Powerful Methods to Break The Anxiety Cycle

By Jane Wang LFMT

Do you experience chronic anxiety?  Or do you have panic attacks?  Or do you suffer from generalized anxiety?  I will cover some ways to deal with the aforementioned problems.

            The first thing is to understand, “Why don’t I get over this?”  Answers typically center on, “I’m weak and defective” or “The problem is insolvable.”  The second thing to comprehend is to see that one experiences discomfort, but treat it like danger, such as when one watches a scary movie.  During the first session of therapy, it’s good to focus on the anxiety about treatment, specifically on if the therapist either minimizes or maximizes the anxiety and a general fear that the treatment won’t work.  At this time, it would be also helpful to learn to breathe deeply from the belly.

            Aaron Beck, the father of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,  encourages the “Aware” steps:  Acknowledge and accept, wait and watch, action, repeat, and end.  Specifically with the action step, you can:  breathe deeply, become involved in the present, have self-direction:  danger or discomfort, humor your fears, raise the activity level, “Don’t take it lying down,” and answer, “What’s my job?” but to be as comfortable as possible while waiting for the anxiety to pass.

            In regard to panic attacks, you need to recognize that the problem isn’t unique.  At the peak of the attack, ask yourself, “What are you afraid will happen?”  Answers range from:  death, fainting, and going insane.  Next ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that a panic attack ever did to me?”  Then, ask, “To what do I attribute my failure to (die, faint, or go crazy)?”  Other helpful question include:  “How do I try to end an attack?  What do I think would happen if I just stayed in place and waited it out?  What does my experience tell me would happen?”  The key to exit a panic attack cycle is to acknowledge it’s only a discomfort, and not a danger.

            In regards to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it’s best not to change the content of the worry, but rather change your relationship to the worry.  For example, treat worry similarly to an “Uncle Argument” at a family dinner or a Heckler.  Responses to either are either agree with him or humor him.  Some activities to do if the anxiety is sever:  write a poem, such as a haiku, sing a dreadful son, chant, worry in a different language, or take worries for a walk.  During therapy, you could prepare a grim version of the worry statement and repeat it 25 times, responding it to it differently in the end.  Outside of therapy, you could schedule a worry appointment twice a day for ten minutes which allows you to postpone worry until the scheduled time.

            Dealing with chronic anxiety, as well a panic attacks, is a common experience.  I hope this article provides some helpful suggestions and techniques to overcome it.