Treatment for Panic Anxiety or Christian Renewal?
Everett and I are pleased you’re visiting Being. In Him. A lot of you will find our site because of an extreme anxiety event, but many also find us because you are
searching for spiritual renewal and inner peace. Regardless, we are confident that you will find the relief you are seeking and stress is a road block to a quiet
mind. Having said that, there is a very good chance that if found this site, it is because you or someone close to you have just experienced a frightening or life
changing event. Or you have every day stress and anxiety, or generalized anxiety and are seeking relief. Your body speaks volumes of how tense or relaxed
you are. So whether you are here for spiritual reasons or physical reasons the following will be helpful because we are made: Body, Soul and Spirit.
Are you clenching your jaw, or grinding your teeth? Are your shoulders raised? If you can drop your shoulders, you are holding more tension in your
muscles than you should. Is your brow furrowed in concentration? Are you positioned like you are ready to attack somebody? You may have felt like you
were dying and may have even gone to the emergency room thinking you were having a heart attack. Or felt like you were choking – like an invisible hand
was around your neck; your heart was racing and you had free floating feelings. Or perhaps thought you were losing your mind. What I have just described
is a panic attack, and for anyone who has ever had one, you would do almost anything to never have another one. Find comfort in this: you are not alone.
Many people experience this and you will get better. But first let’s understand why “out of the blue” this happened.
When you are already at the edge and full of stress, any little thing is going to send you over the edge. There is no margin in your life, your “stress hormone”
levels are so high that having just a cup of coffee may make you lose it or other drivers make you want to kill. The very first thing you need to do is step back
from that edge, stress relief. Listen to our app; Being. Life Simply (you get 5 free uses) and follow the directions, (even if you think it is silly) listen again as needed
until you calm down and release stress… and when you are ready, read on and we will explain what is happening. Using your smart phone, download
Being. Life Simply for iPhone or Download Being. Life Simply for Android now, so come back to this spot with your phone if you are using your computer.
Welcome back. You feel better, don’t you? I know you do because we have led thousands of people in this process with success. Cortisol, epinephrine
(adrenaline) and norepinephrine are your fight-or-flight stress hormones, and yours are lowered now – hopefully where they belong, maybe still a “tad” high
but that’s ok, for now the important thing is that we have some margin to work with.
We started by relaxing our body with deep breathing There are 3 basic types of breathing:
~Upper Costal breathing:
This is very shallow, rapid breathing that happens when tension levels rise and the muscles in the stomach get tight. This involves the upper third of your
chest. Notice the way you are breathing; is it quick and shallow? Is it from your chest only? This type of breathing is typical when we are highly stressed with
~Thoracic or middle costal breathing: This is normal breathing involving the middle third of your chest – from the sixth rib down.
Expands the belly and moves the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped musculofibrous tissue that separates the thoracic from the abdominal cavity.
Once we have learned how to deep breathe, we go into progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).
In 1905 Edmund Jacobson studies the “startled” reaction to unexpected loud noise. He learned that relaxed people had no obvious startled response to loud
noises. Our entire system reacts within one hundred milliseconds, preparing our body to fight or flight. PMR involves tensing a set of muscles and then
relaxing them. The technique works on the idea that once you identify the sensation of tension, you can relax it away. You find a tense spot, tense it, then
relax it, creating a momentum that will cause your muscles to relax more deeply. You will relax as much as you tense, like a pendulum swinging from side to
side. The relaxation will be deeper because of this momentum when compared to just relaxing the muscles without tensing first.
Your tense muscles send a message to your brain alerting your hormonal alarm system, and the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for your
protection and survival. You may be tense because you are stressed or you may be stressed because you are tense. It doesn’t matter. Learning to loosen up
your body will make a big difference. Gripping, clenching, tightening muscles may prepare you to escape or to attack, but they make you tired as well, and
may give you pain.
Herbert Benson, a Harvard University cardiologist and director of the mind/body medical institute at Harvard, made a significant breakthrough in the 1970’s.
His studies revealed that we have an innate ability to reduce our heart rate, blood pressure and brain-wave activity, a process he called the “relaxation
response,” a mirror image of the stress response, which employs the parasympathetic system, which is the rest and restore system, to reduce arousal. Our
sympathetic system is concerned with the fight-flight response, this is its mirror or opposite.
Our bodies are always searching for allostasis: The ongoing adaptive efforts of the body to maintain stability (homeostasis) in response to stressors. Like a
thermostat in a room going off and on when it reaches the desire temperature. Picture a car with the gas pedal stuck all the way down, while the brake is
on! That is your body when you are stuck in the chronic stress response (panic attack) and unable to release the gas pedal, unable to experience your rest
and restore response.
Relaxing our bodies is a must, not just a fad. Once we are relaxed, we can begin to enter the meditation part God spoke of all along: “Be still and know that
I am God.” Psalm 19:14 “May the Words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Joshua 1:8
“Study this book of instruction continually, meditate on it word day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it., only then you will prosper
and succeed in all you do.” Meditation is simply focused thinking, and we are focusing our thinking on His goodness and quieting our body and mind.
We are human beings, not human doings. We are used to getting ahead of ourselves, living in the future. We get to know the world around us by paying
attention to our senses. Our future is a concept that hasn’t happened. All we really have is now as our lives are unfolding. We are not just thinking, but being
aware of what we are thinking. When you are in the shower, are you really there? Or are you already at work, missing the beautiful sensations, the smells, the
relaxing power of warm water, the steam, and comfortable feeling of a nice smelling towel? When your 2 year old is trying to tell you something, are you
there? Or are you at the grocery store missing her wit, innocence, delightful squeals? Being is catching our brain and our body and placing them at the same
place and time if only for a few minutes at a time. Being is non-judgmental. From moment to moment, relating to everything without thinking it. When
thoughts come, we give them little legs, and let them go.
Earlier we talked about how this came “out of the blue”, but in reality it has been building to a breaking point, maybe for years. Or there could be some
very painful situations happening to you right now, – like a death or job loss, divorce, children problems, addictions, etc. The good news is that you are not
fighting this monster alone and there are steps you can take to help you stop and reverse this stress build-up.
Growing up we learned some wrong things along the way, here are some of them:
Just because we think something, it doesn’t make it real. Thoughts are opinions, not facts.
Once an idea has been accepted by the subconscious mind, it remains until it is replaced by another idea. And, the longer the idea remains, the more
opposition there is to replacing it with a new idea. Once an idea or thought had been accepted, it tends to stick. The longer it is held, the more it tends to
become a fixed habit of thinking. This is how habits of action are formed, both good and bad. First there is the thought and then the action. We have habits
of thinking as well as habits of action, but the thought or idea always comes first. So clearly if we wish to change our actions, it begins with our thoughts.
We all have many thought habits which are not correct but are fixed in our minds.
There will be opposition within ourselves to replacing it with the correct idea. For example, if I think “I am stupid,” over time I am going to believe it even
when it is not true. A way to replace this thought is by counter it – “I am smart, I just made a mistake.” “She hates me,” to “I wonder if she is having some
They start from our family of origin and we believe them as the whole truth and nothing but the truth; the reality is lots of them are, well, mistaken! If you
grew up in a home where you were ignored you may believe that you are unlovable; or if you were over criticized as a child you may belief you can’t do
anything right, that something is wrong with you. If you heard “Boys don’t cry or good girls don’t get angry” you were conditioned to distort and mask your
feelings. The fact is you believed a lie.
Depending on your personality you may have a tendency to be a worrier, a critic, a victim, perfectionist; or any combination of these.
The Worrier is anxious, expects the worst and is always vigilant making everything a catastrophe.
They think: “What if…” thoughts with a negative outcome.
The Critic has low-self esteem, points out flaws and limitations, jumps on any mistake to remind
you that you are a failure, compares you to others and diminishes your positive qualities. They think: “
You are a disappointment, You are stupid or lazy, etc., and Can’t you do anything right?”
The Victim is depressive, feels helpless and hopeless, believes nothing will ever change, believes
there is something inherently wrong with them. They think: “I can’t.”
The Perfectionist is stressed and burnt out, their self-worth depends on externals. They strive and
never arrive. They think: “I should, I have To…”
This is just a sample of many more distorted thoughts:
There is no middle ground. If you make a mistake you are a total failure. Example: The boss criticized my report
so it’s time to look for another job.
If a negative outcome did occur it would be overwhelming and unmanageable. You expect disaster, What if I
die? What if tragedy strikes?
Thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. If your friend didn’t like the movie
you invited him to go, you feel it is your fault instead of shrugging it off for what it is, just a “bad movie.”
Magnification or Minimization:
Blowing things way out of proportion or shrinking their importance. If you have a cold you are not going to
die of pneumonia, or if you have pneumonia you do need to go see a doctor.
You reason from how you feel and believe it is true: “I feel like an idiot so I must be one.”
Jumping to conclusions:
You conclude things are bad without any definite evidence.
a) Mind Reading: You assume people are reacting negatively to you, “She is mad at me, I can tell.”
b) Fortune Telling: You predict that things will turn out badly. “I know she is going to think I am stupid
if I say hi to her, I am safe if I keep quiet.”
Here are a few new ways to help our stress go down: Replacing our thoughts with truth: “We are what we Think.” When you watch a scary or suspenseful
movie, you are not in danger, but you “feel” like you are, right? Why is that? It is because your emotions are not rational. Movie producers make their living
on the fact that what you see and hear will influence your emotions and your rational mind will allow it. Your “out of the blue” experience with anxiety is
because you have been scaring your emotions with anxious thoughts and you have finally reached a breaking point, your emotions have bypassed your
rational mind and convinced your body that your are actually in Danger!
I too need to catch my thoughts and learn to replace them. In many ways, our feelings tell us what we are thinking. Whenever you feel uneasy inside, or
upset and can’t figure out why, ask yourself: “What was I just thinking?” Chances are you were not being very nice to yourself. So, how do I change my
thoughts? I will give you some examples below; the key here is practice, you need to learn to change this “habit of the mind” until it becomes healthy
again. This happens through repetition, just like you learn anything new. Our thought may be rational or irrational.
Thought: I can’t believe I said that, it was so stupid! Stop the thought by imagining a STOP sign.
Replace thought: My idea was
good, and I will work at making it
Thought: I am a bad mother.
Stop the thought by imagining a
Replace thought: I love my children
and I do the best I can. I will try to
Thought: I can’t believe I did such a
Stop the thought by imagining a
Replace thought: I did good so far,
I will continue to work on it.
Thought: My husband is going to
leave me, I know it.
Stop the thought by imagining a
Replace thought: I notice we have
been distant lately; I need to talk to
my husband and connect again.
Thought: I always burn our dinner,
I am a terrible cook.Stop the thought by imagining a STOP sign.
Replace Thought: I guess we’ll have
to go out tonight, I am a good cook
most of the time.
Thought: My wife is having an affair.
Stop the thought by imagining a
Replace thought: I love my wife; I
need to find out why she seems so
Thought: My child will drown if he
goes to the pool party without me.
Stop the thought by imagining a
Replace thought: My child will have
a wonderful time at the pool party
with lots of adults watching him.
Thought: I hate my job.
Stop the thought by imagining a
Replace thought: I am thankful to
have a job. Maybe soon I will start
looking for something I like better,
meanwhile I will enjoy it.
A Boundary defines where I end and someone else begins, giving me a sense of ownership. It shows me what I need to take care of and what others need
to take care of. When we lack boundaries our lives feel out of control because we tend to take on situations that are not ours to take on, but others. We are
able to establish what we will do and what we will not do. When we communicate our needs in a healthy way and stick to it, we learn that it is safe and
peaceful to know what to expect when possible.
Boundaries teach us what is mine to worry about and what is not; how much I want to participate or not; to know it is OK to say no and still be friends; and
also to accept the “No” of others. We learn to live peacefully and comfortably with most people. We can determine if someone is taking advantage of us
and when we need to distance ourselves from unsafe people.
What is assertiveness? It Is an attitude and a way of acting in any situation where you need to express your feelings, ask for what you want, or say no to
something you don’t want. Attitude is an inward feeling expressed by an outward behavior. It is the ability to communicate our own needs and wants
in a healthy manner. We communicate our thoughts, feelings, needs and desires, what we want and don’t want in a healthy confident way.
When we learn the skill of assertiveness, we leave the other person feeling positive about the communication that took place, not defensive and humiliated.
Assertiveness simply means to communicate our feelings in a clear, caring and loving way. Assertiveness is not aggressiveness; it is actually the opposite.
When you communicate assertively you learn to express your wishes in a loving way.
All these tools above will help you release stress.
Relaxation and Meditation are key to bring our stress hormones under control and will help us to think rationally and healthily. We need to be kind and
compassionate to ourselves. Meditation helps us change our relationship to stress, thus changing how we feel and think. Things that are legitimately
exciting or “stressful in a good way” can be enjoyed when we are relaxed.
Everett and Silvia live in San Jose California and have 3 grown children. They attend a local community church. Silvia is a certified (American Association of
Christian Counselors) life coach and certified mediator. She speaks to churches, women’s retreats, small groups, about stress, boundaries and life issues. She
also counsels individuals.