Do you have anxiety or fear? Some of us say, “anxiety” while others say, “fear.” I have anxiety. It is well controlled most of the time at this point, but there was a time when I was anxious to the point of frequent panic attacks. I will start with some definitions. First, anxiety is an uncomfortable state of inner turmoil. It is accompanied by nervous behavior, such as pacing back and forth, complaints of body aches or illness and questioning your feelings. An anxious person has unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events and can even have feelings of imminent death. Fear is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat. Fear is directed toward a specific thing or event whereas anxiety is nonspecific and the cause can’t be specifically identified. Panic attacks are intense fear or apprehension of a sudden onset of symptoms such as heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, or feelings of unreality. Panic attacks last from minutes to hours. Panic attacks usually begin abruptly, peak in 10-20 minutes, and then subside but can recur again and again. It is one thing to define anxiety, fear and panic attacks but if you ever experience these symptoms listed, your life changes from that point on. You experience life through a fogged lens of colored glasses that distort your reality.
Some things that I experienced were:
My mind was constantly racing with ideas especially at night when I was trying to sleep.
I was always second-guessing myself and my decisions.
I couldn’t turn the anxiety off and would even have anxiety about being anxious.
I couldn’t remain present, “in the moment,” but was either ruminating about past events or worrying about the future.
I didn’t want to be a burden to others and my friends and family often didn’t know what to do to help me.
I knew there were things that could help my anxiety, but I felt anxious about trying them.
When I finally started counseling I felt the relief of being able to talk to someone about my anxiety and knew the counselor understood what I was experiencing. Controlling my anxiety was the focus of my life and my recovery. Without anxiety, I learned to know my inner self, inner soul and experienced a life I had never known before.
Some of the things I used to control my anxiety were:
I shared my fears taking away a lot of the scariness. I talked to a partner, someone I trusted such as a friend, family member, or counselor about my anxiety or fears.
I learned the hotline number to call 24/7 when I couldn’t reach family, friends or my counselor.
I learned the “what is the worst and best that can happen” scenario in the situation that caused anxiety and knew that somewhere in the middle would be the outcome.
I practiced staying “in the moment” and reset myself thinking if I started to worry about the past or future.
I learned to close my eyes, meditate, and visualize a safe place when my anxiety started.
I looked into my inner soul wisdom where I found my peace.
I learned to measure my anxiety level from 0-10 (similar to a pain scale). 0 was no anxiety and 10 was the worst level or panic attack level.
I learned that if I could use relaxation techniques such as deep breaths, visualization, or meditation, I could decrease my anxiety before I reached level 7 (my trigger level) and prevent my panic attacks.
It took about a year to learn the steps above. The steps aren’t learned in the order listed because some symptoms, like panic attacks, needed immediate attention so that the panic would decrease. I also had the help of anti-anxiety medication in the beginning and still use a low dose. During this time I had more success with the steps above and they became a routine that I practiced subconsciously. As I used the steps above I became less dependent upon my medication.
Today, I still experience social anxiety above a level 2-4 and try to use my steps to control this. I would be less than honest, though, to tell you I am comfortable in a crowd of people. I do best with small groups that I know. But I caution you that the help of a counselor to guide and support you as you practice these steps is invaluable for learning and accountability. With this help, you can learn to control your anxiety and fear rather than letting it control you. There is inner soul peace and wisdom with practice?
May you listen to your inner soul and experience life “in the moment”.