A reader writes:
I’m a 22-year old medical student from Sweden. I’ve been dealing with anxiety and panic attacks for the last 4 months, and my biggest problem is not knowing which of all methods to stick with. I’m on medication, doing CBT, doing mindfulness meditations daily, trying affirmations, get good sleep, avoiding alcohol and drugs, and so forth. But as fast as the anxiety shows up, my mind automatically jumps to the conclusion that I must have done something wrong, otherwise why would I still feel so bad? I’m really trying to just view my thoughts as nothing but thoughts, same with feelings. I feel like I’m to blame for my mental state.
My heart goes out to this reader, because I can relate.
As soon as I feel my fear, I judge it as wrong. Then, I become anxious because I’m judging my fear as wrong. Then it turns into panic because I judge myself for judging myself for judging it all as wrong.
That IS the crux of anxiety.
It’s the the inner/societal/cultural pressures, and the beliefs that have informed us that we’re wrong if we feel afraid of anything.
We push ourselves to be Superhuman. We think we’re less or worse than everyone else. That’s why they say comparison is a little death.
What these beautiful letters people have written have shown me is that the common denominator within all of us is our judgments of our fears.
So let’s just take a minute, and take a deep breath. Let’s approach this together, step-by-step.
How do we not let our anxiety turn into panic?
We allow ourselves to appreciate and value our fear.
We’re supposed to feel fear. Not only are we supposed to, we need it.
Because it’s a messenger telling us something IS wrong, and it’s crucial we hear it.
We may be afraid because . . .
. . . we’re doing too much and we need to slow down.
. . . we’re in the wrong place and need to re-direct.
. . . the present moment’s reminding us not to repeat a pattern from the past again.
. . . we’re wanting to force change (in ourselves or another) and need to take a step back.
. . . or there’s a real threat to our physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health.
What we fear most is our vulnerability. When we are vulnerable, we can be hurt. We grip or lock down or put up defenses to not feel.
We think vulnerability means insecurity, and that’s a lie. We shame our most tender, loving selves.
Every single time I feel this way when I find a safe place, I discover tears. And after I gently release, the anxiety subsides.
I don’t know why I feel the need to cry. Most of the time, it doesn’t make sense. Aren’t I stronger? Aren’t I more capable? Why am I such a baby?
Ah, but there’s those judgments, shaming my feelings.
It’s okay to be small, childlike, fragile, or sensitive. Whoever told us it’s not okay to cry, is the one who probably needs to the most. It’s important to empty your cup when it has become too full. It could save your life.
But we can’t always find our safe place immediately. So here are a few tips to keep in your pocket when in a crisis:
If you don’t want to cry in public: Roll your eyes in a big circle in one direction and then the other direction. It cuts at the tear ducts and will stop tears immediately.
If you’re having a panic attack: Grab a less than full water bottle and toss it from one hand to the next. Focus on the water in the bottle as it moves between your hands. This will help balance out your brain synapses.
If you’re feeling restless and can’t sit still: Take a brisk, short walk and focus on feeling the bottoms of your feet from heel-to-toe. This will help you get grounded.
Lastly, and it may seem trite, if you can’t tap into the tears under the fears, just laugh. Find anyway you can to keep it light and not take it so seriously.
May we all embrace our fears and know their value!