Anxiety is a normal response to when your nervous system is perceiving threat. It is a great thing when a lion is dinosaur is about to attack. It totally sucks when your nervous system is pumping your body with adrenaline and stress hormones when there is no actual attack happening. If your fight or flight hormones are triggered when you are trying to do a presentation, write a book, or engage in a conversation with a loved one, then the part of your brain that is relaxed and able to make clear decisions is biologically not getting the blood that it needs in order to function properly. There are many strategies that are helpful to reduce anxiety symptoms.
A SYMPTOM MANAGEMENT STRATEGY
One is to trick your brain back into normal mode. One way of doing this is to do a breathing exercise that hijacks the anxiety circuits of your nervous system and helps calm you down. The “4-7-8 Breathing Exercise” can help you trick your brain into chilling out. First take note how triggered you are and rank it from 1 to 10. Then, you breathe in deep as you can for a count of “4”. Count in your head while you do this. Then you hold your breath for a count of 7, also counting in your head while you count. Then you breath out for a count of 8, counting in your head. You then repeat this for a total of 4 times. After you have done this 4-7-8 breathing for four times, take 3 normal deep breaths and then re-assess how triggered you are. Most people go from a 9 to a 3. Sometimes you will go from a 9 to a 6. If that happens then repeat the 4-7-8 breathing exercise and you will likely go from a 6 to a 3. Repeat the 4-7-8 breathing exercise again and assess. You’ll be at a 1 or a 2. Once you are there, your brain is now getting the oxygen in the right place and you are able to write, talk, or speak without the fight or flight hormones flooding your system. The reason this works is because we are wired to be hyper-vigilant when we are under attack and if our breathing is slowly, then another part of our brain sends a signal that says, “we’re breathing slowly now, and if we’re breathing slowly now, then the threat must not be here anymore, so we can stop flooding the brain with anxiety hormones.” That strategy is great for preparing yourself for stressful situations or for calming yourself down when you are in one.
THERAPY STRATEGIES IF YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED TRAUMA
If you’ve experienced trauma then in addition to learning symptom management strategies, you need to do a specialized form of therapy that helps the part of your brain that got stuck in the trauma to be able to move on. EMDR is a highly recommended strategy that allows you to process your trauma in a way so your brain stops telling you that you your guard should be up. Once you’ve processed your trauma using EMDR, your brain stops getting panic signals all of the time.
THERAPY STRATEGIES IF YOU HAVE NOT EXPERIENCED TRAUMA
If symptom management strategies don’t eradicate panic and anxiety for you, then you likely have some underlying emotional beliefs about yourself that got wired into your nervous system because of how you were raised or experienced important relationships. If you have not experienced trauma and have anxiety or panic attack symptoms then a somatic based psychotherapy can help transform your situation. It can be helpful to transform the internal thought patterns that set us up for anxiety. Once our internal self messaging shifts on the nervous system level, then silly things that used to trigger us might still be annoying, but they are no longer overwhelming in the same way.
In a nutshell, use the 4-7-8 Breathing exercise to help you with a symptom management. And use EMDR if you’ve experienced trauma and somatic psychotherapy if your anxiety is more from family or relational wounds. You don’t need to suffer from anxiety anymore. Don’t be afraid to contact me now so I can help you find more resources or help you find somebody good to work with.