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Six Steps for Dealing with Panic Attacks

What causes a panic or anxiety attack? The answer is really quite obvious. Nothing on the outside causes your panic. That is an inside job. You cause it. Let me explain.

After you experience external anxiety, you then become concerned with your body feelings and symptoms. You think about them to the point where you actually start to scare yourself with them. This creates internally generated anxiety.

Your body senses the fear and releases chemical stimulants into your system to strengthen your body so it can fight or flee from whatever it is that’s causing the fear, whether real or imagined. These chemicals include adrenaline, sodium lactate and cortisol.

As your anxiety level grows, more chemicals are released into your system. This causes you to enter the second stage of anxiety, the endogenous stage. Now your main concern is no longer the particular problem that brought on the stress. Instead, it’s the “weird feelings” and “strange symptoms” that your body is experiencing.

You become so caught up in wondering “What’s wrong with me?” that you become bewildered and confused. So much so that all your defenses are down, your sensitivity level is up and you go into panic. The anxiety seems overwhelming. You fear you’ll lose control.

There is one important thing to remember at this time:

You will not lose control, nor will you go insane.

Your mind and body can only maintain this state of anxiety for a few hours at best. Then, you may become extremely fatigued and depressed.

There is a six-step approach to self-control when dealing with an anxiety attack:

1. ACCEPT - Recognize that you are feeling anxious. Accept your body feelings as a symptom of your anxiety and a sign that something is bothering you.

2. PERMISSION - Give yourself permission to feel anxious about whatever it is that is bothering you. “Of course I feel anxious because… and it’s okay to have anxiety. I know what this is and why I feel this way.”

3. BREATHE - First, inhale through your nose slowly for two-seconds, mentally counting one, one thousand, two, one-thousand. Then exhale through your mouth to mental count of four seconds-again by one-thousands. Do this for at least 60-seconds.

4. INNER DIALOGUE - Use truthful, positive dialogue to talk yourself through the anxious time. It WILL pass. Examples of dialogue might be, “It’s just anxiety. It will go away. I will not lose control. I can still go about my business feeling spaced-out. It won’t hurt me.”

5. DISTRACT - Get busy. Do something to release some of this self induced stimulation. Your body is like a car in high gear with the brakes on. Don’t just sit there! Walk, jog, clean closets – but do something. Distract yourself from the way you are feeling.

6. LET TIME PASS - And try to see a little humor in the way you feel. You may feel weird, you don’t look weird. Give yourself permission to feel weird for a little while. It’s no big deal. Try to figure out what is really bothering you. Is it some type of conflict that you don’t want to deal with? Is it a scary thought? Is it a ridiculous expectation you have about yourself? How about the television program you watched last night? What is bothering you?

It takes time and lots and lots of practice. But the only way to stop fearing panic and anxiety attacks is to experience them. Then, work your way through them and begin to see that they won’t hurt you. There is no need to avoid or fight.

You are your safe place and your safe person.

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