are asleep or very calm. Slow deep breathing reverses our body’s stress response of anxiety, slows the heart, reduces blood pressure so it is closer to normal and releases endorphins, our body’s natural painkillers.
Compare how we feel after one minute of chest breathing with how we feel after one minute of abdominal breathing. Take some time to practice deep breathing every day. If we only practice our aim when we are in a battle, we will get shot. We need to practice before the panic occurs.
2) The way we think has a lot to do with the way we feel, so changing our thoughts from a fearful, pessimistic orientation to a calm, positive orientation becomes essential in managing feelings of anxiety and worry. When feeling worried, it is helpful to say the following to ourself: • This is an inconvenience and a disappointment. We have put up with disappointments all our life. We can tolerate this one too. • In order to achieve pleasant results, we may have to do unpleasant things. • Any solution using my adult judgment will be good enough to get the job done. • We cannot predict the future or prevent things from happening. We can solve problems as they arise. • We are cooperating to get the job done as best we can. • We have the power of choice and can chose and live on our own terms of good enough. • it won’t always be like this.
3) Writing our thoughts and feelings down makes them tangible and concrete before our very eyes. We cannot evaluate abstract thoughts in our mind about our life or about ourselves. However, we can begin to sort them out when we see them in black and white in front of us.
To start the journaling process, it maybe useful to ask ourselves focusing questions. By answering these questions we are able to make our internalized, unconscious, unacceptable feelings, conscious and concrete. This allows us to find relief from our conflicting logical and emotional reactions, which helps us to move forward. We can begin by using some focusing questions, such as:
“What is the worst part about it?”
“How does that worst part make me feel?”
“When else have I felt this way?”
“What am I trying achieve?”
“What scares me about this?”
“How will this affect my life in the long term?”
“What would be an ideal outcome?”
“What advice would I give to someone else in this situation?”