There is a natural way to stop severe anxiety from controlling your life. Here are three steps that are guaranteed to help you treat anxiety, including anxiety attacks, once and for all.
It felt like I was going to die, right there and then in the college canteen.
My heart was racing, my whole body felt clammy, I couldn’t stop shaking, and I could barely breathe. Somehow I managed to get up from my seat and make it to the restrooms, where I locked myself in a cubicle until that terrifying moment passed. Afterward, I felt exhausted and very emotional.
I had just had my first ever anxiety attack.
I was, of course, terrified as well as embarrassed. Although my anxiety attack lasted barely a few minutes (it felt like a lifetime), from then on I was afraid and worried that it would happen again and again.
For several years in my teens, I experienced nearly every day palpitations, breathlessness, a churning stomach and a deep sense of dread. My life was full of stress due to complicated home life. Most days I felt as if I merely existed rather than living. I had little energy for my studies, social life or my two great passions, art and writing stories.
After the attack, I knew I had to deal with my anxiety once and for all. I couldn’t allow it to control my life anymore. It was making me dread going out in public in case I had another “episode.”
I knew I had to find a natural way to treat my anxiety
My doctor wanted to prescribe anti-depressants, but having seen the adverse effects of this type of medication on a family member, I decided I had to find a natural way to treat anxiety and win the battle.
I went to the local library and bookshops (there was no Internet in those days) and read all I could on anxiety, and found a 3-step technique that worked for me.
Much of what I learned came from books by psychologist Dr. Claire Weekes, who was an expert in the understanding and treatment of nervous illness. She knew from personal experience the devastating effects of anxiety.
To say these three steps made a big difference to my life is an understatement. They helped me get my life back on track and have given me the tools to handle any stressful situation. And I’m confident they’ll work for you too.
To fully appreciate the power of these three steps, I had to first learn about the physiology of anxiety disorder and why it happens in the first place. Understanding how anxiety worked in my body took away a lot of my fear of it.
The role of fear and adrenalin in anxiety
Anxiety is merely a normal reaction to fear. You’ve probably heard of the Fight or Flight response. Humans are programmed to register any sort of danger or threat with anxious feelings.
When our brain registers danger or threat, it sends out a message to our nervous system to make our adrenal glands pump out adrenaline, so we’re ready for Fight or Flight. All the awful symptoms of anxiety disorder, including anxiety attacks, are due to adrenalin pumping around your body. When I had my anxiety attack, I could feel the adrenaline rushing through me.
An anxiety disorder has the following cycle:
FEAR ➞ ADRENALINE ➞ FEAR ➞ ADRENALIN ➞ FEAR
When this vicious cycle continues over a length of time, your adrenaline-releasing nerves become hypersensitive so that you begin to feel anxious all the time. And if like me, you’ve tried to fight against the symptoms, you know it only makes the vicious cycle worse.
But thankfully the three steps are an effective way to break the cycle.
How to find proper relief from anxiety in just three steps
It’s important to emphasize that the release of adrenalin is triggered by our mood and thoughts, and the only way to stop this reaction is to change our mood and our thoughts.
The following three steps will help you handle your fear of the symptoms and, as a result, treat your anxiety. They’ll help you to change your thoughts and mood:
1. Facing and analyzing your fear
2. Accepting your fear
3. Floating or gliding past your fear
Facing, accepting and floating are the opposite of fighting, resisting and straining. The latter creates more stress, fear, and adrenaline, whereas facing, accepting and floating are all forms of release. And this is what you need to do – release your fear.
1. Facing and analyzing
Do you nervously listen for and monitor your churning stomach, your palpitations, and shaky hands? Do you wait for and anticipate them? If you do, like I used to, they are guaranteed to come to you!
What you need to do instead is face the symptoms you feel as they arise. Don’t try to avoid them, as this will only make matters worse. Don’t tense up either; simply relax and analyze the symptoms as if they were happening to someone else.
Examine that lump in your throat, your sweaty palms, and your headache. Are the symptoms really so awful? Are they any worse than a pulled muscle from exercise or a toothache?
All those symptoms are simply the result of oversensitive adrenal function and nothing more.
Once you start facing your symptoms and examining all those strange sensations, you will find that these once terrible symptoms no longer hold your full attention. You will start to think about other things and find that you are no longer listening for or monitoring the symptoms. They will have lost their power.
Once that happens, you cease to fear them. Without fear, your adrenal function relaxes, and less adrenalin circulates in your body.
When you have faced and analyzed your symptoms you then need to accept them. Acceptance also breaks the cycle of fear and adrenaline because it helps to change your mood and thoughts. Again, don’t force yourself to do this – that will just make you stressed.
Don’t wait for the symptoms to appear, but if they do, just accept them. I used to say quietly to myself: “This is OK. I accept these feelings,” and continue reading my book or eating my lunch or writing. Let any waves of fear wash over you. Don’t fight the fear; just accept it. Know that it won’t harm you.
3. Floating or gliding
One little-known trick to fooling your fear and calming down your adrenals is to float or glide past your fear.
Again, the key is not to fight or struggle against it. Imagine you are floating or gliding instead – floating and gliding are effortless, gentle, relaxing and soothing.
Imagine yourself gliding instead of walking and see how easy it feels. I used to picture myself gliding around college or my home, and began to have fun with it!
Floating also makes you focus far less on your symptoms. And once again you will see that the “power” of your anxiety is very weak.
You can’t make your symptoms worse if you tried
Another way to treat your anxiety is to try to intensify the symptoms you feel.
Try to consciously make your symptoms worse and see what happens.
Can you make your palms sweat more, your heart race more, and your stomach churn more? Try it and see.
It’s likely you can only make them a tiny bit stronger. See how weak the “power” of these symptoms really is? You cannot make your symptoms worse by facing them.
Look at your symptoms of anxiety with interest rather than fear, like you’re an outside observer. Analyzing your fear and anxiety helps you see it follows a clear pattern – there is no mystery to it at all and the only way to really intensify your symptoms is to be fearful of them.
How to stop an anxiety attack in its tracks and find immediate relief
Experiencing an anxiety attack can be very frightening and bewildering. When you are trapped in an attack, you just want it to stop as soon as possible. I never want to experience another one, and I haven’t since learning about this 3-step method.
While a long-term plan is required to treat anxiety successfully, there is a need for immediate results when dealing with an impending anxiety attack.
When your heart is racing at 100 mph, and your hands are shaking, and you know a full-blown anxiety attack is on its way, you want several tactics that can stop it in its tracks.
- First, tell yourself that if an anxiety attack happens it will not harm you and nor will it go on forever. You do not need to fear it.
- Next, you need to focus on your breathing. The quickest and most effective way to calm both your mind and body is through slowing down your breathing to a steady pace. Breathe in through your nose for a count of five and breathe out through your mouth for the same count.
Continuing to do this will, in effect, reprogram your brain and nervous system, calming you down and easing those horrible sensations. It relaxes the muscles and helps your heart rate slow down.
Controlling your breathing is a great way to deal with any stress. At first, you might be so anxious you feel as though you can’t breathe at all – this is simply because you are hyperventilating – breathing too shallowly.
By focusing on your breath consciously, you will correct that and give your brain the oxygen it needs to calm your thoughts and emotions, and subsequently relax your body and reduce your anxiety.
These three steps help you handle anything in life
In life there will always be problems and stresses – that is just how life is.
The good news is you now have natural, fast-working and effective tactics available to you to handle your stress and anxiety anytime and anywhere.
You never need again feel that anxiety and its symptoms have control over your life. You don’t have to be at its mercy anymore.
Instead, you’ll have the energy and enthusiasm to enjoy life and fulfill your potential with the knowledge you can handle anything.
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