2.3 (K) Deflect Anxiety (Immediately)
How to Deflect the Signs of Anxiety: Getting to know how YOUR body feels, as it leads up into anxiety, can help you develop your own ways of deflecting it. When you feel the sensations come up you can use:
As hard as it is, especially during a panic attack, try to accept what is happening. You can ride it out telling yourself there is nothing to fear, and that you are safe. Remove the fear, and you can remove or lessen the attack. By accepting that a panic attack is a NORMAL reaction of the body that THINKS it's in danger, tell yourself that it was just a ridiculous fear that triggered this attack, and that you are safe, and not in any danger. Just be sure that as you practice self talk, that you are breathing, (the extended exhale is the best breath to use), to kick in the part of the nervous system that helps us relax.
You can say and repeat to yourself, "I am safe", or "this is a natural reaction", and try to smile or even laugh. It may sound crazy, since it's hard to do this when your heart is pounding out of your chest, but, trust me. When we can pull the brain away from the fear by using our own words and actions, we can pull away from the attack. Remember that when the brain realizes you are not in danger, it will back off of the fear.
Confidence can turn an attack around, or at least make it less severe. But, there is a fine line here. You only want to exude your confidence here, and not try to "control" the situation. By trying to take control of the attack itself, you can give the attack more attention. Instead, you want to ACCEPT what is happening, and allow your body to take in the feelings, which is different from trying to control them.
It helps to tell your body that there is nothing to be fearful of. "I am safe.", "I am grateful", I am happy". This basically tells these fears and sensations that you are strong.
Allowing yourself to lose yourself in that initial fear, will only intensify the situation.
Put on the TV...
If you are prone to attacks, find and record your favorite comedy shows on the TV. Be sure that you can quickly get to them when an attack comes on. Be sure to do your extended exhale breath while you allow yourself to focus in on the characters. Listen and focus in on the laugh track, if there is one, as this tells the brain there is a "happy" situation going on, and not a dangerous one. Remember that smiling and laughing release endorphins that can combat the attack. The idea is to let the mind become aware that this comedy is much more important than an anxiety attack. Let the mind know that you want to laugh, rather than be in fear. Breathe and focus in on the plot and characters as best you can to lessen the panic experience. It can help to get on the floor and stretch while listening to the show, as an added distraction.
Put on the Music..
Have some music readily available that you can focus on. This can be either soothing, calm music, or music that you can sing along to. You can even try songs that are funny, to help kick in the endorphins. Music such as "Weird Al" or other similar comical music allows the mind to focus in on the funny lyrics, which can distract the mind from the attack. Any time humor is incorporated, it tells the mind that you are safe, and it can lessen the negative experience, as it tells the mind that you don't need protection.
While using the extended exhale breathing technique, focus directly on the notes of the instrumentation with calming music, or you can focus in on the words of a song, if there are any. The whole idea here, is to pull the brains' attention from the attack to something else going on in front of you. You are telling your brain you are not thinking about the "danger" it thinks you are in. Instead, it tells your brain you are doing something fun and or relaxing, which means you are not in danger, which can help lessen the severity of the attack. Also, singing forces you to breathe. By singing or speaking the words, you are allowing your brain to focus directly on words which takes the attention away from additional thoughts.
You can get yourself into a seated position with your legs extended. (You can be on the floor, or even on your bed.) Breathe in deep, reach your arms up over your head, then extend your exhale nice and slowly as you reach towards your toes in a forward fold. Try to focus on the feeling of your body relaxing. This combines the extended exhale breath with movement and stretch. Close your eyes and feel your shoulders relax as you exhale. Focus directly on the feeling of the stretch. Try to smile when you do this, to enhance the experience. This gives the mind something else to focus on, and away from any "danger" it thinks you may be in.
Also, try to combine this stretching technique with any of the above, as this gives the mind that additional distraction from the attack. Remember that you are allowing yourself to feel the attack, but not letting your mind know that it is important.
Try the focus techniques below. Anytime the legs are above our heart, we can help calm the body down naturally. So, try these different poses to figure out which is the most calming for you. As you place yourself into the position, close your eyes and use the extended exhale breath (inhale to a count of about 4, and exhale to a count of about 7 or 8), to really feel the relaxation take over.
Legs Up the Wall
Knees to Chest
Go for a Walk
For some, allowing the body to release some of that pent up energy, is the way to go. Walking around is a great way to release some of that energy, but don't forget the extended exhale breath, to kick in relaxation. Walking while you breathe can help you release the energy, while calming the body and mind.
To Sum Up:
- Try different self-talk methods...OR
- Put on or have your favorite funny comedy on standby to distract the mind from what is going on. Smile, continue to breathe, and focus in on the characters.. OR
- Put on some relaxing music or music you can sing along to that you can focus your attention directly on the music. Smile, continue to breathe, and allow the body to calm.. OR
- (My personal favorite..) Try combining the breathing with a stretch. With legs extended in front of you, inhale up nice and tall, then come into a forward fold as you exhale down towards your legs. Concentrate on the feeling of the stretch..feeling the hamstrings stretch, or maybe the shoulders relax, while using the extended exhale breath. With every exhale, aim to relax every part of your body into the stretch.
- Try any of the relaxation poses before bed (legs up the wall, legs to chest, or happy baby), while continuing to breathe.. OR
- Go for a walk while using the extended breath.
So, remember that once a panic attack occurs, you do have to ride it out. But using the below methods, can help reduce the time and severity of the attack.
1. Use a breathing technique to calm the body down
2. Change your focus from internal thoughts to a physical exercise (movements with breath)
3. Change your focus (put on the TV to a funny show, call a friend, etc.)
Remember that you need to continue to practice these methods to the point of creating NEW habits for yourself. The more you stick to your current ways of handling life, the more anxiety will take hold. Remember that you have found yourself in a series of bad habits that are keeping you in this constant state. Be diligent that you need to change the way your current mindset works.