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Panic and Performance

Panic and Performance
by David A. Morris, LCSW

Panic/Anxiety attacks are helpful when actually needed.

Panic/Anxiety attacks are helpful when actually needed.

I spent nine years coaching collegiate soccer and throughout that time I saw how an athlete’s panic and anxiety could deteriorate their performance on the field. In regular life, anxiety appears to be no different when a client is trying to do well in their relationships, their jobs, or even their daily activities of living, I have heard panic and anxiety described as “impending doom”, “lurking close by”, or “darkness closing in”. It makes sense to feel paralyzed or stuck by these thoughts because the brain truly believes something bad is about to happen.

Our anxiety and panic have a place. We were created to utilize this emotion, and the actions that follow,  in a way that would help us survive. A tiger jumps out of the bushes and shortness of breath, fast beating heart, adrenaline and the urge to flee comes in handy. We step out onto the street and notice a bus barreling towards us, we need this quick action, response to save our lives. Neuroscientists believe our survival response is in our limbic system. When it’s activated, our thoughts become catastrophic and the chemicals released help us escape. Except that most of us are not in life threatening situations and yet the brain responds the same. Instead of saving us, anxiety leaves us with fatigue, fear, and a sense of failure.

There’s hope for people with anxious thoughts and many clients have come to our practice to find it. Here’s some ideas to get started:

Build Your Instinct Awareness – the more you realize  your brain is going through typical survival responses, the more the sensations and experiences you are having will make sense. Start to tell yourself “this is just my survival response system acting”.

  1. Reverse the Message – the brain tightens everything up including your chest and breath. Send it the reverse message by stretching, loosening up the shoulders and face, and then slow your breathing.
  2. Replenish the Body – often after panic or an anxiety attack you may want to sleep. It’s not a bad idea but first consider drinking at least 16oz of water and eating fresh food like fruit. This will be a good start to countering all of the chemical releases that occurred during the episode.
  3. Allow for Allies – contact a professional counselor, psychologist or therapist whom will know how to walk alongside of you during this time in your life. Their expertise and support can provide a little extra motivation and accountability needed to conquer your panic and anxiety.

Call New Directions Counseling today for an appointment. Use the information in the column to the right to make that connection.