I can’t stand feeling this way! My heart is racing. My stomach is churning. I’m sweating like a racehorse. I can’t stop! What if it never stops? Your thoughts are meanwhile trying to keep up with your racing heart at 160 beats a minute and you are well on your way to a panic attack.
This is what is happening in the more extreme moments of panic. And the first thing you must learn to do is neutralize these BIG feelings, and deflate the strength of those thoughts. It is the first step in quieting the limbic system, your central nervous system, so that you can stop a panic attack before it becomes full blown.
Most people I see do not know the cause of their panic attacks, as they often come on unbidden. But we are ruled by our unconscious minds, and the patterns formed start when we are quite young. Unconscious beliefs, learned in our environments, often do not emerge until we are in our late teens. By then they are so well formed, or habituated, that we no longer see them. They are affected by our caretakers, our environment and our own cognitive makeup. As with all habits, they start because they necessary at the time. These behaviors are typically designed to protect us, as that is the primary job of our brain. As adults, they have often lost that function, and now keep us stuck in unwanted patterns of behavior.
Habits Have Hidden Underpinnings
Habits like brushing our teeth, taking a shower, or the way we put on our shoes and socks make life easier, but the unconscious habits we develop play out under the disguise of individuality and freedom of choice. When clients enter therapy knowing what they want to change, that can be very helpful. However, it is what they are unaware of that holds sway over their behaviors and choices.
The beauty of discovering these hidden patterns is that once you do, you can never “unknow” them. That kind of knowledge can be very powerful in accomplishing your goals, and it is what creates those aha moments in therapy. Sometimes those realizations happen all at once, but typically they gradually stack up for the person as the evidence slowly unfolds in the therapeutic relationship.
Mindfulness Skills For A Panic Attack
Earlier I hinted that the first step in learning this is gaining the ability to neutralize the powerful emotions that keep you trapped and parked in unwanted behaviors. How do you do that? By learning coping skills that buy you time to process your thoughts in a more productive manner. All of those skills are easily learned, and consistent practice is the ONLY ingredient necessary for success. Again, mindfulness skills are easy to learn, easy to do, but require daily practice to master. That practice does not have to be time consuming or difficult, just consistent.
Coping skills are easily learned, and consistent practice is the ONLY ingredient necessary for success.
Coping skills are simply a “tool kit” you carry to help you slow the lightening quick range of emotions that comprise panic. They start with the type of breath work that is actually effective, the first skill I teach my clients. If you are rolling your eyes at this, then you do not understand the limbic system and its response to panic. I also teach that. I want my clients to know the basis of what will help them so that they get the importance of the practice. Other wise it is too easy to slough off. For a fun video that shows you how habits form, check this out. Just like learning any new skill, you have to stick with it.
If this approach to a neutralizing panic attack makes sense to you, call me or shoot me an email. Let’s untangle those anxious thoughts together.
P.S. I’m now offering both online scheduling capability and online counseling sessions. Go to my web site to check it out.