Anxiety and panic also seem to increase their plan of attack at the most inconvenient times. Just as you are about to present to a crowd full of peers, whom you respect and admire….or, you are about to ask a girl, who you have been interested in for awhile, on a date. These ‘warriors’ sneak up and attack. You are given no warning? Or, are you? Learn how mindfulness and slowing your thoughts can give you the ammunition you need to fight!
People, who experience anxiety, have usually been experiencing it for some time. Excessive worry and thoughts about ‘being prepared’ for the ‘worst case scenario’ are actually purposeful for someone dealing with anxiety. They try to protect us and give us a sense of control. As you read this last sentence, you might be thinking, “That doesn’t make sense. Anxiety protects us and makes us feel in control?”
Logically, we know that this doesn’t make much sense. However, when you understand how our fears get triggered from past trauma or struggles, it starts to become a little clearer. Living in a chaotic, stressful environment, constantly feeling pressured by others to achieve success, needing everything to be organized and orderly to feel safe and in control, or acting a certain way to get love and acceptance are a few scenarios that contribute to anxiety. People learn to adapt differently. Here are a few examples:
- One may believe if they expect the worst to happen, then they can be prepared for anything.
- Another, may be overly critical of themselves. They never feel like they are 'good enough'. They need to succeed to feel satisfied and accepted.
- This person has to have everything 'in its place' and has strict schedules/expectations in order to feel relaxed and comfortable.
- Lastly, one may constantly try to guess what people need in order to be loved and appreciated by others.
Anxiety and panic become common reactions to distract us from our pain and insecurities, trying to detach us from feeling the void within ourselves. In other words, they began as a way to protect us from feeling or experiencing our fear and pain. In the beginning, it appeared they had a useful purpose. However, the benefits of their distraction only last so long.
- We can never be fully prepared for the worst case. Even if you have thought of the worst case scenario, you can’t stop or control the feelings attached to that scenario.
- You can never feel fully accepted if you are constantly seeking approval from others.
- You can never feel completely relaxed and comfortable because there are many things outside of your control, especially in relationship with others. It takes great effort and energy to have things go according to your plan or meet your expectations.
- You can never feel completely loved and appreciated if you have to rely on others to fulfill those desires.
It is exhausting and overwhelming to always ignore that 'void' we feel. You soon discover it is virtually impossible to deny its existence. Finally, you see anxiety and panic for who they really are. But how do you fight them? They have existed for so long. They know your fears and insecurities.
This may be sounding very familiar. You may even be experiencing some anxiety, trying to figure out how to beat anxiety and panic at their own game.
The GOOD news: You already have the arsenal of resources, abilities and strengths within you. It will take some effort, commitment, practice and support to identify, gather and use them to conquer those annoying enemies! Or are they enemies? Consider this...
One of the strategies used in defeating anxiety and panic is actually getting to know them, understand their purpose and learn from them. We have relied on them for so long, they have ‘inside information’ that will be helpful in achieving our intended goals. Once we really understand their purpose, you may even be surprised and see them more as allies.
The Plan of Attack:
- It starts with awareness. You have to learn and understand how these old ways and beliefs no longer support you in your desire to live a more balanced, peaceful and authentic life.
- Setting the intention to change. You have to make the commitment and voice your desire to change. Being held accountable and receiving validation are extremely important in this step.
- Practicing the change: In order to change old habits and beliefs, we have to practice new ways of thinking and behaving to meet our emotional needs. As humans, we all have the innate needs and desires to feel safe, protected and loved. Your desire and request is not unreasonable. It is what you deserve!
- Support while you are in ‘the battlefield’: You are going to need to receive support, encouragement and validation while you are in combat with anxiety and pain. It is hard work and takes a grueling amount of effort at times. It has taken years to build these beliefs and habits; it will not be a quick battle. You may feel like giving up because the work is difficult. It is helpful to have someone to introduce healthy alternative ways to cope. Because the fight can be long and tiring, progress can go unnoticed, by the person tackling their anxiety. Have you ever felt like your successes are overshadowed by what still isn't working? It is helpful to have someone highlight the progress you are making along the way to provide encouragement and hope.
How Emotional Stress Affect our Body
Emotional stress triggers our sympathetic nervous (fight or flight) system. Once activated, our sympathetic nervous system reacts by:
- Decreasing digestion
- Constricting blood
- Increasing heart rate and breathing
- Increasing blood sugar
- Suppressing immune functioning
- Stimulating amygdala which increases our fear/perceived danger response
In my therapy practice, we will focus on new stress management tools which will help you stay in your parasympathetic (rested) nervous system which will optimize and support your desire to change. You will also learn how to slow your thoughts, increasing awareness of your thoughts and beliefs. You will feel more prepared to choose your response rather than just reacting to a situation. Learning how to relax your body is one of the most important strategies in your arsenal. You can't be anxious in a relaxed body. Here are some examples of the tools used in sessions:
- Mindfulness training
- Self Regulation
- Positive thought restructuring
- Mind-Body connection
- Committing to yoga and/or other physical activity
- Guided imagery
- Deep breathing
- Building support system
Shine On Counseling
Shannon Schiefer MA, LPC
4525 S. Lakeshore Dr. Suite 102
Tempe, AZ 85282