Help With Anxiety - A Brief Introduction
Anxiety is the natural survival response to run or fight being triggered at the wrong time. This response is designed to help you but in modern times this is often triggered by events from job interviews to social situations etc…
Anxiety and panic attacks are caused by a misuse of the imagination. For example worrying about an upcoming presentation you will be giving. Each time you imagine how bad it will go you create a template that your mind follows that tells it how it should feel about that event. Because you have the ability to use your imagination well enough to affect you, this means if you imagine it going well and look forward to it then that is the template that you lay down. This works by really building up the experience vividly in your mind getting pleasant, desirable feelings linked to the event.
When you have panic attacks or get anxious it shuts down the digestive system and all non-essential systems. It prepares your body to fight, run or freeze (playing dead). These responses could save your life in the appropriate situations. Even if it feels like you are going to die, you won’t. The feelings are because of the digestive system shutting down and because of the adrenaline released into the body. Most people say it feels like butterflies in their stomach, or a churning sensation.
Some people believe they will collapse or faint. Even if you do pass out your breathing will go back to normal and you will come round again. If you have a panic attack, rate the anxiety on a scale out of 10 and you can keep track of how quickly it is going. The chemicals released into the body that cause the feelings of anxiety leave the body after only a short while.
Whenever you are feeling stressed or anxious or just want to relax you can try 7 – 11 breathing.
Breathing in to the count of 7 then out to the count of 11.
You can learn the AWARE technique. Whenever you get anxious or have a panic attack you can remember AWARE:
A = Accept the anxiety, don’t fight it
W= Watch your anxiety, rate it from 1-10 and watch as that rating changes
A = Act with the anxiety, behave normally & do what you intended to do, breathe normally or do 7-11 breathing
R = Repeat all of the above steps until it goes down to an comfortable level
E = Expect the best, what you fear most normally never happens, mentally rehearse experiences where you thought you might have felt anxious in the past but surprise yourself when you don’t.
You can also do some mental rehearsal or guided imagery.
‘Close your eyes, relax, vividly imagine watching yourself remaining calm whilst doing something in the future you would usually have found caused anxiety. Then imagine seeing yourself in that scene and notice how pleasant it feels to have this different response. Then once you have practised seeing yourself remaining calm and responding as you would like, you can imagine stepping into the scene and experiencing it in this new way as if you are really there, seeing what you would see, hearing what you would hear, and feeling the new calm or appropriate feelings. Then rehearse this regularly.’
During a panic attack if you take control of your breathing this will help you take control of the panic, if you feel it coming you could chew some gum or eat a small amount of food because you can’t be anxious fully at the same time as having your digestive system working.
You can practice sitting down and relaxing and then anchor that relaxation response. This response can then be fired off when you are in a situation that may make you feel anxious. You can practice this anchoring and firing the relaxation response, imagining being in situations that would normally cause anxiety and using the anchor to relax. The more you practice this the stronger the response will be.
Below are two tracks for improving well-being and reducing anxiety and depression. They can be played on the site or downloaded (small writing under the track with a link saying 'download mp3').
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There are some other useful places with information about tackling anxiety for example Genius Awakening has Five Ways To Quiet The Mind When You Feel Intense Anxiety, and you can find information about Generalised Anxiety Disorder here