These Tips all help to explain and clarify our 10 Rules for Coping with Panic Attacks.
Today’s Panic Attacks Info Tip is: Focus On the Present
When you are anxious, focus on, and do manageable things in the present. Try to stay in the present instead of predicting what might happen.
Concentrate on some small, manageable tasks so you stay connected to the present.
The anxious mind loves to wander and fret and worry about all sorts of things that might happen. These things are always intensely scary and the thoughts run rampant unless you do something to reign them in.
For example, you might count pictures on the wall or people in the room, or observe different colors that are in the room. You could also read a magazine article, slowly drink a glass of water, or count loose change.
The point is to absorb yourself into some small task. When your mind is focused on this task, your imagination won’t run away with itself.
Anxious thoughts are LOUD, but you have to try as hard as you can to not listen or indulge them.
I remember back in college when I used to have panic attacks every day in the lecture halls. I created all sorts of diversions to be able to stay seated and attentive.
I knew if I gave into the scary thoughts I would bolt out he door in 2 seconds. And from past experience, once I bolted, I could not re-enter. Too embarrassed, thinking everyone could see me.
So in order to keep myself planted in my chair, I would act as if I had blinders on. I would concentrate only on the professor and what was on the overhead projector and nothing else.
The task before me was to take the best notes possible. I would not allow myself to gaze around me. The lecture halls at my college seated anywhere from 100 to 500 people and this – being confined quietly with lots of people- made me anxious & panicky.
My fear was always that somehow I’d make a public spectacle of myslef, etc. So I wouldn’t let myself look around and get freaked out. This would only feed my fear.
Instead I would take the most meticulous notes, in calligraphy (very fancy writing, very labor intensive) . And this would keep me so busy I wouldn’t have time to listen to the stupid anxiety monster in my head.
Focus on the Present
Now a days when I feel anxious, say at work, I focus exclusively on the task at hand, and ignore any troubling thoughts to the best of my ability. I stay completely engaged in taking care of my patient and will do useful things like check and recheck medication calculations, doctor’s orders, etc.
I also remember to check my body and scan for muscle tension (I get it in the neck and shoulders). I relax my muscles to the best of my ability and focus on breathing correctly.
Preparing ahead of time for a peaceful and successful day always helps too. A nice morning meditation or quiet time of prayer/ contemplation can be a great way to start your day. It helps you to start your day out on the right foot, with your mood being calm and relaxed.
So the next time you feel anxious, or just know you’re heading for a panic attack, use this panic attacks info tip & stay entirely Focused on the Present. Put mental blinders on and do only this. No dreadful “what if” thoughts allowed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you stay present when you’re feeling anxious. What things do you focus on to take your mind off the anxiety?
I wish you peace,