For about 5 years, I dealt with extreme anxiety and panic attacks. It ran my life. I had medication I felt like I needed and would panic (even more) if I didn’t have it. I tried numerous other ways to combat it, but nothing seemed to really help. It was crippling and paralyzing. I lived in fear of having another panic attack. Oftentimes, the panic attacks were paired with an extreme emotional breakdown. It was so embarrassing when this happened and I couldn’t stop it. I remember one time in particular, I had an EMDR session earlier that day, and later went to play in a dart tournament that evening. Everything was going great. There was the slightest pressure to hit a couple specific numbers. No big deal. I loved this! I did it all the time under pressure, in fact, it often helped me play better. I remember sitting in my bar stool chair, looking at the dart board and at my teammate, and was about to go, and then it hit me. I felt the tears well up, and before I knew it I was having a melt down in the ladies room. Then I was couldn’t breathe – I was hyperventilating and freaking out. I was paralyzed by the anxiety and fear.
What happened was something was brought up during my session, a feeling, emotion, thought, something… Maybe feeling out of control and helpless in a terrifying situation as a young kid, maybe feeling pressure, maybe something else completely, but the tiniest something in that moment triggered it and all of those repressed emotions came out pouring out and I was not ready for it. That was a really intense and difficult night. Luckily I had people there who were there for me the best that they could be given everything, and that was so helpful not being alone during those tough times, cause I’ve been there too and it’s much harder to pull yourself out of it afterwards.
The point I’m getting at is, the same situation, playing in a dart tournament with some healthy competition and pressure, though stressful, I often find to be exciting and exhilarating. That particular night, I was plagued by a deep fear brought on by the EMDR session, which turned my normal excitement into fear and then into a full blown panic attack. This is an extreme example, but I urge you to try to see where you might’ve actually been feeling a bit of excitement (at least at first) in a past or present experience that brought up a lot of anxiety.
There’s a fine line between anxiety and excitement. It’s really the same thing when you break it down. They are both simply feelings or emotions. With anxiety though, we tend to take it on as who we are. We say “I am anxious” rather than “This makes me feel anxious” or say “my anxiety is acting up” rather than “I’m noticing I’m starting to feel anxious”. Start by noticing if you do this or something similar, and gently reword it every time you notice it. Here’s a great video about the science behind the similarities between the two and how to turn your fear into excitement.
We’ve become so detached from ourselves, our minds and bodies that we often have no clue where the anxiety stems from or what’s causing it. We just distract ourselves, numb, or detach ourselves or whatever we can to feel better in the moment. It’s become more of a lifestyle: drinking, smoking, binge-watching netflix, obsessive video gaming, shopping, social media scrolling, eating, etc. What we really need is to work on becoming more self aware and paying more attention to ourselves and our emotions, and get to the root of why we are experiencing anxiety in the first place. When you feel anxious, try to pinpoint where you most feel it in your body. What other sensations are you experiencing, such as trembling, increased heart rate, a lump in your throat, or sweaty hands? I encourage you to sit with the anxiety for a bit, as this can be incredibly helpful and enlightening. By that I mean, take some time to go somewhere alone and quite, even if you have to go to the bathroom, close the lid and sit on the pot. Close your eyes, take several long, slow and deep breaths focusing on the anxiety and ask yourself where it’s coming from and what it’s trying to tell you. You might see a glimpse of a memory, have a sudden thought, feel a twinge somewhere in your body, or have an emotion come over you, just to give you some ideas of what to pay attention to. If you are ready, explore whatever comes up for you. Thank yourself for bringing it to your attention so you may become aware of it and let it go this time.
So maybe next time you start feeling anxious, simply say to yourself “I am excited.” We do have control over the thoughts we think, and when those thoughts are fear based we experience anxiety, which feeds it and can lead to a full blown panic attack. You don’t have to go down that rabbit hole. Catch yourself when you start feeling it. Acknowledge how you are feeling and have some affirmations ready for when it happens. Some of mine are: I am safe (I sometimes just repeat this one over and over). I am okay. I am grounded. I am cared for and loved. I am worthy. I’ve got this. I’ve overcome far worse than this.
Use whatever works for you. I hope these ideas are helpful and can help you get out of your fear. Let me know what you found to be impactful for you. =)
Peace and Love,