Mindfulness Counseling: Taming the Trigger in Tucson, AZ
Thoughts racing, heart rapidly beating, shallow breathing, palms sweating and feet, poising to run. These are symptoms of an anxiety attack, which can be brought on by a traumatic memory, triggered by something as benign as a smell, or the attack can be brought on by a phobia, like the fear of flying.
No matter its origin, the experience of intense fear is debilitating and can lead to isolation and depression. One way to cope with and decrease the frequency and intensity of anxiety attacks is to learn the principles of Mindfulness.
Below is a list of some basic skills that can help break the cycle:
Replace judgment with compassion. Many times our thoughts, especially when we are stressed, are filled with negative self-talk or harsh judgments . This habit of the mind only increases the level of stress in the body and makes anxiety grow larger and more powerful. Placing a gentle hand on the heart when stress is rising can be a reminder to use compassionate self-talk.
Observe and Allow:
Meditation teachers describe these principals of mindfulness as interdependent like “the wings of a bird”; one wing carries awareness the other acceptance. When we experience anxiety we want it to go away. We want our mind to stop racing and our blood pressure to stop rising. Acceptance doesn’t mean we have to agree with or like the situation; it is simply the acknowledgement of what is happening. Carl Jung said, “What you resist, persists”. Instead of pushing the experience of anxiety away, compassionately observe it and allow it even if it’s scary.
Anchor with the Breath
At times, it may be too overwhelming to fully allow the experience of anxiety. In this case, touch into the physical sensations for just a second, and then like an anchor, find the stability of the breath. Detach from fear filled thoughts and focus the attention on the breath. Watch it, it as it comes in and out of the nose, or creates the rise and fall of the belly and chest. Notice if this practice changes the intensity of the experience of anxiety. Does it decrease? Increase? Stay the same?
Improve the Moment
Put on soft music or a funny show. Call a trusted friend who can stir-up some laughs. In the moment of intense anxiety, it can feel as if death were knocking on the door but in reality this it is a fear-thought that needs taming. Changing something in the environment can be just the thing to unhook that thought from the mind. Like anything, mindfulness takes practice and over time with effort, it can help.
Also beneficial is participation in a meditation group or regular Yoga class, especially of the restorative variety. If it seems impossible to get the brain unstuck from full panic mode seek out a mental health professional for help and resources rather than going it alone.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”