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Don’t Run From Panic (Some Anxiety Management Tips)…

I work with many clients who are struggling to cope with daily feelings of anxiety and panic attacks. Through psychoeducation, many of them are surprised to learn that some of their attempts to “fight” or “win” against these uncomfortable sensations actually may be making them worse, and allowing them to continue. Resisting or fighting initial panic symptoms is likely to have the opposite effect…when clients tense up or try to suppress these feelings, they can actually intensify.

Here are some straightforward tips which are helpful when coping with anxiety and panic:

1. Acknowledge the symptoms/sensations, don’t turn and run away from them: As mentioned above, attempting to run away from early symptoms of a panic attack is in essence telling yourself that you can’t cope with what is happening in the given situation. In most cases, this will only intensify your feelings and create another wave of panic. I encourage my clients to use positive self-talk, and self-soothing statements which are calming and build confidence in situations which feel out of control. An example might be: “Right now I am feeling very anxious and upset. I can allow myself to go through this reaction and handle it. I have been through something like this before, and it’s turned out alright in the end.”

2. Try to let go, even though your body is telling you not to: When you try to resist and fight panic, you are most likely tensing up major muscle groups and making the anxiety worse. Take a moment to breathe deeply. Try to relax (even though it may seem impossible!) and allow your body to actually have the panic reactions (rapid heart palpitations, chest constriction, dizziness, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, etc.). This will enable you to actually move through the panic attack, as opposed to being stuck in it. The more you react to the anxiety, the more likely that it will continue.

3. Try to use positive self-talk statements when anxiety/panic strikes: Many clients immediately begin to feel afraid of the initial physiological reactions to panic, thereby making themselves afraid of not only the initial anxiety provoking event, but also of their reaction to it. If you say negative statements to yourself like “I can’t handle this!” or “I’ve got to get out of here right this minute” or “People are going to think I’m a crazy person if they see me like this!” you are continuing to create fear and self-doubt…something which will not make the situation any easier to move through. See my earlier blog post here which contains some helpful coping statements for anxiety/panic: http://www.synergeticpsychotherapy.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=616&action=edit

4. Let time pass: It is important to remember that panic is caused by a sudden surge of adrenaline in the body. If you can use the tips above to allow the bodily reaction to occur, it will soon be metabolized back into your system in as little as three to five minutes. Remember that panic attacks will not last forever.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, I would recommend the following books from Claire Weekes, entitled “Hope and Help for Your Nerves” and “Peace from Nervous Suffering.”

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