Are you a prisoner of your anxiety? The reason I ask this is I was working with a client this week who has agoraphobia (a fear of avoiding places that may make you feel trapped or panicked). Maria (not her real name) has been living with this for 2.5 years. Only ever venturing outside with her husband. With children, this makes life much more complicated. Speaking with her, she said the panic attacks mirror a heart attack. Once a panic attack set in she said it is difficult to do anything. Even think about her breathing.
There is something really extraordinary about our mind. You see it will do everything to keep you safe. So if it perceives danger then the body will respond accordingly. So if the mind picks up on the danger real or perceived, the body kicks in. It is getting you ready to ‘Flight or Fight’ from danger.
Our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and prepares our body for action. When there is a threat, the body has to match whatever is going on in the mind. The heart starts beating faster, you tense up, your pupils dilate, you become much more alert. However lesser stresses can cause this to happen as well. You may have experienced it when asked to speak in public.
So even though you don’t have a lion or a bear chasing you, a lower level of stress can induce this depending on the meaning the mind puts on an experience. For many speaking in public is more terrifying than being pursued by a bear. By going into the ‘Fight or Flight’ mode, while more energy is made available to your muscles, non-essential systems like digestion and immunity are given much lower priority. So if you are constantly in this state of ‘Fight or Flight’, then you could suffer digestive issues and a lack of energy, which my client did. Common advice with anxiety attacks is to stay with the panic attack until it passes. But we didn’t even want to go there again. We needed to stop these attacks before they begun.
Is Your Mind Protecting You?
During our session, Maria could not recall anything in the past being the root cause or reason of this onset of panic and anxiety. However what she did experience was an incredible pain in her chest and the side of her head. We spoke to this pain and understood its role, function, and purpose for keeping Maria inside. Because you see the pain was trying to protect Maria from going outside.
The mind was actually trying to keep her safe. We needed to assure that part of her that whatever meaning she had put on going outside in the past was now resolved, and she now had phenomenal coping skills. Once Maria was satisfied this was resolved I suggested we go for a walk outside. She put on her shoes, and we walked down the street, and into a very large sports field. No anxiety, no panic attacks.
Control Your Thoughts To Stop The Anxiety
What I noticed was that Maria walked very fast, and walked with her head down. I mean we were both elated we were outside, but there was more that could be done. When people are having panic attacks they are really feeling everything.
Somewhere they have put a meaning on a situation and this meaning then turns into a feeling inside of their body and they experience that in an amplified way.
Maria walked 200 metres ahead in this vast open space. I asked her stick her hand in the air if she started panicking and I would run to her. Fortunately, no running was required!
It’s important to get out of that habit of constantly looking inside. That can become a bad habit if done continually. Panic attacks & anxiety often are brought on by a future or past thoughts being dwelled upon. Remember thoughts are not reality. Y
ou are the thinker of your thoughts, and they are the only things you have total control over. I asked Maria to lift up her head and look around while she was walking. Taking notice of out there. Don’t be stuck in your thoughts. And slow down So if you experience panic attacks and anxiety, just ask yourself is this thought real? I mean can you touch it now? Also, notice how you walk, what do you or don’t you notice around you. Are you continually looking up, or down inside of yourself? These simple tips can pull you away from thinking about the past or future and help you stay present.
Seriously sometimes it is the most simple things that can make the change. Change your life today and stop being a prisoner to your fears and phobias.