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Panic and Anxiety: Two Approaches

Panic and Anxiety: Two Approaches

by David A. Morris, LCSW

anxiety panic problems

Panic and anxiety make sense in these situations.

Two people were hiking in the woods, and unfortunately came across two adult bears rummaging along the path. When the bears smelled the hikers and then met their gaze, they snorted very loudly. Loud enough for both hikers to get chills throughout their bodies. The first hiker immediately sprinted as fast as she could. The second hiker stood frozen in fear. As the first hiker was sprinting, a moment of lucid thought hit her  mind “this bear will easily run me down”. The fear turned to anger and the anger turned to action. She stopped, reached into her hiking pack and blew a whistle as loud as she could. The second hiker also had a moment of insight and thought “I cannot stop this bear, here is where it ends”. He laid on the ground and accepted his fate. The whistle pierced the ears of the sprinting, snorting bear. It quickly changed direction and ran deep into the forest. The other bear swatted at the second hiker’s seemingly lifeless body, semi-buried it under sticks and leaves, with a plan to come back at nightfall and take it away.  Both hikers waited, then scurried back to their car with  enough adrenaline to last a lifetime.

Let’s discuss the importance of two different, yet effective approaches towards reducing anxiety and panic.

When anxiety and panic are being implemented by the brain in a NON-life threatening situation, it is important to address . Like the varied responses of the hikers, there is more than one approach to fend off anxiety and panic. Here are two approaches you can try:

  1. Firm, Commanding – fear often attempts to bully us and provide solutions that  build itself up while simultaneously keeping us stagnant. Our emotional response to fear can tear away at our self-esteem and confident decision-making. One approach is to call out fear, be firm against its message, command it to step back and even challenge its circular logic. You may experience some push back, but continue with another firm commanding statement and you will begin to see the difference between  the fear and reality. This approach is not effective in every setting but may give you  more cognitive room to make a better decision.
  2. Accepting, Welcoming  – fear finds its power in your response. Often  the less you respond, the more the power of its message lessens. This lessening of power makes its message less believable. There are times in which we have to accept our predisposition to anxiety, welcome the oncoming symptoms and then let those symptoms drift on by. I have heard clients develop accepting statements like “Okay, okay I hear you, just give me my heart palpitations and some sweating and be done with it.”. This counterintuitive welcome message appears to deter  anxiety and can often lessen the severity and duration of the anxious symptoms.

To have a empathetic, yet professional therapist walk alongside you through this process, please call New Directions Counseling today for an appointment. Call today 724.934.3905

Panic and Performance

by David A. Morris, LCSW

panic anxiety steps

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. Neuro-scientists 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 panic reactions. Many clients have come to our practice and found it helpful. Here’s some ideas to get started:

  1. 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”.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 724.934.3905