How to discontinue a fear feedback loop

In a previous article I described the fear feedback loop between body and mind, in which frightening thoughts generate fearful sensations in the body, and in return these fearful sensations in the body give proof to the mind that indeed, I am in danger! (even when you are not) In my experiences with extreme anxiety and panic attacks, many times I have found myself stuck in this feedback loop, not knowing what to do with my run-wild mind and anxious body. This is the approach I learned over the years. First of all, when my mind runs crazy with frightening thoughts, images and even sounds, I know I cannot approach this situation through my mind. So no pushing away of thoughts, no distracting myself with mental activities, etc. These strategies only aggravate my fearfulness. How I do approach this situation is through the body, taking the following steps:
  • I accept the scary thoughts in my mind. Even though they are very uncomfortable and confronting, I do not let them push me further into panic. I trust in the fact that their intensity will change and that at a certain point they will subside.
  • I know that when I allow my body to experience relaxation and calmness again, this will influence the fluctuations of my mind in a positive way, eventually calming my thoughts as well.
  • I make myself as comfortable as possible in the situation, seated or lying down, with my feet firmly grounded (when seated) or warmed up in a blanket (when the body feels cold, it is nearly impossible to relax!).
  • I completely focus on bringing more relaxation in my body through deep, slow abdominal breathing. The breath is a gateway between body and mind, and its slow pace and deep movement an important messenger of safety.
  • With every exhalation I relax my muscles as much as I can. This conscious relaxation goes against my fear instincts which scream: flee, freeze, fight! However, at this point, it is extremely important to trust in the power of deep, slow abdominal breathing, and to have a strong will to keep on relaxing and softening the body as much as possible with each exhalation.
  • I do this 10-15 minutes, or as long as needed. At this point my system usually has made a change to the I feel safe mode. Consequently, scary thoughts and feelings subside.
Does this approach work for you? I am curious to know!
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Serieke

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