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Anxiety whilst meditating

Discussion in 'START HERE: Registration & Introductions' started by istigkeit, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. istigkeit

    istigkeit Member

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    Hi all,

    Firstly apologies for the long post.

    I just started my meditation program today with the free 4CD download. I have meditated twice today, once guided by Michael in CD2 and then on my own in CD3 (as per the instructions). However, I am having some real difficulty with anxiety during these sessions. To explain I think I should give a brief background.

    About 5 months ago I started having panic attacks. At first they were relatively minor and though I was concerned (and very confused) I tried to ignore it and get on with daily life. Then about 3 months ago I had quite a severe attack at work. It was highly traumatic, and possibly the most frightening experience of my life. I immediately left the office that day, and have not returned since. Though I have not had any panic attacks since then, I cannot know if I have made any improvements as I have avoided all situations where I would be likely to feel uneasy. I mostly stay at home and watch TV. I can say that there are still feelings of anxiety that pop up from time to time, in situations that I would have been totally at ease with 6 months ago.

    I have had a brief encounter with meditation before - about 3 years ago I went on a meditation retreat for 6 days. The after effects of this retreat were astounding and at the time I intended to keep meditating on a daily basis. However, as with so many other things my motivation faded. Now that I am in a very difficult time in my life (and with so much time on my hands) I am very keen to get started again. My mother recently introduced me to LifeFlow, and so I thought what better way to begin. So thats where we are today.

    Now the issue I am having is during the sessions. As soon as I am a few minutes into the meditation, and starting to relax I become very aware of my breathing. This then leads me to start forcing myself to breath in and out in a very controlled manner. I am literally having to tell myself when to breathe in and when to breathe out. I begin to feel that I am breathing too fast/too heavily and from here I very quickly begin to get feelings of anxiety. I am actually not sure if the breathing has anytyhing to do with it, but when the anxiety crops up, all I can focus on is to stop thinking about my breathing. My heart starts beating very fast and hard, so that I can almost hear it. It is extremely uncomfortable. It is almost like the intial stages of a panic attack. At this point all I can think about is my heart beating, and that I should slow down my breathing as I am making it worse. I sometimes get to a point where I am virtually holding my breath to slow it down. At the same time I feel very out of breath. I may be over explaining what is essentially a flight of flight response, or a heightened level of anxiety.

    So my sessions have been far from enjoyable or relaxing. I know meditation is difficult, and I know from my past experience that it can often be uncomfortable. But still, this level of discomfort is far more unbearable. I just feel like jumping out of my seat and running somewhere, anywhere.

    I don't really know what my question is exactly, I guess I was just hoping for any sort of advice. Maybe I will have to get through these initial feelings and in time meditation won't make me feel so anxious? Or maybe this is more normal than I think and more people feel this way when starting out? I just feel the very thing I am trying to cure with meditation is the thing standing in my way.

    Thanks for your help.
     
  2. pollyanna

    pollyanna Moderator

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    Hi there and welcome to the community. Anxiety and panic attacks are experienced by more and more people in society today. I have copied and pasted the following from Ta-tsu-wa who is one of our extremely learned members.

    If you follow his instructions and do the gratitude exercise on C.D. 2 of Discover Meditation it should help you and prepare you better to enjoy meditation:-

    Some anxiety and panic relief methods

    Two of the quickest and most effective techniques I know of to relieve anxiety and panic attacks are to use a combination of breathing techniques and acupressure. You can learn techniques for breathing and acupressure for free online. By focusing attention on your breathing it literally changes your body chemistry and moves it into a more peaceful state. And it also diverts your thoughts away from the symptoms of anxiety and panic. All by itself this helps to prevent them from spiraling down into a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle. Let me share a couple of my favorite breathing techniques and then give you links to a couple of websites that give organized instructions for using acupressure along with incredibly detailed pictures and instructions for precisely locating the points to apply pressure on along the meridians.

    Dr. Andrew Weil recommends a pranayama technique that has you breathe in through your nose to a count of 4 seconds, hold the breath lightly for a count of 7 seconds, and exhale slowly to a count of 8 seconds. That constitutes one cycle then you begin again. You don't need to be exact as far as the count being measured in seconds. It is the ratio of the breath to the holding of the breath to the exhale of the breath that is important, not that you measure the count exactly in units of seconds. So, in to a count of 4, hold for a count of 7, exhale completely to a count of 8 and repeat. Dr. Weil suggests that you first try 3 cycles of this. You can add more cycles as you become comfortable with the breathing rhythm. Ten cycles should be plenty to get a little relief from anxiety and panic.

    The next technique is one that has been demonstrated to have a very positive effect on slowing the heart rate down and reducing blood pressure and it is even more simple than the first technique. Simply breathe in through the nose for 5 seconds then out through the nose for a count of 5 seonds (and yes, in this case you do want exact units of seconds, not just to a count of 5, so it might be helpful to look at a clock or timer at first until you get the pace down.) There is no holding of the breath in this technique. Five seconds in, 5 seconds out. You can practice this for as long as you like. After only a minute or two, especially if you are focusing intently on the breath you should feel the anxiety and panic substantially reduced.

    Another technique known to calm the nervous system down is very similar. Breathe in through the nose for 6 seconds and out through the nose for 6 seconds, and units of seconds are also important in this technique. This rhythm helps to increase heart rate variability which is coming to be recognized by medical science as one of the key indicators to overall health of the body. The greater the variability the greater the health of the individual. In this technique it is also important to take the breath fairly deep down into the diaphragm and not just shallow into the top part of the lungs. This is another technique you can practice for as long as you like.

    As far as acupressure, one of the best points to press on that I know is right on your breast bone about an inch and a half up from the bottom of the rib cage where it ends. It will probably feel like there is a slight depression in that spot when you feel for it. This one point is so good for relieving anxiety, panic and fear that its nickname in Chinese is something like "the well of tranquility." There are many other good points as well. You don't need to hit all of them. One or two or a few of them will probably be sufficient to produce near immediate relief. And you can press them or tap on them as often as you like. You really can't overdose like you can with pills and chemicals. Here are those sites that give all the great instructions:

    PointFinder: The Online Acupressure Guide

    Acupuncture . acuxo

    If you combine the breathing with some acupressure, especially while listening to Lifeflow (even the free sample would help) you will have some very powerful tools to help you not just manage the symptoms but in time overcome the root causes of anxiety and panic.


    Hope this helps and I wish you peace and joy on your journey of self discovery :) :) :)
     
  3. istigkeit

    istigkeit Member

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    Thank you Pollyanna, that looks like invaluable advice. I located the original thread it came from, and the whole thread in fact has very useful information.

    I am a bit confused with regard to the implementation however. I think the breathing exercises are intended to be done while listening to the LF tracks. However, I have not moved onto that yet and am currently starting with the "Discover Meditation" starter cds. This is basically conventional meditation. So do I try and combine the breathing exercises with the meditation? This may be difficult as I will need to be watching the clock and timing my breaths. And when do I switch between breathing exercises back to meditation? Or would I be better off just practising the breathing exercises on their own and stopping with the meditation altogether for now?

    Any further advice is greatly appreciated.
     
  4. Ta-tsu-wa

    Ta-tsu-wa Member

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    Rat (I like it!)

    Rest assured, you're perfectly normal. Nothing you've described here is anything most of us haven't experienced from time to time. If you wouldn't mind, maybe I could offer you a couple of things to think about.

    You've outlined a textbook case of a panic attack. They begin with minor elevations of anxiety that most of us try to ignore, then at some point we have "the big one"; the one that really frightens us because it is so intense. That's the one that gets cemented in our minds and from that time on we become preoccupied with trying to determine whether or not we feel another one like it coming on again. Every little twinge we notice, no matter how small or how many times we may have felt such a twinge in the past, becomes suspicious, and we seize on it as being the potential beginnings of another panic attack.

    So we begin avoiding the circumstances in which the first panic attack occurred. Then, if we let the process go even further, we start avoiding situations that are even similar to those in which the first attack occurred. And if we let it go all the way we start avoiding every possible situation in which we can possibly conceive of a panic attack coming on (which, it turns out, is just about any situation you can dream up.)

    The problem with this approach is that it slowly conditions us to respond to potential panic and anxiety by avoiding things, and you can't live life by avoiding everything. Life is meant to be experienced or it soon loses all its flavor.

    See, Rat, here's the thing about panic, and you almost hit the nail on the head. It's an escallation of that "fight or flight" mechanism you mentioned, only in someone who has had and who fears panic attacks, that mechanism is sort of "stuck in the on position." But really, it's no different than many normal life experiences.

    For example, if you've ever taken a ride on a really scary roller coaster, you felt all the same things you do in a panic attack. You felt that surge of adrenaline. You might even have felt queasy in your stomach a little bit, or dizzy, out of breath, or had a racing heart that pounds in your chest. It's the same experience right down to the chemical reactions it produces in your body, except that the roller coaster ride was "fun". It was entertainment.

    What makes the experience qualitatively different than the panic attack you felt at work that day? One basic element; You knew that the roller coaster ride was only going to last a few minutes and that when it was done you would climb out of the cart and things would return to normal. And so that temporary "fight or flight" feeling you experienced during the ride really was just that; temporary.

    Those panic attacks, especially that first "big one" seem to come out of nowhere. We're not expecting it, we don't really know exactly what triggers it, so to us it becomes this completely out-of-control thing that victimizes us, seemingly without our being able to stop it or keep it from coming on or even to predict exactly when it might come on us.

    That's why we start avoiding things like going to work, or going to the grocery store, or to church, or to wherever we first experienced that "big one". We don't know what brought it on so we start eliminating and avoiding all the things we have associated with that first (and subsequent) experience even though the situation probably had little or nothing to do with that panic attack. This pattern of avoidance gradually takes over and isolates us, but only if we let it.

    See, that pattern is completely a voluntary choice. There are other, better ways to deal with panic attacks than to avoid the things we think may cause them.

    The first thing you need to understand is that no one dies from having a panic attack. In the heat of the moment it may feel like something terrible is about to happen to you, but it won't. The sensation of panic itself is the worst a panic attack can dish out. It's a bit like watching a dog chase its own tail. At first glance it may seem as if something of significance is happening, what with all that chasing and whirling around going on. Certainly the dog thinks something really important is happening. But as you observe the dog for a moment you soon realize that, duh!, it's the dog's own tail. The dog is literally chasing itself. It can't "catch itself" because it IS itself. Even if the dog manages to get its tail in its mouth, all it has done is grab hold of something it already had. Nothing of significance is actually taking place. It's all an illusion.

    Panic is the same way. Whether you realize it or not, YOU are the cause of the panic. Panic is nothing but a repetitive response inside of you that keeps feeding upon itself. First you feel a twinge, then you focus on that twinge, then you begin to wonder if that twinge might be panic coming on. And as you wonder about it the twinge becomes more clearly felt, which reinforces the idea inside you that it really might be the beginning of a panic attack because it's gotten noticably more pronounced, and as you notice this you notice that in response to this thought it gets even more intense yet. All of this continually feeds back onto itself and with each successive cycle you become more and more convinced you're having or are about to have a panic attack.

    It isn't just imaginary in that you really are getting your body to crank up its production of the stress hormones of the fight or flight response. Fortunately, there is a way to turn them back down again. And here is the biggest secret about panic that I know.

    Panic stops becoming panic when you stop being afraid of it. It only escallates because your own fear of it keeps driving that self-perpetuating cycle. So, from a practical standpoint, what can you do?

    First, just understand that no one dies from a panic attack. It just doesn't happen. It doesn't happen to others and it's not going to happen to you. This really is a case of having "nothing to fear but fear itself".

    Second, understand that even if you do absolutely nothing at all about it, the panic attack is going to go away all on its own. They always have and they always will. Physiologically, your body just isn't engineered to sustain those high levels of panic for prolonged periods. It doesn't have the kind of energy reserves for that. So if you go back to any panic attack you've ever had, or read about those others have had, you will see there is always, always, always a predictable pattern to the attack. It starts with focusing your attention on a "suspicious" little twitch of some kind, allowing that to spiral into greater and greater anxiety which eventually reaches a peak, usually in just a minute or two, and then passing by and fading, just like a wave on the ocean. A panic attack will always follow this same basic pattern. So if you do nothing at all about it the attack will come and pass.

    But that's not a very enjoyable way to carry on your life. So here's a great technique that will give you some direct control over the panic. At first it will shorten the time an attack lasts, but very quickly it will stop them from coming on at all. Challenge the panic.

    Remember, for a panic attack to develop, you have to follow all the steps to develop it. Like baking a cake, you have to follow the recipe. Failure to follow the steps properly results in failure to bake your cake. The same is true of panic attacks. There are steps you follow, whether you're conscious of it or not, that lead to the panic attack. If you refuse to follow those steps; that "recipe for a panic attack" if you will, the panic attack can't develop as it has in the past.

    The first step to overcoming panic is, relax. By that I mean, let yourself physically go limp and relaxed as best you can. Edmund Jacobson was the man who developed the technique we know as "progressive relaxation" back in the 1920s. He was suffering from extreme anxiety and panic. He had multiple degrees in medicine and related studies and during his college days he noted that his anxiety and panic issues seemed to arise out of an excess of physical tension he had begun carrying around habitually in his body. So he decided to use his own body as a laboratory and experiment with techniques to reduce this tension to see what effect it had on anxiety and panic. The progressive relaxation technique was what he eventually discovered and when he learned to relax completely at will his panic and anxiety issues disappeared.

    So the first step is simply to relax. As anxiety and panic begin to show themselves there is a natural tendency to tighten up. Learn to relax everything but focus particularly on the known tension "hot spots", like the clenched jaws, the tightened lips, the tensed shoulders, and relax your solar plexus. It's best to practice deep relaxation often, independent of any panic issues as this general release of long held tensions will usually prevent or greatly reduce anxiety and panic from coming on altogether. But by all means, if you have a thought about some twitch or twinge, and you fall into that thinking pattern of wondering, "could this be the start of...?", then stop what you're doing and relax.

    The second step is, repeat to yourself that panic has no power to do any real harm. It's just like the dog chasing its own tail. And if it were to come it would also quickly go away all on its own, like that roller coaster ride. It has a beginning, a peak, and a definite end. You need do nothing at all and it will pass. This is a step of acceptance. By getting yourself to accept this fact about panic attacks they don't have the power to control your feelings of fear, and without mounting fear a panic attack can't develop the way you've experienced it in the past.

    The third step is to mentally give your feelings of panic a visual image of something silly, like a cartoon character. I'm not sure where you live but here in the US we have a cartoon character named "Daffy Duck". He's the quintessential loser. No matter how he schemes and plots, nothing ever works out the way he plans it. He talks with a kind of lisp and tends to spit a great deal when pronouncing his words. He's got big, duck feet. You could pick him or anything that you find silly or funny. Give that image to your panic. Imagine that every time you think you may be starting to feel panic, you see this silly character rising up as the embodiment of the panic. It's difficult to be frightened of a poor schuck like Daffy Duck. Cement this image of panic in your brain. This is an NLP technique (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) that will quickly help you lose fear of any sensations of panic.

    The fourth step, and maybe the most uncomfortable for most people, is to challenge the panic to do its worst. Panic, anxiety and fear thrive in the shadows. Call them out where you can get a good look at them. What you can actually see is never as frightening as what is hidden and therefore only imagined. Think in your mind, "OK, so you've shown your cowardly face. Let's see what you can do. Give me your best shot." Now, I will say, this is not just false bravado. You really are going to challenge the panic to do its absolute worst to you. And initially, trust me, you will probably get what you ask for. It may intensify, and it may intensify to something as strong as you've felt before. But don't back down and retreat from it. Remember, it won't last but for a few moments. Your body can't sustain a real peak of panic for very long, even it if wanted to. It's not designed to be capable of that. So keep challenging the panic to do its worst. And when you think you've hit your limit, challenge it again.

    What you're going to find is that the peak comes quicker, lasts for less time, and goes away faster than before. There is some mechanism in our brains that switches off this fight or flight response when we make a challenge like this. The speculation is that because we are challenging this panic we're telling our sub-conscious on some very deep level that it no longer holds the ability to provoke mindless fear in us. And in the absence of fear, panic can't exist. The panic dissipates.

    Each time you practice this four step technique the results get more effective. The attacks decrease in frequency and intensity. They are of shorter and shorter duration. In time they stop completely, especially if you are actively working with techniques that release tensions, such as meditation or progressive relaxation. The seeds of anxiety and panic are in the stresses that we don't process properly and that are allowed to build up inside us. These result in higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol which, in turn, result in greater generalized physical tension, which seems to be the primary trigger of anxiety and panic disorders.

    But again, always remember that there is nothing "wrong" with you. All of us experience the kinds of things you are experiencing. The only difference is that you have begun (without knowing it) to follow a series of steps, or a recipe, that keeps producing a spiral of results that culminate in anxiety and/or panic. Those of us who are not following these steps are, so to speak, just riding a roller coaster and stepping out of the cart each time the ride comes to an end.

    Your breathing during meditation, for example, is normal. When any of us starts to focus on breathing it begins to feel like we're "forcing" it; like it's a little unnatural. And we start to feel like we have to work at it to keep breathing or the breathing will stop. It won't, at least not for more than a few moments. Your autonomic nervous system would kick in and start the breath again the moment you forgot to think about it. But at least initially it feels like we have to make ourselves breathe. Perfectly, absolutely normal. If you didn't feel that way I'd say there was something really wrong with you.

    Anyway, this is a novel already. Do try the four step technique I've outlined and stop worrying so much about the anxiety and panic. Practice physical relaxation, especially those hot spots of tension. And maybe just speak to a counselor with experience in cognitive therapy. They can help you fine tune the process so that you feel more like yourself as quickly as possible. Fortunately, panic and anxiety are often very quick to respond to very simple relief techniques, then appropriate methods of relaxing and releasing stress bring you to a point where they are no longer an issue you have to deal with.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2009
  5. istigkeit

    istigkeit Member

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    Wow! Just wow! Thank you so much for your reply Ta-tsu-wa. I cannot tell you how touched I was by your response - it is amazing that there are people like you (and others in this forum I'm sure) that are willing to spend so much time to help others. It is truly inspiring and I hope one day I too will be able to give so freely.

    I gave your post a quick glance over, but I have to rush out right now, so will read fully a bit later. Just wanted to give you my thanks really. Oh and I live in London now (but grew up in Dubai) so I know ol' Daffy well, your description of the poor guy had me laughing.

    To avoid confusion, I posted a reply to pollyanna before your post, but it has not been posted yet as I am still "under moderation" and it needs to be approved. Can someone tell me how long this probation period lasts?

    Thanks again
     
  6. liliana48

    liliana48 Member

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    Dear Ta-tsu-wa,


    Thank yo so much for this and all your other posts. Your posts are always so

    interesting,educational and above all helpful.I believe that everyone in

    the community is looking forward to your posts. We love them and appreciate

    them.

    Liliana
     
  7. istigkeit

    istigkeit Member

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    Ok so it appears I am no longer under moderation and my posts are being submitted instantly. However, the message I posted just after pollyanna's seems to have disappeared...can any moderators help here?

    Anyway, the problem I am feeling right now is like I am overwhelmed with advice. Please do not take this in the wrong way Ta-tsu-wa, I am so unbelievably grateful for your post. I feel I am on the brink of really starting to improve my condition - I have done a lot of research, gathered information, made some decisions, but now I just don't where to start. When I first left work I bought this online anxiety treatment - its called The Linden Method and with research I decided it was one of the more respected courses out there. I belive it is based on CBT principles. However, I only kept up the programme for 2 days. I think there was just too much going on at that time. So I still have that. I am now also seeing a therapist. I have had 3 weekly sessions so far, and we haven't really gotten anywhere. I know its still early, but I have always been reluctant to see therapists. The reason being that all they can do is give advice; and nowadays this advice can very easily be obtained online. The hard part is actually putting it into practice, which ultimately has to come from me. I guess I just feel its a waste of time.

    So there was The Linden Method, the therapy and then this week I turned to meditation. As I have mentioned before I have always wanted to do this for a number of reasons. But since coming on to this site, I now have so many other things ideas flying around in my head. There is Ta-tsu-wa's other thread in which he/she discusses practising breathing techniques. My post that has been lost was actually querying that thread. I was saying that since I am not yet on the LF tracks, just the Discover Meditation cds as of yet, how and when would I practice the breathing techniques? Should it be done whilst meditating (which then causes problems as we need to watch the clock), or should it be done separately, putting meditation on hold for some time. On top of that there is Ta-tsu-wa's reply in this thread. Again how and when should I be practicing all this? Should I be keeping this all in mind whilst meditating or is this something I should be thinking of at all times. For example, your first step is relax. Trying to relax whilst in the grip of anxiety is unbelievably difficult. How do I get better at doing this? My hope was that if I started meditating I would be in a more relaxed state and thus more easily be able to deal with the anxiety. But as I have outlined the meditation itself is a source of anxiety...so how does it all fit together?

    I think I'm no longer making sense. There's just so much information at my fingertips now that I have no idea where to start and how to implement any of it. Surely I can't possibly be trying to focus on The Linden Method, what therapy is telling me to do, doing all the breathing exrecises, using Ta-tsu-wa's 4 step process and the accupressure (just remembered this was in Ta-tsu-wa's post as well) all at once...!! And where does meditation fit into all of this? I think I need to be focused on what I am aiming for, otherwise I will just give up after a few days.

    PLEASE believe me that I am not ungrateful for any of this - I know I am spoilt for choice. But I do need guidance.

    Thank you.
     
  8. Bhavya

    Bhavya Member

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    Trust yourself

    Hi Newrat

    It seems you want advice but you're afraid to take it. To apply it.
    I suggest you take a deep breath and go inside. There is a place within where you have wisdom and calm, even while your mind is protesting. Trust that. It's who you are. :)

    There's a lot of wisdom in Pollyanna and Tat-su-wa's posts. Take the time to reread them. To begin with, forget the details on how to do the breathing and visualization and just pay attention to the new viewpoint that's being offered.

    The details will sort themselves out once you give yourself a chance to absorb them. But you have to apply them. Only you can do that.

    If it were me, I would work with the breath and leave 'meditation' as such til later. I'd turn on the free sample of Lifeflow 10 and say a prayer, asking to be surrounded with the divine white light of protection and healing. Then I'd work with the breath, breathing in love, breathing out tension, etc. I'd keep it short. And I'd give thanks both at the beginning and the end. Gratitudes are very beneficial!

    My brother overcame panic attacks using these methods, just as Ta-tsu-wa outlined. They work.

    Ultimately it doesn't matter which technique you use. Just pick one and work with it, not for two days but on an ongoing basis.

    Give yourself a chance! Your spirit is calling you into alignment. :)
    :)
    Bhavya
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2009
  9. JohnE

    JohnE New Member

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    Newrat, Ta-tsu-wa, Bhavya nd others

    Hi, Newrat

    I feel for you. I've been there and done that. I suffered from these things off and on since my early twenties, often living in total fear and shame that something was really, fundamentally wrong with me...and that at any moment I might go literally crazy and never come back... the isolation, fear, panic, pain, and sense of shame and weakness is inexplainable to people who haven't experienced it in all its glory.

    They came most often at periods of great stress or challenge in my life

    It sounds almost "wrong" to say that I laugh at it now..all the drama, all the silliness and self-importance in my own mind--it's the old, "oh my god! what was I thinking?" ahaa... But I remember the excruciating fear and humiliation of it...so intensely real at the time. I sought therapists and meds, though I loathed the thought that I needed either; both helped but didn't solve it--in hindsight because I truly believed there was something insolvably wrong with me...and that noone else actually "got it" and therefore they could not help me. (No ego investment there, eh?)

    Well, there is nothing wrong with me and there is nothing wrong with you. Someday, you will look back at this with compassionate humor and deep appreciation for what it taught you about living better and living well.

    Meantime, you've got to get to someday.

    There's some great advice here already and I'd underscore Bhavya's suggestion to focus on the intent and spirit rather than slogging the details...

    I'd like to add some other thoughts from what truly helped me...

    1. Findng out that other people had suffered from the same thing I did, some believe it or not, worse than I had (when you're in it, it does not seem possible that others could suffer more). I was not alone.
    2.That these others were recovering and/or had recovered..in some cases for years since their last attack...and they laughed at themselves. This gave me enormous hope. This extinguished my excuse that no one else could understand.
    3. That if others had moved beyond it, then I could too.
    4. This insight: In the program I used I heard it pointed out that people in this extreme anxious state usually (always?) have a safe place or person they go to for comfort, relief, or just endurance until it passes. This was absolutely true for me. It was alternatively my wife, my woods, or my therapist. (In your case it sounds like your home.)

    But the point being made was that I was the one granting that person or place the sanctity of safety. These persons or places had no actual power of safety beyond me deeming them so. None. Nada. Zilch. So the power of safety had sprung from my own mind and nowhere else. The challenge to me then was, "why not become your own safe place?" (This still gives me goosebumps because it was such a fundamental reversal from the debilitating if totally unconscious belief that safety lay outside of me, possibly beyond my reach.)

    5. This insight: Anxiety and panic attacks arise from the body's normal & necessary reaction to percieved threat. In the case of panic attacks, there is NO real threat (tiger attack, mugging, etc). there is ONLY the threat we tell ourselves is threatening. We tell ourselves this threat through an incessant and accelerating stream of negative and frightening self-talk and imaging, which is itself fueled by the adrenalin the body produces to deal with the threat. Since the threat is ultimately only a mental construct...an idea.. it is simply enhanced and supercharged by the effort to further figure it out and control it...which of course fuels it some more...and I know you know what I mean.

    6. So for me the first step to recovery was to begin acknowledging the anxiety the moment I noticed it...let it be OK...let go of fighting it, controlling it.. This was not easy at first, but it definitely began to take the edge off, and with that evidence I began to grow confident I could overcome this.

    7. The next step, often in the same moment as the first, was to identify--to become conscious--of the thought or interpretation of whatever event had triggered my anxiety, and then confront it directly, often by writing it out in its most frightening scope, then looking at it squarely and asking, what is the truth here?

    8. This painful personal insight: My panic attacks were ultimately a strategy for avoiding dealing with ACTUAL scary challenges of my real life--they gave me the incredibly convenient and unchallengeable excuse to avoid what really needed facing in my life at the time. When I looked really deep, I found that the familiarity of terror in my panic attacks was less frightening than the genuine unknowns.

    There's so much to all this but I'll wrap it up with one last observation. I think that dealing with panic attacks through meditation when brand new to meditation may be a bit of two-edged sword. I couldn't agree more that focusing on breathing can often lead to immediate relief or at least reduction of anxiety, but the key is to be able to FOCUS on breath alone. What I found for me was that often the attempt to get still and meditate set up the very circumstance for my mind to overwhelm me with the very self-talk and negative images that fueled my anxiety further.

    So I offer this key for what it's worth...In the early stages of overcoming anxiety, immediate acknowledgement and acceptance of the anxiety, followed by conscious choice to distract your mind (and thence break the chain of spiraling negative self-talk) is critcal. IF breathing works as that distraction for you (ultimately it is the focus that can bring you into the now most completely) then use it. But if the quiet state of meditation allows your mind too much freedom to race,then other distractions might work..something that demands your attention for instance, that will involve your mind in creating something other than the debilitating self-talk. (I found many times during the most intense attacks, that I actually could function perfectly well when cirmcumstances forced me to..and that afterwards I was completely free of the attack..until I started to think about it and re-live it.

    I know this is long; I hope it helps. Trust yourself, love yourself. Look for the opportunity to love yourself in this. When you feel anxiety coming on--or afterwards, wrap your arm around yourself like you would your child and comfort yourself. You are whole and perfect and will find yourself to be so. This might be a gift.

    John
     
  10. istigkeit

    istigkeit Member

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    John, thanks for your post. It is so inspiring to hear such positivity from someone who has been through it and come out the other side stronger than before. It is so easy for me to fall into a negative state of mind where I question whether it is all worth it, whether anyone ever really changes, or do we waste our lives simply grasping at straws. I know deep down that change is possible. It has to be. Hearing stories like yours is reassuring at times like these.

    Bhavya thanks for your reply too. I am going to read this thread and then reread it. I know there is wisdom here. I do tend to overanalyse things, in an effort to find the most efficient route. I want to solve every problem overnight. Ironically, this is what prevents me solving anything.

    Thanks for all the replies - I am so touched by the love that we as people are capable of.
     
  11. Inedible

    Inedible Member

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    Have you considered nutitional supplements like L-theanine, kava kava, valerian, 5-HTP, or sam-e?

    Are you meditating with your eyes closed - and would you feel better with them open?
     

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