One of the keys of overcoming panic attacks is learning how to reduce anxiety to normal intensity. When you are anxious, fears are grossly exaggerated, your thinking is all distorted and it can be hard if not impossible to think rationally. No wonder panic attacks make you feel like you’re losing control!
Reducing anxiety is a also known as normalizing anxiety, and it is one of the most effective anxiety self help tools you can learn.
But before we discuss how to effectively reduce anxiety, it will help to look at some of the ways we increase fear and anxiety in our minds- and usually without even knowing it. These are coping mechanisms we all try to keep anxiety and panic at bay.
Putting Up With. Putting up with panic is when you physically recoil and withdraw from the feelings, hoping and praying it will go away quickly and not come back. Sometimes you may even hope it will come just so you can get it over with as soon as possible. You live going from panic attack to panic attack and it feels awful
Constantly Dwelling Inwards. The symptoms that anxiety brings are alarming to an already tense person. Someone who feels slightly nauseous from anxiety may do his or her very best to make it to the store and not concentrate on the nausea. While she is standing in line at the checkout, she may force herself to concentrate on a magazine or read a label on a jar. And still the whole time she is forcing herself to concentrate on something outside of herself, she feels her stomach churn and gets waves of panic thinking she will vomit right there in front of everyone. How much longer can she go on like this? Sometimes she can’t bear it any longer, and leaves the store completely defeated.
Dreading & Avoiding. This is avoiding people and places that bring on panic attacks. You dread eating in the cafeteria at work, so you tell your coworkers you have an important phone call and then stay back in the locker room, or an empty bathroom or an empty stairwell. You avoid walking your child to the bus stop because you know you will panic if you are forced to stand there with the other mothers. so you drive your child to the bus stop instead.
Adding Second Fear. Everyone gets first fear from time to time. (source: Peace From Nervous Suffering, p. 122) This is the flash of fear that comes to us almost like a reflex when we perceive danger. The car in front of you on the highway suddenly slows down and you have to slam on the brakes. First fear flashes danger and you hit the brakes. Second fear comes in almost immediately and turns this feeling into panic. Your mind has split second thoughts “Oh my God! I could have died…What if it happens again?…I knew I never should have done this today!!”
Skimming Through Anxiety Recovery to Get it Over With. Maybe you found a great program that really works, but you’re too scared to try it. You feel so vulnerable and exposed. So you attempt to do the 21-7 Tecnnique- but only once. Or you Face, Accept, Float, Let Time Pass, without really letting too much time pass. Before you know it, you’re all tense again, bundled up in knots. You were able to go to church last week but trying again this week seems way too hard. So you only give your anxiety recovery a half-hearted attempt, or you have a few small successes and don’t keep up with it.
All these are ineffective ways to deal with panic attacks and overcome anxiety. In most cases, they actually make the whole situation worse. I speak from experience here, because I have been guilty of all of them.
The good news is that once you know better, you can do better. And that is what you are learning today
Here are 6 Ways to Reduce Anxiety To Normal Intensity That Really Work
1. Remember that all feelings are part of being human. This means anxiety too! Recognize that anxiety brings strange feelings and do your best not to be too freaked out by them. Anxiety bringing strange physical symptoms may cause a flash of first fear, but do not add any second fear to it- second fear is being freaked out. Your goal is to feel all the strange and bizarre physical feelings while not being overly concerned about them.
Do not focus in on them, monitor them, or wonder if they mean something else (all second fear). Recognize the humanness and normality of anxiety causing strange physical feelings. Doesn’t this make perfect sense?
2. Be Kind to your Mind. I talk about this a lot and it bears repeating. Anxious people habitually engage in a lot of negative self talk. This is utterly self defeating and does absolutely nothing to help your situation. Learn when you are doing it and put it to a stop. I mean this!
Another way to be kind to your mind is to feed it good things. This you can do with a quiet 10 minutes of meditation before you start your day. I’m all about sensory experiences, so if I have time I light a scented candle or an incense stick and give myself the gift of 10 minutes of sheer peace.
If weather permits, I open a window and let the smells and sounds of nature surround me. Then I listen to a healing mediation recording or hypnosis for panic attacks mp3. If I have time I take a morning walk with my dog.
You can continue to be kind to your mind throughout the day. Use positive affirmations as you go about your day, or when you take a 10 minute break. Practice doing diaphragmatic breathing on your way to work or on a coffee break, while you visualize yourself having a calm and successful and pleasant day.
Listen to a relaxation CD to lull you off to sleep at night. Or open a window and concentrate on those beautiful night sounds in nature. On your next day off, practice yoga for anxiety relief. There are just so many wonderful ways to be good to yourself and refresh your mind. Make as many of these good things a habit as you can. All of these things help normalize anxiety and set you up for success with anxiety recovery.
3. Don’t be Discouraged by Setbacks. Setbacks are a normal part of your recovery from panic attacks and anxiety. Not every day is going to be wonderful and perfect so please don’t expect this. If you have a setback and let it throw you into despair this is how you will lose the battle. You will quit your program, throw in the towel and say “Screw it, this is too hard, I can’t do it.”
Know this- you will have setbacks, you will have times when panic wins and you lose. You will have days that suck.
But you will also have successes. They will be small at first, but you will definitely have them and they are cumulative. In other words, no success is ever lost- as long as you continue on. When you have a setback, dust yourself off, and get back to your anxiety recovery.
And a setback is, at the most basic level, just a withdrawal from panic and anxiety. You know you need to accept the panic and anxiety, so it is really just this simple change in attitude. You learn to stop being afraid of anxiety and just accept it. (And believe me I know this is easier said than done)
See setbacks as part of the recovery process and don’t exaggerate or make a big deal out of them.
4. Be Prepared to Feel Anxious For Awhile. Once you start on your journey to wellness, you must be prepared to feel the anxiety symptoms for awhile. especially in the beginning. Remember, you have conjured up an anxiety habit with thoughts and symptoms over however long. Take the gentle approach that they will recur from habit here and there and must be lived with. This you can do. Just do not treat the thoughts or feelings as important.
5. Recognize Second Fear and Stop Adding it to your life. All the “what if’s” “Oh no’s!” and all those other statements increase fear and keep anxiety intense and very much a problem.
Let’s illustrate this principle with an impending panic attack.
Here is how we add second fear to panic. We feel the panic attack coming on. Our first response is a flash of fear (first fear) and we immediately add second fear in all these ways: Thinking “Oh shit, here it comes!” “I can’t take this!” “I have to get out of here!” Physically we tense up, waiting for the panic attack to strike. And when it comes, it comes hard. We either run out of the room, or sit through it while we are dying on the inside and holding on with everything we’ve got. Afterwards, we feel depressed, angry, and even more afraid of the next attack.
Here is how to face a panic attack without adding second fear to it:
Panic comes in a wave fueled by adrenaline and it must always die down. If you feel a panic attack coming, sit in your chair — even allow yourself to physically slump, relaxing as best you can. Prepare to let the panic attack flash without intensely withdrawing from it.
Let it wash over you with as much acceptance as you can. In this way, you are no longer exaggerating the adrenalin rush, so it cannot build up to that sickening level of a massive severe panic attack.
6. Take your Anxiety Recovery Slowly. Do not be discouraged by slow progress. And you must work exposure therapy at your own pace. You can’t speed up or force recovery by sheer will or even for the sake of those you love most. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. So Just point yourself in the right direction and keep going…
By using these 6 steps, you will reduce anxiety to a normal intensity. Reducing your fear is another wonderful anxiety recovery tool that really works. It takes time and effort, but it is worth it. Because YOU are worth it!
These steps should help get you started. If you have any questions you are welcome to leave a comment below.
I wish you peace,
Ready to show your anxiety who’s in charge? Do what I do and use Panic Away. Click on the link to get started today and reclaim your life from fear.