Anxiety & Panic Questions and Answers
Throughout my years of helping people with Anxiety and Panic I have given various answers to all sorts of questions, and certain questions have come up far more than others. So, for everyone’s benefit, I have listed some of the more popular ones below.
Q.1 Why do I feel better in certain situations and not in others?
This is a very common one and it all comes down to how you think in other situations.
For example, you may feel better in the safety of your own home rather than at a family gathering. The only difference in these situations is in the way you think. You are the same person and it is not the situation that makes you feel worse, it is your thought pattern and memory working together.
You may spend the day worrying about going to a particular function, setting your body up to be anxious on arrival, and then blame it on the situation you are in rather than the thought pattern you have created during the day while at home. You may get there and then also worry about making a fool of yourself, spending the whole time tensing and trying to control how you feel and creating more anxiety. Do you see how we do this to ourselves? It is not the situation, but our perception of the situation, that causes us to feel more anxious.
You must just accept how you feel wherever you are and in whatever situation you find yourself. Deal with yourself and not the place. If your feel apprehensive then that’s fine. Don’t try to feel any different than you do or try to keep some kind of grip on yourself; release this grip. All you are feeling is a harmless surge of energy. Nothing will happen if you allow this energy to go through you without fighting or suppressing it. When you allow yourself to feel this energy, then it is able to release itself. It is only when you try to fight and suppress it that it keeps recycling itself, and because you have not allowed it, it will keep coming back for another attempt at being released. You have to realise that this energy wants to be free of you, as much as you want to be free of it. This is why you will never recover by trying to constantly suppress or avoid how you feel; you can never be free of what you refuse to feel.
If you truly accept how you feel in every situation and stop trying to keep a grip on yourself or looking for the easy exit, you will find that, although you may feel uncomfortable at times, nothing bad happens to you, and as time goes by your reactions lessen until you feel more able to cope, day by day. Anxiety loves avoidance, so take its power away, move forward and embrace these feelings of fear. This is the key. Moving towards your fears is far more productive than hiding from them. By continually hiding and running away from how you feel, you are training your mind and body that there is danger in normal, everyday activities and teaching it that its reaction is correct and needed. The mind is just doing what it is designed to do and is just responding to the signals you are giving it. So, if you allow yourself to feel the way you do without avoiding or running away, you are teaching your mind that you are fine and that there is no danger here. The only language it understands is your actions; it watches and listens to your behaviour and is taught to react that way. So, when you tell it that you are fine through your actions of non-avoidance, it will then start to listen. It will understand that you’re totally safe and in time will switch off this protection system.
Avoiding symptoms just does not work, as you must realise by now. You need to let all feelings be there and not avoid them, but go through them, even invite them in. This worked for me. I ignored my body’s instinct to avoid and started to embrace how I felt. I moved towards the feelings of fear and apprehension. Eventually, I started to understand my condition so much more and regain control. I was in charge again and could act independently of my thoughts and feelings. I did not get rid of fear; I just got to know it and lost my fear of it by realising its harmless nature. It then held no power over me.
Q.2 Will these feelings ever go away?
Yes, they will. Once you understand why you feel like you do, you can then start to unmask a lot of the fears you hold about anxiety. There are so many myths about anxiety that it worries me just how many people are misinformed and truly believe they will never get better and that they will just have to live with this condition forever. Too many people spend years like I did, searching for that elusive miracle cure that just does not exist. Your body has been through a lot in the time you have had this condition. It may be emotionally spent and feel so tired. None of this has done you any long-term harm. Just see your mind and body as running at 50% at the moment. Letting your mind and body recover at its own pace is the key. An overnight cure is impossible after what you have been through. But what a journey recovery can be when we allow it to happen.
Understanding anxiety also takes away so much fear out of how we feel. A lot of anxiety is habit, a learned behaviour that can be reversed. Every stage and symptom has a logical explanation that can be explained. With less fear and more understanding, we also calm the constant worrying. It is the lack of information on the subject that keeps the worry cycle going. Constant worrying that we will never get better also adds to the belief that we will just have to live with it.
Once we start to understand anxiety and apply the understanding we have learnt to start recovery, then change can be dramatic. In my recovery, I found that the more knowledge I had and the more I understood my condition, then the easier it was to allow how I felt and get on with living. I started to lose the fear of my symptoms. Eventually they began to hold less power over me and I started to pay them less respect. My attention began to become more outward than inward.
It is your desperation to rid yourself of how you feel that keeps your anxiety alive. The stress you put on yourself day in day out and the constant worrying and thinking about your condition, wears you out mentally. It’s time to stop beating yourself up about how you feel and give your mind and body the rest it craves.
Knowledge is power. The less you fear your symptoms, the less they mean. This also stops the worry cycle you may find yourself in, which is the very thing that keeps anxiety going; the very thing that keeps you trying to suppress or avoid how you feel. You are bound to worry if you don’t know what is wrong with you. That is why you need an explanation to help break this cycle. Once you truly understand anxiety then you can move on to fully allowing. Allowing yourself to feel this excess energy is what clears it up. You can never be free of anything you try to suppress or fight. You can never be free of anything you refuse to feel.
Q.3 Why do I seem to have so many scary / negative thoughts running around all day?
The reason you seem to have your attention on yourself all day and it feels like there are numerous thoughts running through your mind is because of all your confusion about how you feel. You go around in circles all day long, looking for answers and trying to find a way out of this hell. Some people may even stay up all night reflecting on the whole day, trying to figure it all out. Mostly these are negative or worrying thoughts and that’s why they seem to come automatically and with so much force. Worrying eventually becomes a habit. When you are in an anxious state, emotions seem to be ten-fold. Everything magnifies; a little problem becomes massive and something that you could dismiss when you were healthy, sticks around all day.
Looking at it from another angle, when people meditate, they stop thinking for hours on end until it becomes a habit and they can go all day without a worrying thought. That is why they feel so refreshed. Not you! Your thoughts just carry on and on and when your mind is tired, like it is now, it grasps hold of every thought, pulls them in and they seem to stick. Some people worry to the extent that they believe everything they feel is life threatening. A headache becomes a brain tumour, a stomach ache can become cancer and so on, and no matter how many times their doctor tells them there is nothing wrong with them, they are never quite convinced. If this is you, then realise these thoughts of illness are just figments of your imagination, created by your anxious state. Everything becomes magnified when we are anxious. Let these thoughts come and go, don’t react to them and see them as just that, thoughts that carry no weight whatsoever, no matter how scary they are or how loud they shout.
When we try too hard to do ANYTHING, it seems to slip further from reach. This applies to ridding oneself of unwanted thoughts. The more you “try” to push them away, the longer they linger and the stronger their impact. When we welcome unwanted thoughts, they lose their significance and quickly diminish. When you impose a false sense of importance upon a thought, it will often appear more serious than it is.
Time is a great healer, especially concerning this condition. I allowed any thought to be there and I did not react. When I did this, I noticed the scary thoughts seem to lose their edge. There is no need to fight them or try and rid yourself of scary/negative thoughts. These run on the fuel of your anxious energy, mixed with the momentum in your mind. The momentum occurs because of all the constant thinking and worrying about your current state, so the mind never gets a break or a chance to relax and then, because of this, it seems constantly active and out of control. The mind becomes like one of those spinning plates where the momentum of someone continually rotating it, keeps the plate spinning. The same theory applies to your mind, the more you worry and go over things, the more momentum your mind gains and so it always feels busy and continually throws out random thoughts. Mix this is in with your anxious state and you have a whole host of continuous, negative thinking.
Don’t ever think, “I must not think that”. Let all thoughts come, do not run away from any of them. See them for what they are – thoughts – exaggerated because of the way you feel. They can do you no harm and they mean nothing. They won’t be around when you recover, so pay them no respect. Once you stop worrying and going over things then your mind will finally get the break it needs and its momentum will then slow down as you are pulling away its fuel.
So, accept that at first your thoughts may still run for a while until the momentum in the mind runs out. Just allow the mind to be like a free running computer, let it throw out what it wishes and think as much as it wishes, while you go about your day giving no importance to its noise and antics. This is the way to give it the break it so craves and then it will come to its own resting place. Never get into a battle with your mind or try to force it to be different or quieten down through any kind of force or will power. Never get into a battle with your mind; you will always lose. The content of your mind is not what is important, it is your constant involvement and fascination with it that keeps fuelling it.
Q.4 Why did anxiety chose me?
Anxiety does not choose certain people. It is not something you just get like a cold. Anxiety is the result of your body and mind being overworked, be it through long hours or stress at work, a problem or collection of problems that you have been worrying about for a period of time. Your nerves have taken on so much for too long and go ‘bad’, as many put it. If you work anything beyond its capabilities, whether it be a blender, a vacuum cleaner or a car, it will break down or begin to clunk and run badly. Your body is the same. So, anxiety is not an ‘it’. It is not something your body wants to go through. It is your body and mind telling you it can no longer work at the pressure you are putting it under. That is why it is important to take your symptoms with a pinch of salt and not get stressed about the way you feel, adding more stress and worry to an already tired mind and body that craves a break from its current onslaught.
Anxiety really is your body’s way of talking to you, telling you that you can’t carry on this way; that what you are doing is doing you no good. Suffering is always a wake-up call to change. Your mind and body is not built for the worry and stress you are putting it under. If you eat bad food you will suffer and be sick. If you drink too much alcohol you will get a hangover and feel bad. This is your body’s way of telling you not to do it; it’s not doing you any good. If you feel pain anywhere, it is your body telling you there is a problem in that area. These laws are true for psychological suffering too. It is just your body’s way of telling you there is a problem. It is not telling you to get rid of anything. It is telling you to change things; to stop doing what you are doing and then the suffering will go away. You will never fix worrying with worrying. You will never fix anxiety by being anxious over it. The only way to cure suffering is to stop doing what is causing that suffering.
Q.5 I feel so unreal and out of touch with the world around me. Am I going mad?
This question was by far the most popular, so I have now created a page dedicated to this symptom known as depersonalisation, just click the link below to take you direct to the page.