Strategies For Overcoming Anxiety & Panic Attacks

Ask the Author: Question & Response

I have been suffering with debilitating panic attacks for 2 years. Crazy medication and a life running downhill. I am out of work and absolutely desperate for a higher understanding and release from this terrible affliction. In gratitude. 

– Juliet, Guildford, England

Giving Up Fear-based Thoughts

Every thought you have makes up a segment of the world you see. Thus it is your thoughts that we will focus on. As your thoughts change, your perception of the world also changes. The cause of your suffering is your thoughts about the world, not the world itself. There needs to come a time when you realize that you do not want the fear-based thoughts that you are currently supporting. The world you see (the effect) is not going to significantly change by itself, because it’s simply a result of your thoughts (the cause). When you decide to change the cause, you will immediately change the effect. When you change your thoughts about the world, your world will change.

You see this life that you have made, but you may not see yourself as its image maker. When your external reality reflects judgment, desperation, anxiety, stress, anger and any other “negative” thoughts and emotions, they are simply illustrating the fear-based thoughts that you are allowing as real within your mind. All fear-based thoughts are illusions, but through free will, you can give them a reality. Fear-based thoughts have been learned. They have been programmed into you. They are a fantasy, a fairy tale taught to you long ago whose reality you have been following. My friend, rejoice, for you are not trapped in the world you see because the cause can be changed.

What God creates as perfect can not be changed by your own mind, and within this truth lies your escape from the anxiety that has been challenging you. Like most people, you have taught yourself to believe that you are not what you truly are. You, who God created as perfect, can not change what He created, but you do have free will. Thus this gift can be masked by illusions you have been taught to trust as more real than truth. Peace of mind, love and joy are your inheritance, your true essence, the unchangeable in you, but you must acknowledge and accept them to make use of them and experience their results.

When you are afraid of something, you are acknowledging its power to hurt you. You believe in what you value, you value what you treasure, and you have been taught to defend your treasure. Thus you will defend what you believe regardless of how little help, sense or peace it’s providing in your life. Fear is a result of treasuring your illusions over God’s truth. Since you have free will, you may do this as long as you wish. Yet know this, your resistance to the pain that illusions offer may be high, but it is not without limit. Eventually, you will come to a point in your life when you say to yourself: “Enough is enough. There must be a better way.” This becomes a major turning point in your journey from illusions to truth.

The body reacts to the mind’s instructions. If you experience fear, it is not because of your body’s reaction to the external environment; it is because of your mind’s instructions to your body. There is nothing wrong with your body. The body’s reaction to fear is usually the result of the mind’s misperception of the external environment. Only the mind can interpret, so correction belongs at the level of thought. Every single time you feel afraid, you are allowing your mind to misperceive and closing yourself off from God’s guidance. There is a very important point in the previous sentence and it is: you are allowing your mind to misperceive. This means you have overriding powers over your mind, and you can correct and retrain your mind. You are so much more than just your mind. You are God’s perfect creation. And it is this perfect part of you that you can learn to go to for advice and assistance. You can relearn ways to react the way you wish to react – to ways that will bring you peace of mind, love and joy.

Fear arises from a lack of love. The remedy for a lack of love is to respond to everything with love. When everything you process is love-based, there is no longer a place within your mind for fear to fester. Feeling afraid seems to now be involuntary, beyond your control. You may feel that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. Yet it is at the level of thought that you truly exercise choice. You were not born having panic attacks. Panic attacks are a learned behavioral response. The good news is that you can unlearn what you have learned. As much as you may currently experience them as a “natural” reaction, debilitating panic attacks are not your natural state. This is a behavior you have learned over time. You could try to trace a line, and start understanding that judgment of other people resulted in condemnation instead of compassion, which turned into regret, regret became hurt, hurt became confusion, confusion became chaos, chaos became panic attacks, and panic attacks became debilitating panic attacks. This very likely took many years, decades, possibly even many decades of reinforcement to get to this point. Even if the panic attacks began shortly after a traumatic event, the base for your reaction to that event was already in place long before the event occurred.

The solution is a lifestyle change where you gradually stop supporting unhealthy reactionary behaviors, including fear-based thoughts and patterns. Currently, your lifestyle may frequently consist of patterns where instead of forgiveness, you choose judgment; instead of compassion, you choose condemnation; instead of love, you choose fear; and instead of trust, you choose worry. Over time, this creates and reinforces negative pathways within the brain that have made what once felt unnatural, now feel natural. Today, you probably barely even question these pathways and the decisions you make that end up hurting you. These pathways (reacting with fear, hate, judgment, stress, pain, anger, panic, etc.) were once untraveled rocky mountain trails that made no sense to your mind. But with more and more usage, these dirt paths became paved roadways. With frequent repetition and support, they have become high speed highways within the mind. But my friend, remember this: Not even the most advanced highway systems can remain serviceable unless they are constantly maintained. Judgment, fear, anger and stress currently maintain and service your highways. Let them go, and you will start to see these highways disappear.

Before we get into more detailed helpful hints, I invite you to read the section from You Have Chosen to Remember where I discuss my own history with panic attacks, and how I overcame them: www.chosentoremember.com/book_excerpts/c3_my_mind_powerful.htm

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are a result of fear-based thoughts. Once people have had a panic attack, they often start worrying about having future attacks. This makes them even more susceptible to panic attacks and the surge of adrenaline that accompanies them. Soon, they come to even fear that first trickle of adrenaline. These sensations create fear, which creates more sensations, which creates more fear, and thus your sensation of running downhill, of desperation.

I recommend the following:

1. To have peace, teach peace in order to learn it. Peace of mind is an internal matter. It must begin with your own thoughts and extend outward into the world. It is through a peaceful mind that a peaceful perception of the world will arise in you. With every interaction you have with yourself and others, you are teaching yourself what and who you are. When you are experiencing chaotic thoughts, you are teaching and reinforcing within yourself that this is who you are. Equally so, when peaceful thoughts are experienced, you are teaching yourself that you have every right to experience them, and the more you do this, the more natural it feels. What you teach on a daily basis, you strengthen in yourself. But it is your choice what you will strengthen, and gradually you will become what you strengthen.

2. Understand the power that exists within the moment. When you feel emotional discomfort in any way, say to yourself: “I could feel peace instead of this. Peace is my natural state.” Repeat this until a sense of relief is felt. You can retrain yourself to replace feelings of depression, anxiety and worry with peace. Any and every time the thought of fear arises, choose peace and make a declaration of independence in the name of your own freedom.

Whenever fear-based thoughts run rampant in your mind, know that you are simply believing and reinforcing in yourself that illusions are real. Instead, say to yourself: “Enough is enough. I have played this losing game for far too long. God, I now choose to return the present moment back to you. Please help me see this differently.”

3. Let go of judgment. Changing how you look at other people can significantly reduce your inner anxiety. Often when people are experiencing anxiety, they are looking at other people through the lens of their inner critic. Considering the suffering you described, you are likely using your ears, but not to truly hear. Every time the ego calls on you to judge a brother or sister, disregard its request, for what has such an action ever brought you? Has it ever brought you true peace of mind and joy? No. Instead, remember this: Every time the ego calls for judgment, the Godself, your true self, is asking you to offer help and healing. What you offer, you will experience.

Whenever your brother behaves in such a way that, in the past, you might have judged him, choose mercy and compassion instead. These actions will bring you into closer alignment with what you have always truly desired to experience in your life – peace of mind and joy. You and your brother are one, and when you condemn a brother (like most people in our society have been trained to do), you are unconsciously judging yourself as guilty without realizing it. This produces confusion, and once enough confusion is experienced, the result is a chaotic personal life. Find someone to confide in. This will allow you to release any excess emotions in a safe environment, which will assist you in staying balanced during your day. Imagine a day without any judgment of others. How much lighter and relaxing would such a day be?

4. See the Divine in all of your brothers and sisters. Like most people, you are using your eyes, but not to truly see. For if you were truly seeing, you would view God’s creations as innocent, and you would experience a perfection that comes not from what they do or say, but from who they are. They are God’s perfect creations. Regardless of what they believe they need to add or subtract to God’s creation, their essence is perfect. This is all God asks you to look upon to experience – His, yours and their perfection. Imagine a day where instead of judging what people say or do, you simply love the truth in them. How much more personally rewarding would such a day be?

5. Experience and express gratitude. When God created you, He made you part of Him. Like most people, you are using your heart, but often not for love. Be what God is, and love and trust will fill those moments that are now filled with fear and worry. When you stand in front of God, He does not see your past or future. He sees only the present that you are. God sees His perfect creation. Let go of your brothers’ and sisters’ past. Set them free and you will experience freedom from judgment.

Your brothers and sisters are here to remind you of your truth. When you experience stress because of having judged a person and/or situation, it is an opportunity for you to learn to experience this same type of situation with less or no stress. Thus in every moment, every person and situation are offering you the opportunity for growth, the opportunity to see where, through your own thoughts and reactions, you are taking yourself. Wouldn’t gratitude be the rational response to a person or situation that is assisting you in becoming less judgmental and more compassionate? Gradually, you will begin to realize that gratitude is the sane response to any and every interaction you have with a person. Offer gratitude for your brothers’ and sisters’ participation in your lesson plan, and understanding and gratitude will begin to fill your days.

6. Trusting God’s plan instead of yours. You are using your mind, but most likely not for forgiveness. Offer what you desire to experience; this is God’s simple request. If you desire forgiveness, forgive. Forgive and your mind will be set free from the weight of judgment, pain and regret. Become free from the burden of guilt, free from nights of tossing and turning because of the overbearing weight of thoughts that were never yours to keep. Forgive and trust that God’s will is being done and His plan is being carried out in the best way your brothers and sisters currently know how.

7. Don’t fight the panic attack. Doing so will only increase the adrenaline. Instead, accept the feelings, allow the feelings to come and go, and move toward re-balancing yourself. Try focusing outside of yourself; possibly listen to some peaceful or uplifting music, or do a pleasurable task. If you have a panic attack, remember that what you are feeling is simply an oversensitive nervous system. It is temporary and not medically dangerous.

8. Medication. You take medications, a sort of chemical diet for the mind. When one becomes ineffective, you try another. When that becomes ineffective, you try another diet in an attempt to reduce the mental weight you are carrying. Yet my friend, somewhere deep inside, you understand that diets are not the final answer. You require a lifestyle change to truly return to a naturally balanced state. The good news is that many others have been in your shoes, traveled the same roads, and have returned to balance, to their true selves, and to a life filled with peace and joy.

There is nothing wrong with medication, especially when a condition is described as “debilitating.” Medication can be a useful temporary solution. With your doctor’s assistance, your goal should always be to strengthen your inner self enough to get to a point where medication is no longer needed. Aim to wean yourself off medications. Under your doctor’s supervision, experiment with different medications and dosages to find what works best with your internal system. Never quit your medications cold turkey unless that is what your doctor recommends.

9. Doctors and therapists. If your doctor simply prescribes more and more medications and does not ask you to see a therapist about your panic attacks, then he or she is the wrong doctor for you. Equally so, if your therapist only prescribes more medications, then start consulting other therapists. The idea of therapy is to assist your inner self in getting stronger and less dependent on medications. If your therapist is not producing positive results, then it is time to look for someone else.

Your therapy may last one or two years, or maybe more. Do not hurry your growth. Do not put even more pressure on yourself, but do have short, medium and long term goals. You need to feel that you’re gradually experiencing more peace of mind and joy in your daily life.

10. Plan ahead. Make a list of what you are afraid might happen. Below each item on the list, write specific things you can say to calm yourself down during such events. For example, if the onset of a panic attack makes your heart race, you can tell yourself: “I have studied breathing and meditation exercises that can help me breathe deeper and slower. I can calm my heart rate.” Then focus on those exercises and execute them. A panic attack can quicken your breath and make it shallower. Tell yourself: “I understand what is starting to happen. There is nothing to fear. I am in no danger.” Then slow down your heart rate and deepen your breathing with the meditation exercises you have practiced.

11. Become aware of what the beginning of a panic attack feels like. By now, you probably know your symptoms, the thoughts, emotions and reactions you have at the start and during a panic attack. If someone has no clue about how to calm herself down, and no clue that she has the power within her own mind, a panic attack can simply grow stronger until medical attention is required. When an individual learns that she does have control over it, she can feel like she is on a roller coaster ride: the panic attack gets worse, she calms herself down, then it all starts back up again. This is actually a great step forward. For if during a panic attack there comes a time in it where you can calm yourself down, be it for a few seconds or minutes, then the possibility exists that you can fully calm down, and thus eliminate the panic attack.

The most effective way to stop a panic attack is to catch it early. So it is very important to watch and understand how your panic attack starts. What are the thoughts and emotions you are experiencing? How do your physical and mental states change as the attack begins? Even if you experience a panic attack that you feel you have no control over, do your best to watch it, study it and understand it. Write your experience down and learn from it. This process, in and of itself, can be a great gift and step forward in reclaiming your peace of mind and joy.

12. You will not die from a panic attack. The worst case scenario in panic attacks is that you will pass out, and that is extremely rare. Passing out is just the body’s defense mechanism to give your brain time to reboot. If you learn about the research that supports this, this simple understanding will ease your mind. Knowing that you won’t die will give you at least some peace of mind. This is a big deal since most people who first experience a panic attack believe they are about to die or are having a heart attack. A panic attack will not stop your heart or your breathing, and it will not drive you crazy.

13. Learn the personal triggers that start your panic attacks. For example, if going to a public place with a lot of people can trigger a panic attack, and you have to go to a public place, visualize and talk yourself through what could happen. See yourself going to that place and being at peace. Mentally walk yourself through what you believe you will experience. Reinforce within your mind that all is going to be okay, and you are safe and protected.

14. Learn breathing and meditation techniques to calm yourself down. People who experience panic attacks understand that breath plays a key part in any attack. During a panic attack, the breath shortens, becoming more shallow and rapid, the chest tightens, and a feeling of lightheartedness develops. Blood starts flowing from the extremities to assist the heart. The hands, arms, feet and legs begin to tingle because of this. All this has breath as a core issue. Thus practice taking deep, full breaths. Breathe out all the air in your lungs. This allows you to take a deeper breath in. Then when you breathe in, first fill your lower belly, then your upper belly, then your whole chest. This exercise will help calm you down. You may also breathe into a paper bag or your cupped hands. These exercises help your oxygen levels return to normal. Finally, try the following body relaxation technique. Concentrate on a body part like the scalp and relax it, then concentrate on your forehead and relax that. Repeat this process all the way down to your feet.

15. Understand the effect that food and drinks have on your nervous system. Remove all caffeine from your diet. If you’re a coffee or tea aficionado – end it, for even decaf coffee has some caffeine. (Non-caffeinated herbal tea is okay.) Once you have your panic attacks under control, if you still desire it, you may again have decaf coffee or tea. Chocolate also has caffeine, eliminate it, if possible. If not, don’t have more than 10 grams a day and always make it dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa. Reduce your intake of sugar and processed foods. Such products shoot your energy levels up and down, creating an unbalanced state where panic attacks can have an easier time developing. Drink a lot of water. Water transports hormones, chemical messengers and nutrients to vital organs of the body. If a body is not well hydrated, it may react by sending stress signals to the brain, which can raise your level of anxiety and produce a panic attack.

Your body needs to be functioning at its best to eliminate the toxins from it. Consuming sugar, salt and processed foods lower your body’s resistance, whereas foods like fruits and vegetables raise your resistance. Fruits and vegetables should comprise 80% of your diet, and whole grains, nuts and protein the remaining 20%.

16. Exercise – include breath-oriented exercises like yoga in your daily routine.Yoga is an exercise that asks you to focus on your breath. Regardless of the pose you are practicing, the key is the breath and your continuous awareness of it. By doing so, you bring your focus back to the moment. The present moment is free from past and future imaginings. Within the present moment lies the gift of peace. You can not have a panic attack and be in the present moment – for a panic attack deals with learned behaviors, which are all based on the past.

In addition, engage in physical activities that burn adrenaline. This means exercises that really tire you out. Exercise is a great tension reliever, loosening up your body and releasing endorphins that help you feel great. Physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. Exercising will have a tremendously positive effect on your mental, emotional and physical health. Your energy levels will soar and your resistance to stress will increase, subsequently reducing the general feeling of anxiety. Be kind to yourself, take it slow to begin with and stay determined. If you can incorporate regular exercise into your life, the benefits will be profound.

17. Use distractions as a calming tool. The goal here is to reduce your strong, fearful emotion to an anxious thought. Try thinking of Donald Duck or Goofy delivering the anxious thought you are having. Visualize them tripping as they deliver the idea to you, then thank them, and move on to whatever else you were doing.

18. Join a self-help group. In the United Kingdom, you can find details through the No Panic charity (www.nopanic.org.uk) free phone helpline at 0800 138 8889. Also check the Mind charity website (www.mind.org.uk) for further help. You can also visit www.phobics-society.org.uk for more information on anxiety disorders.

When you join a group of people who are dealing with the same basic issues you are working on, it becomes a blessing to all involved. As you hear other people’s stories, you will gain more insight into your own, and as they heal, a part of you does too. Sharing your stories and struggles often helps you heal; and as you do, a part of them does too. As you and the group awaken from illusions, you will realize what a great gift you are to your group and what a great gift your group is to you.

19. Practice behavioral modification therapies to deal with your fears. Although many of the above points are examples of behavioral modification therapy, there are other well researched and detailed psychological behavioral modification exercises that a professional therapist can guide you through. These should be a daily part of your personal therapy and experience. If your therapist is not providing some of these types of therapies as daily and weekly homework assignments, then it might be time to find someone who does work with easily applicable, detailed and well researched tools.

 

Conclusion:

You want peace and are ready to learn it. Why else would you have offered this opportunity, the participation in the creation of this question and response for yourself and others to read and understand? My friend, the night is over and the light has come. Become conscious of the difference between being asleep and being awake so you can understand that you do not need to be afraid of the dreams you create. Now, when bad dreams or fear-based thoughts come, you can simply remember the above reminders and call on the light to disperse them. Gradually, you will notice the change, and this will strengthen your motivation for further change.

Your Source has established your identity. Your essence is awake and whole, fully capable of experiencing a life filled with peace of mind, love and joy. You have a wonderful life ahead of you. Simply decide to peel off the layers of illusions that you have placed upon your truth. My friend, it is not as hard to do as your ego might suggest. Simply peel off that which you do not truly want and you no longer have any use for. It is so much harder to keep doing what you have been doing. Deep down, as hard as your ego might fight it, you know it’s true. Implement the points above, and every small victory will be a step in the right direction, in the direction your soul is calling you from. Each day is simply made of moments, and every moment you can be your true self by choosing faith instead of fear, compassion instead of condemnation, and contentment instead of desperation.

This Q&A Includes The Following Topics:
  • Strategies for Overcoming Anxiety / Panic Attacks.

 

This question and response can be found in the book - There is Another Way: Overcoming Real World Challenges. If you enjoyed this Q&A, you'll really enjoy the book which is filled with inspiration and effective strategies for overcoming life's challenges. The book is due to come out in 2021. Click here to sign up for our newsletter so that you can be notified when it is ready. Thanks.

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