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woman with anxiety & panic

Recognize Anxiety & Panic

Anxiety and panic are different. For example, panic attacks can strike without apparent warning, while anxiety can often be linked to explicit triggers and build gradually.

Despite these differences, they share similar characteristics; feeling like you have no control, you are behind, and overwhelmed by consequences.

How can we detect these negative feelings in order to overcome them before they snowball and derail our best intentions?

EXPERIENCE

Recognizing these feelings in your body and understanding their patterns of growth comes with experience. The physical sensations, emotions, and the fight or flight chemical response work together to cause an uncontrolled reaction. Fears overwhelm reason. 

On top of that, we justify how we are feeling with negative thoughts. “If I’m spun out and feeling like a failure, I must be a failure.”

The earlier you can recognize some consistent features of your anxiety or panic, the earlier you can challenge. This will diminish their influence.

SITUATION

I first notice that I’m starting to breathe heavily. My mind is racing and jumping. I feel like I’m doing a lot. Tons of pressure. But I’m just sitting on the floor, listening to a podcast. I want to be up; doing other things. More interesting things than just sit in this empty room and listen to a podcast by myself. 

“Oh god, this has no meaning. I’m missing the meaning. Is this all there is? This is all there is and that’s fine. I know it’s fine but it doesn’t feel fine.”

I’m not doing the meaning. Oh no, it’s all wrong. Nothing matters.

  • Emotionally flooded
  • Mentally overloaded
  • Nervous system going berserk
  • Total shutdown

We’re so far past the beginning, that I don’t know where to start. I’ve literally forgotten how we got here. What was I even thinking about?

This is when I catch myself.

OBSERVATION

I’m spinning out. Like a dog chasing its own tail.

I notice because I’ve been here so many times. I acknowledge it and breathe. I recognize the emotionally exhausted and frantic animal I’ve become. I shake my head. It’s bad, but not as bad as last time. Progress.

My mind has finally slowed down. My hands are back at the wheel.

AWARENESS

Once you notice the panic or anxiety, center yourself. A little exercise, a song, or repeating an empowering mantra can help. 

Take deep breaths, and step away from your present consciousness. Zoom out to view your entire situation in context. Observe yourself as a third party. Those worries aren’t mine. They don’t define this person. 

Set an egg timer for five minutes and do nothing. REALLY do it. Not just thinking about it. Walk across the room, pick up the timer, and spin the dial right now. Sit and clear your body of the negativity. Do nothing for now, or you will remain paralyzed. Take the medicine. Just breathe.

INTENTION

Reestablish the stable center inside yourself from which to make a plan.

  • What do you want?
  • What’s in the way?
  • What could you do?

Write the answers in one clear sentence.

ACTION

Connect emotionally with the feeling you will have upon completion of the intended action?

Willpower alone is not enough. It will never be enough.

Action comes from your emotional drive. 

Even a small thing can get you started, but it needs to be real action. 

Research is not action. Thinking is not action. We like it because it is safe.

Actions change the world.

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