Facing Fear, Anxiety and Panic Attacks
When years ago I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, I had a minimal awareness of my body, mind and behaviour. During high school I had been focussing on the typical teenage goals: getting good grades, being liked by others, looking good… I had not often turned my attention inward to observe how I was actually feeling on the inside.
From the moment I had my first panic attack, unpleasant, fearful sensations and thoughts started to dominate my daily life. Pleasant moments became very rare. I didn’t know what to do.
My Coping Mechanism for Anxiety and Panic
My coping mechanism in dealing with anxiety and panic attacks was to run away from it. I started to avoid situations in which I had felt extreme anxiety before, and I looked for distractions through friends, partying, drinking alcohol and watching sitcoms (with many episodes of Friends!).
These distractions would work for a while, taking my attention away from the unpleasant physical sensations and freightening thoughts. However, once alone in my room, the anxiety would instantly return.
Facing Fear, Anxiety and Panic by Turning Inward
When after a year of anxiety, panic attacks and depression I started taking yoga classes, I learned to look inward. Instead of running away from the fear or searching for outer distractions, I learned to make friends with my anxiety. I became more aware of the physical sensations of anxiety, my breathing pattern and thought processes.
I started to inquire into my experiences, instead of running away from them, and I asked myself the following questions:
- What does a panic attack actually feel like?
- What does anxiety feel like?
- Which sensations occur in my body?
- What happens to my breathing pattern?
- What happens with the thoughts in my mind?
Simple Exercises for Anxiety and Panic Attacks
When I started practicing yoga, I learned simple exercises which I implemented in my daily life. Breathing exercises, relaxation exercises and gentle movement helped me to relax and to break away from negative emotional spirals.
These are some of the exercises that helped me most: