3 ways to stop panic and high anxiety
We all have times of high emotion. We all have moments when we see red, or feel like bursting into tears or are terrified of seemingly innocuous situations.
Before I took DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) I thought I had to endure my panic attacks. I knew how to be mindful and being mindful helped to some degree. I would feel my heart pound, try to catch my breath and be embarrassed by the sweat that I couldn’t control. I would try to lengthen my inhalations and make my exhalations match. I would remember my therapist saying that no one dies from a panic attack. No one even passes out from one. I tried to remind myself that I really was okay, that this was just a weird reaction my body was having and the anxiety was working hard to trick my brain into thinking there was so ar reason to be afraid. I would tell myself, it’s just a feeling and feelings aren’t real.
None of it really helped, though. Not in the way that I would soon learn was real help. I would still have panic attacks. I would still dread them and I was still exhausted after one. Luckily, I didn’t have them often. I can’t imagine having my life derailed like that on a regular basis.
DBT taught me that I didn’t have to re-frame anything, that I didn’t even have to think about triggers or appropriate responses I could just use some easy-breezy tools to make it better. When the anxiety is better appropriate responses come easily for me. For the most part my life is pretty darn good if I’m not is a moment of high anxiety.
DBT was like coming home for me. The core teaching is mindfulness. Mindfulness is something that I KNOW! It’s just when the panic came the mindfulness went out the window. Regulating emotions at other times was okay, but anger, panic and anxiety were the no fly zones for me. I just couldn’t navigate them. DBT taught me to harness what I already knew about mindfulness and use it to manage feelings of high emotion in new ways. I also learned some way cool tricks that I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. I’m not a doctor or a therapist. I’m a yoga teacher who uses DBT skills in her life and in her workshops.
The most effective tool for me is to change my body chemistry. This is my go -to when I’m feeling Really Big Emotion, like panic. Usually I’m already warm because panic and anxiety makes my heart race and, well, I’m 45, so I’m often a little warmer than everyone else. Since I’m probably already warm going outside in the winter is extremely effective. When I need a stronger answer I take body temperature shower where I slowly turn the tap colder and colder. And if I need a super dose of emotion management I plunge my face into a big bowl of ice water. Some people like holding an ice cube in each hand until the panic/worry/anxiety passes. I pull out the ice when I’m truly panicking and then I need the shock of face plunging. It’s like someone washes me in calm. It just starts at my head and washes down my back.
Distract is another great tool for managing high emotion. It’s a good one because you can do almost anywhere. For me, it’s best when the emotion isn’t crazy high. It’s best when I’m feeling agitated or edgy. If I’m agitated one of my favorite ways to manage is to go for a drive, turn the music way up and sing loudly. In addition to distracting me from the issue, it’s oxygenating my brain, making it easier to accept the current situation when I’m calm enough to deal with it. It’s modern-day Prananyama (breathwork).I can also distract by reading a book, watching a movie, anything that takes my mind off of the current situation for awhile.
Finally, the one thing that is preventative and helps me cope in the moment and-Exercise. Angry? Annoyed? A brisk walk can change that immediately.. According to Dr. Steve Ilardi of University of Kansas exercise can be as effective as Zoloft in managing depression. His Ted talk is inspirational.
I’m working on a notebook for managing emotions based on what I’ve learned over the years. They include skills and tools from dbt, mindfulness practices that I’ve taught over the years as well as actual yoga poses that help soothe the nervous system, ground us and add balance to our lives. Look for an early edition coming out soon!
Questions? I’m also looking to start a video series where I answer any question you may have. Send them to Mel@ayogikitchen.com ! Or just drop me an email and tell me how these skills are working in your life,, or if you have any other tips that help you manage your moments of high emotion.
More info at http://ayogikitchen.com.