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Create your own "tool box" for soothing anxiety and panic


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Here is my own "tool box" and explanation of my own situation. Hopefully there is something in here that can help you.

 

Here is my explanation of my therapy.

 

Ok, here I go. I will start at the top. I have a panic disorder due to the effects of my childhood and other events in my life which just added trauma to my life.So I am in therapy right now to sort that all out. It is going extremely well by my standards and the counselor's standards. So of course a lot of what I has to say pertains to my specific situation but it can be used to fears and anxieties in general. The amygdala is a part of the brain that controls fear. It is in the primitive part of our brain. It also helps with the hypothalamus process fearful events or stressful events or traumatic events. It also works subconsciously. Without you even knowing it, it can assess something as totally dangerous for survival and then it sends out a chemical response in the limbic system to start the flight or fight response. You can not control that at all. However you can control how it makes you feel. Because I have a panic disorder my threshold for extreme fear is very low and has many triggers. They can happen out of nowhere so seemly no reason. All fear however is controlled by the amygdala. So people with anxieties and what not also have lower threshold for the amygdala being activated.

 

I started talk and cognitive therapy after being hospitalized a few times for panic that would not stop for days on end. I was near total physical collapse so I HAD to do something. I had lost almost 30 pounds in a month because I could not eat or drink or sleep or anything. What I have been learning are "grounding techniques" and there are millions of them out there. So anytime I feel panic starting I start my grounding techniques. They basically bring you back into the present moment. Fear and anxiety takes you OUT of the present moment and into the past or the future. Right? We can not live in those places. We have to live in the present. If we live in the present we have to be focused and in our own bodies.

 

Now some of the techniques that I use:

 

1. I find walking very grounding. I go for two walks a day almost every single day. So I walk about an hour a day or a little more. The endorphins it creates make you feel awesome which create health benefits too on top of the other obvious ones.

 

2. I have a safe place in my house that I go to if I am overwhelmed. That is my bedroom. If I am overwhelmed I ask that my family leave me alone in there for about 20 mins. You can also have a safe place in your head as well. Like a memory and you think about that memory and see it with ALL your senses.

 

3. Breathing techniques. You can look up a lot of these. One I use is I breath in deeply and I say, " I am peaceful and safe", and on the exhale I say, " I am letting out fear, anxiety and panic."

 

4. I touch my body, lightly tapping my arm or massaging my scalp or snapping a rubber band on my arm. This reminds me I am in my own body and not floating.

 

5. I take off my socks and walk on the floor with my eyes closed and feel the sensations of how that feels.

 

6. You can describe your physical surroundings with all your five senses. So you describe what you touch, you describe what you see, describe what you hear, ..... you can the picture. You keep doing it until the anxiety disappears.

 

7. Sometimes I will have a very hot bath or shower.

 

8. Affirmations. Here are ones I say 3 times a day about 5 times each.

 

The only moment I can control is the present moment.

 

I deserve to be loved

 

I deserve the right to express myself and be heard

 

I am on the path to healing

 

I love and accept myself and I am safe

 

The dark can not hurt me

 

The past can not hurt me

 

It is safe to go to sleep

 

I am with people who love me and won't let anyone hurt me.

 

Now your situation is probably different so you have to find affirmations that work for you in particular.

 

9. I find people to talk to even if it only 15 minutes and that helps me a lot.

 

10. If I have tried everything and nothing is working and it has been many hours I take a larger dose of my medication. I take a benzo once a day to keep myself off the edge. I take half a pill daily. If I have days where SQUAT is working and I have tried for about 8 hours to stop the panic I take an entire pill. That does not happen too often though. Maybe once every few months. ( I would check this with your prescribing doctor though because benzo's are a control medication and they only give you so many)

 

 

Grounding techniques are basically self soothing so that your fear does not change your perception of reality. Having someone else sooth our anxiety is not a good strategy. Ignoring our anxiety is also not a good strategy. My counselor has taught me to build a "tool box" of techniques for self soothing and my "tool box" is what I have described to you in shorter detail. I keep building my tool box with more skills all the time and you need many skills because one or two won't cut it and can fail. You need back ups for when others fail.

 

 

Once you have your tools and are secure in using them you can take your fears and anxieties out of the box. You can sit with uncomfortable and bad feelings and explore why you have them and what triggers them and decide if they are applicable anymore. You can also decide if they are even " your crap" to begin with or something that was projected onto you by someone else.

 

Basically you are taking control of your fear and anxiety responses and when you have control you have LESS fear and anxiety. And all anxiety is is fear and once you learn to control that......................

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This is great, Victoria! I don't suffer from panic disorder, per se, but I do have anxiety at times and tend to worry a lot. I also can get stuck in negative thought patterns that really bring me to a dark place if I don't get a handle on them. My "toolbox" consists of a few of these things:

 

1) Exercise: This is the biggest for me. I work out with a trainer 2-3X a week (serious weights and heavy lifting) and run usually at least 3X a week; I find that when I'm feeling low, going out and running outside in the fresh air completely changes things. The worry subsides, my mood lifts -- sometimes a lot.

 

2) Staying in the Present: If I find myself getting anxious or sad about something -- especially if it's something I can't change or fix -- I try to focus on the present moment by doing a sort of "narrative" of what I'm doing at that moment: "I'm washing a plate. I'm cleaning the lint trap on the dryer. I'm feeding the cat. I'm eating a banana." It keeps my mind from wandering off to all sorts of things that it doesn't need to be wandering to -- it "grounds" me in a sense.

 

3) Focusing on Senses: What you said about taking off your socks and walking on the floor and being conscious of that totally resonated with me. Sometimes, I will just touch things and focus on the texture of them, or smell something and focus on the smell, or look at something for a long time and notice its texture/color/patterns etc. This also keeps me really focused on "now" rather than letting my mind wander off everywhere.

 

4) Focusing on Breathing: Sometimes, I just listen to myself breathe. When I am anxious, I feel like I can't get any air, and I realize it's because I'm holding my breath a lot -- or at least not taking as many breaths as I should be.

 

5) Pet Time: I have a cat, and she is one of the things that save my sanity at times. I will just pick her up and hold her close to me for a minute or two (or as long as she'll let me -- LOL!) and I feel soothed instantly. It's something about the softness of the fur, the warmth, and the purring that really help me to stay calm.

 

While I don't take any medications, I will, on occasion, have a glass or two of wine if I'm really edgy, but I usually don't need it. I admit, though, that glass of wine while I'm in my jacuzzi tub in my nice, relaxing bathroom really helps a lot!

 

These are just a few things. I live alone, so I get a lot of "quiet time," and every place in the house is "mine." That can be a good thing, anxiety-wise, but I also get lonely. One of the things I struggle with is being pretty much chronically single -- I have attempted to date only a little since my last relationship ended several years ago -- and that actually is the source of a significant amount of sadness and anxiety that I experience. I'm working on being at peace with being on my own so that, if I never meet the right person for me, I will still feel OK. It's hard, sometimes, though.

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Something that I forgot to add as well is you must practice these techniques every day and even if you aret not in a panic or anxiety situation. You do them so that they become second nature to you and then when you have an anxiety or panic situation you know immediately what to do and you're not consumed in panic.

 

Also practicing them every day guarantees a better result. Also too if you do it every day it brings down your general anxiety as well.

 

And do not forget relapses are normal but keep going. It is also okay to have a relapse but keep going with your exercises.

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  • 4 months later...

What I also found useful was to give that fear a physical form. Children have been asked to describe fear and they describe it as a monster and that is how they draw it. For me that fearful voice is myself as a small child but with a bird's beak. And when she's afraid she squawks. I acknowledge that she's there and tell her this is not the time to deal with the fact that you are upset. I know you are upset but we will deal with this later. You are perfectly fine no one will hurt you.

 

It is important to acknowledge the fact that you are fearful but not give a control over you.

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Love this thread, Vic!

 

I don't suffer from panic attacks, but I do get mild anxiety, and many of the items in your toolbox resonated with me. My tools are not so much ones for using when in distress (for want of a better word) but more for general "upkeep" to keep myself in balance - for anxiety and/or depression.

 

1) Also exercise. Walking. Running.

2) Meditation

3) Singing (I sing with a choir)

4) Yoga

 

I love the one about grabbing a cat, browneyedgirl! I do this too.

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Love this thread, Vic!

 

I don't suffer from panic attacks, but I do get mild anxiety, and many of the items in your toolbox resonated with me. My tools are not so much ones for using when in distress (for want of a better word) but more for general "upkeep" to keep myself in balance - for anxiety and/or depression.

 

1) Also exercise. Walking. Running.

2) Meditation

3) Singing (I sing with a choir)

4) Yoga

 

I love the one about grabbing a cat, browneyedgirl! I do this too.

 

Thank you! I walk and meditate as well. I also sing in a choir.

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  • 1 month later...

I thought it would revive this thread with something else that helps me too. Often if you can sneak even a half hour nap in there ,a little sleep does a lot to restore balance. Remember you have to eat well, be well hydrated and sleep properly this helps a lot.

 

There are two other things that I do as well. 1.When it safe to do so i.e. not ice covered, I will go run around my house about 10 times when I'm feeling anxious. 2. Another thing that I do as I get in my car turn out up my music super loud and start screaming to the music.

 

The aim of the game is that you are trying to bring yourself into the present moment. Panic occurs and anxiety occurs when you are either in the future or in the past and not in the present one minute you're living in.

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  • 6 months later...
The only moment I can control is the present moment.

 

I needed to hear this exact quote. I'm always stressing and worrying about the future, making sure all my plans follow through and I don't get backtracked or anything. I have a weird fixation with wanting to be in control of everything (a reason why I hate flying, or even being a passenger in a car. I'd much prefer to drive myself) and I thank you so much for this post.

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I needed to hear this exact quote. I'm always stressing and worrying about the future, making sure all my plans follow through and I don't get backtracked or anything. I have a weird fixation with wanting to be in control of everything (a reason why I hate flying, or even being a passenger in a car. I'd much prefer to drive myself) and I thank you so much for this post.

 

You are welcome. Just to remember to take everything day by day small goals become big ones.

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  • 7 months later...

Wow ,I have not updated since January. I am doing really really well. I haven't had an episode of panic or anxiety in probably almost 2 months. I can now have my life as busy and full as I want it. I feel complete and vibrant in spirit. It has taken almost 2 1/2 years to get here but I think I'm finally better.

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The sorts of techniques you've outlined Victoria are also very useful for one of the most common issues that comes up on this site. - Difficulty in dealing with the tumult of emotions that come up after a break up.

 

So many people write in about being unable to cope, having obsessive thoughts, being out of control with texting, calling and contacting exes, thinking the bad feelings will last forever, etc, etc. They don't know how to self soothe'.

 

What you've described is 'a practice' and many people prefer to just wallow in all of their 'stuff'. You do need to focus on a practice, and practice it! But, hell, it reaps rewards. If even just a few of the practices you've described could be taken on by some posters, their healing and recovery would be made so much easier.

 

Maybe you could turn your post into an article for the site?

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I am not sure how to post it as an article. Thank you for the support , Gollum. I think the hard part is that people don't realize that relapses are normal and they are going to occur. Sometimes when they relapse they give up and think that a method does not work. It is hard but if you give it 100% more likely than not the method does work.

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Thank you so much victoria. I will try these things. My anxiety has gotten very bad and fortunately I am off work and seeing counsellor this afternoon. I am not on medication for it, but think that perhaps I should be. I feel so overwhelmed at times, and just want to be away from the rest of the world.

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