So, you say that you have anxiety disorder. Is that right?
Me too . . .
Ever freak out?
Ever come to the point where the walls are closing in and nothing works?
Nothing stops. Yell if you want, but nothing helps. You can’t calm down. You can’t rest and you can’t get out of your own skin.
I’ve been there and if you’ve read this much, then I assume you have too.
There are times when the panic hits. The anxiety and the stressors are unstoppable. The chest is tight. Literally, every nerve in the body is tense. You’re on high alert and the idea of calming down seems impossible. The thought machine has tilted, which means all systems are on overload. You want to run. You want to jump out of it.
You want to get out of the race you’re in. You want something to solve the unsolvable puzzle that we call life but there are no solutions for things beyond our control. Sometimes, the only solution when we don’t know what to do is nothing. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do. And it’s tough.
Life is tough. Life hurts. Life comes with challenges and conflicts and losses. Sometimes, the thought
machine races out of control.
The alarms in our mind are too loud for us to think clearly and in the moment of attack, all we can do is focus on one thing. All we see is the tunnel.
What happens next is we lose sight of everything else.
We lose sight of the idea that we can heal. We can improve. We can start over. We can change our minds. We can change our direction but when the thought machine is tilted, all we see are the flashing lights of our emergency.
Calm down . .
Sure, as if it were that easy.
There are times when everything is out of control. Our heart is beating fast. Our nerves are stressed to the point where it seems like every muscle is clenched in some involuntary reaction. The fear receptors in our mind are overreacting and overproducing, which is all a chemical reaction to our thinking which leads to our emotions.
At a time when we cannot control the chain reactions and heartbeat, the only thing we can control is our breathing.
So, breathe . . .
Breathe because this is something you can control. We cannot slow our heart rate because our heart beats the way it does. That’s the heart’s job, to beat and keep us alive.
The mind does the same thing. The mind connects with fear and only looks to keep us safe.
The mind wants to find safety and keep us alive – and for the record, it’s not like we’re going to die. We might feel this way, especially when the panic hits an all-time high, but we are not going to die.
There are times when the world is this outside thing. Everyone you know is like a familiar stranger. You can walk down the hallway that you’ve been through a thousand times; yet, there’s something so incredibly unfitting and the world is a lonely place.
Nothing seems to go right. The mind catastrophizes and immediately goes to the worst possible scenario, which hurts . . . and again, you just want to step out of this whole scene. And you wish that you could. Maybe you wish that you were somebody else. Maybe you wish that you didn’t care anymore or that you didn’t feel anymore. Maybe you start to look around at the people you know and wish you had their talent. But then you wouldn’t be you . . .
I found myself in the whirling vortex, spinning around, helplessly, as if to be in the funnel of an emotional tornado. I tried to replace thought with action. I was at a place where there were no answers and no way to calm down. Everything I knew or thought about was somehow distorted and destroyed beyond repair. Was this rational. No, but it seemed real to me.
Was this true?
Again, the answer is no but truth is relative especially when it comes to the deception of our perception.
When depression hits and anxiety is all we can see, reality and rationality lose the fight. This is when irrational thinking comes in to take center stage.
I know there were times when I believed that I was absolutely alone. I was somehow separated by this invisible thing, like an unseeable prison that kept me from touching the face of my hopes and dreams. I know there were family and friends who stood by my side. They told me, “I’m here for you,” and somehow, I felt even more alone because in my mind; there was no way that they could understand me. There was no way they could understand what was inside of me.
I was alone in crowds. I was alone when I was by myself. I was alone when I walked down the street. I was alone when I was in meetings at work. I was alone when I walked down the hallway and I was even more alone when someone would try and talk to me.
I have to note this because there is a way out of this. There’s a way to get out of this emotional quicksand. There’s a way to stop the weight from piling on your chest. There’s a way to stop thinking about everything and everyone else and turn this around but first you have to breathe.
Breathe because this is the one thing you can control. Quitting on yourself and quitting your life is no longer an option. From today on, the challenge is accepted and nothing will ever grow so dark or be so desperate or lonesome again. Today is the day we discover the answers from within. This is the day that we reclaim our chemistry. Today, we take our life back.
Inhale deeply through your nose. Let the air fill your lungs and feel the fresh air sweeping in through your nostrils. Breathe in until your chest is to its fullest point and then pause to the count of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then exhale through your mouth.
Let your breath cycle like waves that hit the shoreline. See your inhale as the waves that come in and wash the sands. Pause and then as you exhale, see the outgoing waves and imagine them taking away all of the unwanted sediments from the sands.
The sand and the sea remains but each inhale and exhale indicates the cleansing of our mind.
Close your eyes and think of this. Let your breath take on its own rhythm and as you breathe, notice a sense of calmness.
Notice that your breath intercepts the anxiety and disperses the anxious chatter.
Focus on your breathing.
Perhaps, allow yourself the mindful chant that coincides with your breath:
That’s not real.
This isn’t happening.
I have used this technique when my anxiety attacks were in full swing. I can say as a witness to this, I have found this to be helpful. I have found this to act as an interruption, which was enough to soften the alarms in my mind so at last, the thought machine can recover from overload and finally, my breathing could calm down.
Not all thoughts are friendly ones. Not everything we think is helpful to our emotional state. However, if we allow ourselves the moment to breathe and let this pass without holding our thoughts and interacting with them (or judging them) and we breathe and we exhale – we can come to a moment of reprieve and stop the internal punishment. We can stop the judgment and for the moment, we can finally calm down and find some rest.
I make no promises.
But I do promise that this is something that helped me.