Everyone has had some experience with the emotion before. Whether it was once, a very long time ago, or whether it was yesterday and it happens all the time. It comes on gradually like a thermometer heating up; it rises, and rises, and gets more and more extreme. The symptoms are not bad at first; maybe you sweat a little or feel a slight unease. But the longer you wait and the more you start to think about it, the worse it gets. You’re palms start to sweat, your heart starts to pound, your stomach flips upside down, your legs start to shake, and your mind starts to race, so much so that you think you’re going crazy! I’m talking of course about the worst emotion we can possibly get…panic!
Panic is an emotion that we have engrained into us naturally. It’s part of the fight or flight response that our ancestors needed to survive. Faced with much greater daily stress thousands and thousands of years ago, it was good to have this emotion. It enabled them to get a rush of energy to either fight whatever was threatening them, or run away from whatever was threatening them. It was a great instinct to have, and one that enabled the human race to thrive.
In today’s world however, we typically do not need to have this emotion on a day-to-day basis. We are not faced with the same constant physical danger like our ancient ancestors. But this mechanism, located within the amygdala, which causes our anxiety and panic, remains with us nonetheless.
It can be a nuisance to some and downright crippling to many more. At least 40 million U.S. citizens are plagued by an anxiety disorder on any given day. And for me, this is all too close to home, as I too used to be one of these 40 million people.
Having anxiety and getting panic attacks regularly was a part of my life for about 6 dreadful, long months when I was 17 years old. It came out of nowhere one night, and I literally thought I had lost my mind. I thought that I had just “lost it” and went crazy like all those people I used to hear about in mental institutions. It was the worst night of my life.
I’m still not 100 percent sure what triggered my first panic attack. It could have been a number of things (school, work, friends, sports, stress), or more likely a combination of everything, but all I know is that it hit me like a bag of bricks.
I got that first panic attack and it must have lasted over an hour and finally I was able to calm down a bit. But the anxiety that followed carried on, unyielding. I couldn’t shake it. I felt scared, terrified, lonely, and fearful of getting another attack. This lasted days, until I did get another attack.
I was going crazy and I thought I was going to die. I ended up having to go to the hospital and having to get checked out by multiple doctors. Finally, after about a week of getting panic attacks and having unbelievable constant anxiety, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder. This diagnosis actually helped relieve my symptoms because I kept fearing that it was something deadly, or even worse, something that would make me get institutionalized! Learning that many other people had this, and hearing that it could be dealt with relieved my worries a bit and allowed me the opportunity to find a solution!
But before I could…
I was prescribed all sorts of medications for my anxiety (Some people have to take medication and I am not against this at all! But many others, like myself, do not need medication, and I feel that doctors tend to over-prescribe too many people because that’s all they are taught to do.), but thankfully I took none of them. I didn’t want to rely on a “prescription drug” to feel better. So instead I did my own research and tackled my anxiety one-on-one.
It took me approximately 6 months, but what I found that worked the best out of everything out there, was a book called Panic Away by Barry McDonagh. This book literally changed my life and allowed me to completely get over my panic attacks and help me reduce my general anxiety to nearly nothing!
(I was also taking some vitamins, eating healthier, and listening to hypnosis for stress relief at the time. This combination definitely sealed the deal for me, and allowed me to eliminate my panic attacks.)
The book, which I would recommend to anyone looking to eliminate their anxiety, teaches you how to fight your panic attacks head-on and stop them from affecting you. It empowers you and gives you a sense of control at a time when you feel completely helpless.
You see, most people, when they get a panic attack, or they feel like they’re starting to get one, try as hard as possible to suppress this emotion and hide from it. They fear the panic and are scared to have any bit of it come to fruition. But by fearing the panic and trying to hide from it, what they are actually doing is empowering it, and making it into something so much greater than it actually is. The panic/anxiety itself cannot hurt you! It is simply a harmless manifestation of sensations, emotions, and thoughts. Albeit an uncomfortable manifestation, nonetheless a completely harmless one!
So instead of making this manifestation of feelings into something powerful, what people should do instead, is recognize that they are having a panic attack, and accept it. Instead of running and hiding (disempowering and fearful reactions) from the imminent panic, welcome it (a completely empowering and proactive approach)!
I know this seems very counter-intuitive at this point, trust me, when I first heard this, I thought it was completely insane! Why would anyone who is about to experience the worst emotion you can possibly experience want to have more of that emotion? That is ridiculous! But believe me, with nothing to lose, and after six months of getting these attacks, I tried it one night, and it worked!
I was getting a panic attack one night and I was going crazy. I thought that this was the one that would finally put me over the edge, and do me in. It was terrible, my mind was like a runaway train, and nothing could slow it down! All of the crazy and typical sensations of the classic panic attack were there, only it seemed to be 10x worse than usual that night! But then I decided to actually try the advice I read about in the Panic Away book. I figured “Why the hell not? Nothing else is working!”
(Disclaimer: Please note that the links for Panic Away in this post are affiliate links and I do earn a commission through any purchases that you make. If you do make a purchase, I appreciate it greatly! If you wish, shoot me an email or let me know on the Facebook Page so I can thank you personally.)
So I did this:
I started having an internal dialogue with my fear. I welcomed it, and accepted it and started to watch and think about all the crazy emotions, sensations, and thoughts that I was having. But rather than getting scared, by taking an active approach and being in the moment, I had no feelings that I could think of. I just observed my sensations, and didn’t work myself up like I had done before. I then did what scared me the most, but that was the most important step, and that is I “asked for more”. I actually asked for more of these feelings, emotions, and thoughts that I was having. I asked for more of my pounding heart! I asked for more of my sweaty palms and chills! I asked for shakier, uncontrollable legs! I asked for more of my upset stomach that had been doing all sorts of flips and turns! I asked for more of my insane thoughts about losing my mind and going crazy! I asked for it all! And I asked for more and more of it! And what happened next is what changed my life…
Rather than getting more of any of these feelings, I got none of them. They all just vanished!
Just like magic, every single one of these crazy emotions, sensations, and thoughts just disappeared. I was so shocked and happy at the same time. It was so surreal, and I was completely over-joyed to find that I had finally figured out how to end these attacks. It was incredible, and one of the best days of my life. I woke up the next morning worry free and feeling amazing for the first time in what seemed like forever! I am still so happy and thrilled even now looking back at what I was able to overcome and realizing just how awful those 6 months were for me.
I don’t regret a thing though. Everything happens for a reason, and I believe getting those attacks back then actually made me stronger in a way. It made me think about things differently and when I was finally able to completely get over them, I had a greater appreciation for life. I started to be happier and enjoy the little things more. When you can smile and live life carefree, which is how I live my life now, you really get to enjoy it so much more!
Of course I still get anxious from time to time. That’s a normal part of life though; everyone does. Stress is part of our lives and it’s usually a good thing! But since that day, I have not had one single panic attack. I’ve come close numerous times, to the point where I would start to get panicky sensations, but I just implement this trick to calling out the “panic” and tackling it head-on, and disempowering it, and it works every time! I no longer fear getting an attack because I know that I can diffuse it and shut it right down if I have to!
By disempowering the panic you empower yourself and give yourself the strength to fight it. As the great President Roosevelt once said “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” And by exposing the fear as being truly nothing, you are able to overcome it with ease. Try this technique out if you or anyone you know suffers from panic attacks or anxiety. Trust me, it works and it can change your life!