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Archive for Anxiety and Panic

A Letter to Anxiety

Anxiety got you down? If you wrote a letter to your anxiety, it might look something like this:

Greetings Anxiety,

You and I have been close friends for some time. In fact, I can’t remember a time when you haven’t been in my life. You have kept me from doing things I would enjoy. You rob me of fun and spontaneity. When I feel your energy, any new challenge feels like Mount Everest rather than the tiny mole hill it is. My confident perspective zeros in on a tiny focus of doom and gloom as I hook in with those negative past memories. I feel “less than” everyone else and whatever I do is not enough. Ever.

You steal my sleep, waking me at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. to start your negative rambling. Anything in my life is fair game: from imminent deadlines to seemingly overwhelming commitments, from the “what-if’s” and “should-haves” to “I wonder if this will turn out.” At those early morning hours, all is dark and treacherous. No daylight will ever exist. Or so it seems.

Thank you for listening.

Sincerely, You

Want a Change? Let’s rewrite the letter together. It could be something like:

Dear Anxiety,

While you and I have been close friends for some time, I feel a need to change. I appreciate your “protective” efforts, but you are getting in the way of a positive future-oriented perspective. Please quiet down so I can see through your fantasy of illusion and move into a healthier life. Yes, you have controlled me through the years. But I want to include you in this new process.

Your energy has been a powerful influence on me. But I think you got the wrong job description. You thought the only way through life was with your current ways. I suspect you’re tired of doing what you have been doing, and perhaps want a new job. One that achieves the same goals but is better for us. When I feel your energy creeping in, I will use some new anxiety busters so we can both change. Thank you for your assistance with this new approach.

Warmly, You

Here are some tips to help all of us learn new patterns of behavior:

  • Start deep breathing. Belly breathing is the surest way we can harmonize. New melodies are on the way! The entire body can relax.
  • Stop drinking soda. This beverage not only jacks up your central nervous system, but depletes vitamins and minerals from your body.  
  • Trim the fat from your budget. Take charge of your money. We all know: debt will ramp up anxiety. Track what you spend and cut back on unnecessary things.
  • Get rid of clutter. A deadline is rapidly approaching. How do you feel when you can’t find that HP901 ink for the printer? Or the panic when you can’t find the keys as you head out the door? Simplify your life and breathe easier. 
  • Plan a day trip. Feel unendingly stuck in the office? Or at home? I’ll take off and go to a different environment. Take a hike. Do some camping. Your mind and body will appreciate this much-needed break.  
  • Go to bed early. “Just one more thing” before you head for bed? Solution: set an alarm for an hour before shuteye. And begin winding down for the day.
  • Begin a gratitude journal. Anything from a pair of boots to a warm jacket, from good health to wonderful friends. There is so much to be grateful for. Start appreciating life and yourself.

Leave anxiety behind and live unstuck.

Mind Relief Part 1: The 3 Questions

The search for mind-relief often takes many detours. For many, the search ends in the self-help section of a bookstore and/or days, months or years of seemingly endless Google searches. Many promises turn out to be dead ends because while relief is promised, it is often elusive. Hard as you try, change just doesn’t stick. You jot down your notes, download an app that auto reminds you to do “something” prescribed by the book to “change your life.”

Like the myriad diet plans out there, whatever behavior is off the menu is usually the one you crave. At least this was the sentiment of one of my clients who rolled her eyes when I suggested a book to help end her endless searching. As soon as I said “book,” she grimaced and said only, “Been there.”

So I was surprised when that same client attended one of my women’s group workshops where we discussed said book, and she patiently participated in the discussion. One story she told the group was so strongly compelling that I asked her to share her experience with my readers.

What follows is a true story, but first a little background on the book and the basic principles:

The book is titled Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection, by Gregg Krech. The principles are simple. Just ask yourself 3 questions each day:

  1. Who helped me?
  2. Who did I help?
  3. Who did I inconvenience?

I’ll let my client take the story from here . . .

Joan, I had the most incredible experience coming back from the hospital in Tucson where my husband had just had a series of tests. We were both concerned about the outcome and of course, our thoughts were deep in “what if” territory, yet we remained quiet with each other. My husband asked to drive home, and I sat in the passenger side, messing with the radio—he asked me to turn it off; so I turned to my iPhone but no signal; tried to talk with my husband. He was quiet and pensive. So I fidgeted, and tried again to make conversation until finally he said, “Please, I just want to have a quiet ride home. I’m not in the mood to talk right now.”

Next stop on the inner toddler train was: what did I do wrong, was he mad at me, did I do something at the hospital, etc. etc. etc. etc…. fidget, fidget. Then I found the Naikan book that I brought to read. And I began to think about each question. Who helped me today? The people at the VA helped me/us find the clinic, and they shared a smile and a thank you for my husband’s service. The volunteers in the hallway helped me to find the cafeteria where I would wait, fret and watch the clock as doctors did his test. Next question, who did I help? That took a lot of thinking. I finally came up with, “I drove my husband to the test and patiently waited.” That was about as much “giving” as I had done this day. It was the last question that really got me though: Who did I inconvenience? Quite clearly my fidgeting in the car was an inconvenience to my husband who was deep in thought, and I selfishly missed HIS cues while trying to find some sort of “mind relief” of my own. Then I wondered if there was something that I could do to soothe his worry while we passed the time. My mind said “just be quiet already, leave him be with his thoughts.”

Just north of Globe, after 2 hours of silent miles, I thought about how much he loves to open the car window to enjoy the fresh air. I usually complain that it will mess my hair, so he knows not to ask. But today was a tepid summer day with beautiful clear skies and white billows of clouds. So I said, “Let’s open the windows really wide and take in the “breeze” the rest of the way back!” He liked the idea and immediately put all four windows down. Of course my hair was whipping across my face and getting stuck to my lips. It was uncomfortable, but I committed to do something kind for this man I love, who had gone through so much this day.

Soon something amazing happened. All other senses came alive. I felt the sun on my lap and followed the white puffs of clouds as they drifted to the north. After awhile I could smell when the vegetation outside changed from desert to cedar to pine and mossy, stony, rock face coming up Hwy. 260. I could actually smell the moisture and feel the sudden coolness in the air as we approached the Salt River. Arriving at elevation in the tall pines was an extraordinary awakening. The scent of the trees intensified as we got closer to home in Show Low. And when we topped the rim, there was something I had never smelled before. It was so compelling that I had to break the silence to ask my husband if he smelled it too. He did! Although there were no storm clouds around, the air was heavy with humidity and static that I felt on my skin. We both wondered if we would get a lighting storm later.

All in all we spent 90 minutes on the ride home in absolute silence, but we had never been closer before in our 20 years of marriage. When we finally settled in for the evening to the sounds of heavy rain and lightning, my husband said, “Thank you for that suggestion today. I was so heavy in thought but the experience of the ride home gave me a moment to really appreciate this beautiful state we live in and how much it means to me to have you as my partner in this life.” I’m not sure I have ever given a more precious gift than those 90 minutes of mindfulness. A few days later we learned that he would be ok. Another blessing!

Now that I know how, I strive to do this often—with anyone who will play. The 3 questions keep me grounded to the present and make me look for ways to be of use rather than an inconvenience. Want to try it for yourself? Take a “me” minute right now, right where you are, reading this article. First focus only on what you smell and feel around you. Feel the air on your nostrils as you breathe in and out. Is the scent familiar? Just follow it for awhile and let it drift. If you can take your shoes off, feel the ground beneath your feet as you do this. Now close your eyes and see how your senses intensify when you take out the visual track. If you have a bit more time, ask yourself the 3 questions and then see if your worries don’t become a little lighter as you practice this simple technique.

I am forever grateful to Joan for showing our group this book and being my tour guide when I hit sticky roadblocks in life that need to be smoothed with her kind and gentle voice. Since I have had hypnotherapy sessions before, the experience on the ride home felt familiar; like the hypnotic state of mind-relief she provides in her practice. Warm, comfortable and safe. Tracy M. March 22, 2017

Secret States of Mind: Anxiety and Panic

I call them secret because those who live with anxiety and panic every day do so with quiet bravery and silent resolve.  It’s like the outside of you smiles, while the inner you braces for another wave of anxiety to pounce.  And pounce they do . . . while you are in the car, at work, with your family, watching a ball game . . . and after a while, the world feels disconnected.  For so many people, anxiety takes away the things that give joy and the freedom to savor special moments with family and friends. The emergency brake is always on, but it’s too embarrassing to let anyone (except your closest safety buddy) know.

Maybe anxiety started to creep in after a significant loss or stress in your life, and the panic button has been on high alert ever since. After years of this you’re not even sure what triggers this feeling. Now it’s just the fear of the fear that keeps you stuck and close to safe places and predictable routines.

You’ve probably been to your doctor or the emergency room a time or two. They have run tests to make sure you are in no physical danger, and they have declared that your health is fine. Perhaps he/she prescribed medication and/or counseling, meditation, and other forms of treatment to rid you of this intense emotional roadblock. With all the information available at bookstores and on the internet you may have purchased a self-help program but nothing seems to stick for long. Does this sound like you?

  • You live in fear of imminent danger.
  • The panic attacks are becoming more erratic and more frequent.
  • You’ve been told that anxiety of one of the more difficult conditions to treat.
  • You find that you are spending more time in “safe” places and less time doing things that used to bring you joy and fulfillment.

If you have been suffering from anxiety and panic, here are some steps you can take to quickly move through the sensations and get back to a more comfortable place. Follow the steps below if you find yourself in the middle of a panic attack.

Step 1: Pull your shoulders down from your ears. Relax them. Then look up.

Step 2: Breathe in and expand your belly area and say or think, “I am calm.”

Step 3: Breathe out and say or think, “Relax and release.”

Step 4: Do something playful that uses all of your senses. For example, smell the fresh air, sing, dance, feel the way the air is brushing against your skin, imagine a moment when you were at your most playful and relive the details of that time.

But, if you have been in intense pain for way too long, the techniques you’ll learn with Unstuck Living can help you find lasting relief in just 1-3 sessions 90% of the time. The process is called Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and it isn’t therapy. It is an easy and tested method that helps people move through old patterns and get unstuck. It’s about learning to use your mind more effectively, developing positive choices that will heal old emotional scars. This is achieved by reframing past hurts and pains in a way that puts you in charge of how you’ll respond. Everything you need to change your life is already within you. All you need are the right tools and a bit of guidance to tap into your wisdom and innate resources.