Panic and Anxiety: Two Approaches
by David A. Morris, LCSW
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.
In the last article, we discussed how anxiety and to some extent panic have their place and function. We also talked about some ideas to start reducing these paralyzing feelings. In this article, I think it is important to realize 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:
- 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.
- 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. Use the information in the column to the right to make that connection.