In boxing there is a saying that says all boxers have a plan until they get hit. I love that saying because it illustrates wonderfully my battles with anxiety symptoms. When I start feeling better I always make a plan about what I will do to control my anxiety, but as soon as my anxiety symptoms hit my plan would always fall apart as if Mike Tyson himself punched me square on the nose. That continued until I found a new plan.
To control your anxiety you have to have a plan, sort of. What I mean by plan is a way to sort out an actual set of actions or thought processes to help you cope with your anxiety symptoms when they hit you like a pillow sack of bricks. The plan can vary from person to person since there is no one approach that will work for everyone. However, I would like to highlight a technique that I use all the time. It is not a secret, involves no drugs and best of all it’s free. In order to control your anxiety symptoms effectively you have to do two things.
You have to practice these two things over and over for many days and maybe months - but it will help you cope. I offer no cures because I am reluctant to guarantee the unguaranteeable, but will say that if you give this a try it will help you to reduce your anxiety at worst and may even put your anxiety on hiatus at best.
First of all, you have to accept and let go. That is right, it is simple but upon closer inspection this is actually very hard. You have to accept your anxiety symptoms 100% and not add any more stress and anxiety when your symptoms are triggered. You see when we have a panic attack or other powerful anxiety related symptom it hits us hard, and as soon as it does this creates a great deal of fear and stress about us having the symptom (fear of fear).
In other words, you get a symptom and pump up the fear because you are frightened by the symptom. You crank up the intensity and what started as a passing sense of anxiety can be turned into a full blown D day attack on your nerves.
What you must do is accept whatever your body and mind will do and not tense up when it happens. So if you are dizzy, lightheaded, have muscle twitches, aches, pains, or have a huge headache I say so what. These symptoms will not harm you. You must accept all of them no matter how strong. Do not ADD any fear or anxiety to your state. Ride it out and do not give it any importance. Loosen yourself in your seat, stand calmly, whatever your position do not waiver.
Let the anxiety strike however it likes, and do not shrink from it. If you refrain from adding additional or secondary fear to the symptom, your body will naturally relax after a little while. Why is this important? Simply put you have to re-train your mind and body to not overact to anxiety symptoms and sensations.
You have to be firm and in the process you will be rewiring your brain. By allowing the anxiety symptoms to run through you and provide no additional fear - no ‘what if’ - you are training your mind and body to not produce anxiety about being anxious. When you do make the mistake (we all have) of adding this secondary fear, the what if, this is precisely the time when your anxiety symptoms grow beyond your control. The body will release adrenaline and continue to agitate your mind and organs.
It is a horrific cycle of anxiety - secondary fear - adrenaline - more anxiety. Stop the cycle by cutting off the continued overproduction of adrenaline. This is why you must accept and let go. Of all the days and nights that you have endured anxiety symptoms how many times have they hurt you physically? Your likely answer was zero. Therefore, be confident and know that if you do not add more fear to the first instance of anxiety it will pass sooner and overtime you will have fewer attacks and bouts of anxiety symptoms.
Second, you must be patient and allow time to do the rest. If you gain enough practice you will become good at the art of doing nothing. No pacing, no rocking, no what if scenarios running through your mind. Again, this may not cure you, but it will give you a handle on your anxiety. With time you will begin to feel the band lift from around your head, that lump in your throat will be less noticeable and you will have fewer encounters with your anxious feelings. Is this easy? No it is not. But if you read this and re-read this and then practice you will get better. You will regain control.
Drugs and therapy are absolutely great ways to help you cope with anxiety. But I firmly believe that the same way you slipped into your anxious state is the same way you’re going to get out, which is gradually. You have to accept the palpitations, weak legs, and the other billion and one symptoms. If you have been to your doctor, maybe even several times, and have been cleared medically then let go. Why tense up and fight when you are going to lose that battle every time. If you don’t present a fight then there will not be a fight. Give yourself a chance to rest, allow the anxiety to do whatever it wants. After a while you will see the difference. The anxiety might remain, but it will cease to loom so large in your life. You will still have good and bad days, but this is a real method of coping and increasing the number of days you feel good.
Given the right amount of practice you will be back to doing what you like to do. You will not feel the need to be locked up in your home. Let go and you will see better days.