Thought Shift: Overcoming Anxiety & Panic Attacks
In this article I want to share my story about how I overcame my anxiety and panic attacks over a number of years. Mine was not an overnight transformation or marked by any particularly powerful event that suddenly altered the course of my life all at once – My development was actually a long process that evolved over many years. Repeatedly engaging in regular practices and a variety of exercises with which I engaged every single day was the strategy that helped me to finally overcome my anxiety problems.
Anxiety, panic attacks, fear, depression, depersonalisation, and negative thoughts have been part of my daily life since childhood, and I still remember the speech that was given by a visiting psychologist who was explaining the challenges of adolescence in our high school. During the presentation we were free to ask as many questions as we needed and to clarify any of our doubts or confusion, and although I had a lot of questions in my mind, a panic attack stopped me from asking any questions. During her speech she said that just as with the technique of positive imaging, negative imaging can also help us to develop and change our patterns. She explained that, ”Whenever your mind tempts you to do something bad or illegal, imagine all those worse things you would experience after participating in that particular activity. For example, if you use illegal drugs you may be arrested and placed in prison, so imagine spending years behind bars with the most dangerous people on earth. Likewise if you become pregnant as a teenager, imagine how you would be thought of by your peers, and imagine the opportunities that you would miss, etc”. The negative thought exercise impressed me because I constantly experienced negative thoughts.
I decided to use this as an exercise to overcome my anxiety, so whenever I had to face a situation where my anxiety begins preventing me from taking positive action, I would imagine all of the most terrible and painful consequences that would result from allowing my anxiety to rule my life. For example, if I had to give a presentation to my classmates, I would experience a panic attack, so from the day that I started preparing I would imagine all the negative things that would happen if I let my anxiety control me - I would be left embarrassed, all my classmates would make fun of me, and my teacher would lose hope in my potential. Therefore, I must not allow my anxiety to control me. Next, I would replay all of the negative thoughts again and again in my mind, and finally this exercise helped me to find the strength to gather the courage I needed in order to speak out in front of my class, and my presentations were much more successful. I used this exercise throughout various stages of my life, and during my college admissions process, I was invited by the best college in the state. Thereafter I began to imagine what would happen if I failed in the interview and had to share that information with all of my friends and family - I replayed this thought again and again, and I finally got through the interview.
Finally I began to understand how to make use of my anxiety and fear in an positive way - by feeling it. I have seen many others who have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks and ended up feeling unworthy. Their thought during a panic attack would be “Hell I have got it again to ruin my day.” In contrast, learned to control my anxiety by using it to my advantage. I learned to change my reaction to anxiety, and over the time, I was able to control my anxiety considerably by replacing the negative thoughts with positive thoughts. I used to imagine all the good things I would miss if I let the anxiety control me. I decided to change my reaction to the anxiety issues that I was dealing with, and I won in the end.
As I said before this was not an overnight transformation - It was a long term process, and I started this practise in high school, and it took more than six years for me to fully overcome my anxiety problems and panic attacks.
I truly feel proud about the difference I have made for myself over these years, and when I look back, I realise that it has never been an easy journey and that I had no one but myself motivating me during that time. The way that I have overcome my anxiety issues has led me to be more confident and I have developed a stronger and stronger belief in myself. I truly believe that if I overcome my anxiety, you can also do so as well. My strategy was to stop treating anxiety like a disease and believing that it doesn’t need a “cure”, but rather it simply needs to be looked as an opportunity to grow and develop.
Author: Anonymous Contributor
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