Anxiety and panic attacks can feel like a freight train when they hit. It is an all too common feeling for many of us. Panic attacks involve a racing heart and mind, shortness of breath, nausea, fear, dizziness, sweating, hot flashes, and other overwhelming sensations. I used to have panic attacks. I know how rough they can be.
Like a freight train, you can’t stop panic attacks and anxiety then they hit. They have just too much momentum. A freight train has to start applying the brakes a mile or more before it can fully stop. Anxiety can be stopped by the actions and thoughts we have well before we have an attack. Anxiety starts in the mind; it is a result of mistaken views about reality. Look at your thoughts. Overarching statements like “I can’t do this,” “All guys are dogs,” “All girls are bitches,” “I am worthless, ” “I am a sinner,” “I had a terrible day” are extreme and wrong. They are the fuel for anxiety and panic attacks. We attach meanings to things that are in themselves neutral. All events are inherently neutral; they just happen. We are the ones that give them positive or negative meanings.
By giving events a negative spin, we fail to apply the brakes on our mind’s freight train with enough time to avoid a crash. Telling yourself “I had a shitty day,” isn’t constructive. It only adds to anxiety. Besides, no day is ever completely “shitty.” It is simply a day; neutral of itself. Sure we had a few bad events, but we also had many more good events. We just can’t see them because we haven’t trained ourselves to see them. Negative things don’t really require effort to see. I am sure on a “shitty day” you ate something that you enjoyed. That is a good thing. You felt the sunshine or heard the sound of rain. Both are excellent things. You worked that day. That is a good thing many people wish for.
If you notice only bad things you will continue to have panic attacks and anxiety. The freight train just has too much speed. However, if you work to train yourself to see all things as neutral or even good in some way, then anxiety and panic attacks will naturally stop. I didn’t have to work directly on stopping my panic attacks; I couldn’t stop them when they hit. I just shifted my thinking so I don’t have them in the first place.
Unfortunately, this takes time. It took me up to a year before I stopped having anxiety problems. There is nothing you can do that will help you immediately. Pills won’t do it; they cause many other problems and even prevent you from getting at the source of your problem. All actions begin from your thoughts. Thoughts shape how we view the world. It takes a lot of time and effort to make new habits of thinking. We also have to develop the ability to focus on one thing at a time.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- At the end of each day, list all the good things that happened
- During “bad” events, look for good outcomes. Even the worst situations have good outcomes.
- Remember that events are neutral. How you think determines how good or bad an event is
- Feel the warmth of the sun
- Listen to the sound of the rain
- Take one day out of the week (or just 1 hour a day) to unplug: No cellphone, no TV, no computer.
- Take a walk
- Keep a journal of your habit thoughts. These are thoughts that keep occurring. How do they add to your anxiety?
- Take pleasure in the small things. Learn to see small things like dew on a blade of grass. They are the source of happiness
- Take a few moments everyday to sit in silence. Just be with yourself without distraction.
With persistence you can stop anxiety. You will still have times you feel anxious; but that is good. Anxiety is a good friend that is simply reminding you something is wrong with how you are thinking. It takes time to find out what your good friend is trying to tell you. Sit quietly with yourself and listen. You already know the solutions to your problems.