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How to Stop the Mind Shift

Posted Jan 03 2010 5:55am

The mind shift is the switch from normal thinking to saying to yourself something like, “oh no!” or “I’m going to die!”

It’s the dividing line between regular thoughts and panicked thoughts.

It’s easy to recognize this shift in thinking, and once you do it well, it can help you to reduce and shorten your bouts of anxiety and panic.

This mind shift happens fast, and many times it happens so fast that you seem to fall into a panic state without even knowing how it happened.

That’s why you’ll often hear people say that they were doing something mundane when all of a sudden they became overwhelmed with panic.

It’s also why the phrase “It came out of the blue” gets thrown around so much by anxiety sufferers when trying to explain how their panic started.

I was first introduced to the idea of the mind shift by Dr. Claire Weekes .  She correctly pointed out that people tend to talk or think their way into panic without knowing it.

Dr. Weekes never spoke of a “mind shift” per se, but she hammered the idea that anxiety is set off by  phrases or thoughts that signal some kind of disaster.

So then, if you find yourself having anxiety symptoms or even if panic just flashes for no reason, keep your mind clear, listen to yourself.  If you think or say things like, “oh my God,” “get me out of here” or really anything that screams emergency in your mind just before the panic strikes, then you can tell yourself that this is anxiety at work.

You can use this recognition to calm yourself and think your way out of panic.  Usually when panic grips you the ability to think clearly gets tossed out the window.  But this is why it’s important for you to reel in the logical part of your brain as quickly as possible.

This happened to me the other night.  I was roaring down the interstate at a staggering 55 mph because I had noticed that I couldn’t take in a deep breath.  I guess I had slowed down without knowing it, and in what seemed like 2 seconds, figured I was going to die because I couldn’t catch my breath.

And just as I thought that I was about to veer off the road, I just as quickly thought of Dr. Weekes.  I thought about her because just before I began to panic, I thought, “oh no!”  Literally, those were the exact words that ran through my mind.

So I stopped this thought from repeating, and replaced it with information I knew to be true.  I thought, “I can breathe”, “I’m not dying”, “just anxiety”.  After about 2 to 3 minutes I was able to get it back together again.  The “oh no!” thought was my clue that anxiety was working its voodoo.

It happens.  You can not have a panic attack for a long time, or any anxiety for that matter, and have it come back occasionally for no reason.  But it’s important to not dwell on the fact that it comes back.  It’s more important to know that many times you can slow down anxiety so it doesn’t mount and get out of control.

I know that this probably sounds too simple to work,  but trust me on this one.  Knowing that you’re panicking, versus thinking that you’re dying, is not the same thing.  It’s not even the same sport.

At least when you know it’s panic or anxiety you can reason with yourself, and most critically, not feed your fears.

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