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Stop Anxiety Attacks By Changing Your Thinking

 

As you begin to observe your levels of fear (on the 0 to 10 scale), you will notice that those levels are not constants. Your anxiety, in fact, goes up and down. You may begin to notice that the fear goes up when you are concentrating more on your most frightening thoughts and bodily reactions.

It would be helpful to notice your level of panic, and also listen carefully to the messages you are sending yourself about your symptoms. It may be very normal to have some level of tension in certain situations, like having to give a speech or getting on an airplane. However, the difference between feeling an anxiety level of 1 or 2 in some situations and a level 10 in others can be the result of your own thoughts.

lf you predict that a catastrophe will occur, or that you will be unable to cope, or that you will need to escape, your fearful feelings will intensify. Catastrophic thinking causes people with panic attacks to misinterpret anxiety symptoms as being dangerous.

Fortunately, there is another more rational voice always with you. By focusing on this reassuring voice, you can bring a level of 10 back down. We call this voice the "Rational You." The Rational You "thinks”’ its way through life’s events evaluating the degrees of safety versus danger involved. It can reassure and comfort you when you are okay.

What happens to this part of you in panic situations? It gets pushed aside when you focus on the anxiety sensations and misinterpret them as dangerous. In order to strengthen the Rational You, examine the specific thoughts that increase your feelings of panic and
deliberately try to develop alternate ways of thinking, This is called rational responding, or de-catastrophizing.

For example, the thought, "l am going crazy" might be replaced with, "l am just experiencing physical symptoms. I have no reason to think I’m going crazy,” “I’m going to faint” could be replaced with, “l`ve never fainted before and there is no evidence that I’m going to now.”

Adding those soothing words and phrases that you have developed. such as "relax,“ "it will pass," "it’s just my heart beating - l'm not dying," as well as slow, gentle breathing exercises will also help. When you are plagued with catastrophic thoughts, talk to yourself as objectively as you can.

Do you have any evidence to support those thoughts that disaster might happen? Is there any other way you could view the situation? This exercise will usually allow you to see that you have been concentrating on the worst possible, but by no means the most likely, outcome.

You can also try what is called "here and now" focusing. Allow your awareness of panicky thoughts to recede and, instead, concentrate intently on what is around you. Pay attention to the colors, sights, smells, sounds, and tasks at hand. When panic thoughts intrude, use them as reminders to refocus your attention on the actual situation. Stay focused on what you are feeling now - "I feel my heart beating," for example, rather than "I am going to have a heart attack."

Stay attuned to the situation, rather than to your fear of what may be about to happen. People who develop extreme fear reactions sometimes label every feeling they have as anxiety. This is another error in logic or judgment. See if you can identify feelings other
than fear or anxiety when you are experiencing discomfort. Perhaps you’re excited, sad, lonely, angry, or disappointed.

Ask yourself. “What would l be feeling right now if I weren’t feeling anxious?” Another way to say this is “What else am I feeling underneath my fear?" lf those other uncomfortable feelings are due to something other than anxiety, you may be able to work on solving the other problems or accepting some of those feelings as normal parts of being alive.

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