Many people scare themselves by vividly imagining that a potential catastrophe is going to happen that they won’t be able to cope with, such as that they’ll lose their job, or that the plane they’re on will crash, or that the party they’re planning will be an unmitigated disaster. And if you’ve experienced similar kinds of thoughts and feelings, you might know on a rational level that you were blowing things out of proportion, but at an emotional level the experience of panic and dread was still uncomfortable or overwhelming.
Fear itself is simply the body’s emergency response mode, and there are times that it’s totally appropriate and actually useful to feel afraid. A sudden jolt of adrenaline can sharpen our senses, so that if we’re driving, and we suddenly see another vehicle speeding towards us on the wrong side of the road, we can quickly and instinctively swerve to avoid a head-on collision. In fact, in moderation, a certain degree of fear can motivate us to study for exams, prepare for a job interview, look both ways before crossing a busy road etc. And fear can instinctively stop us from doing something dangerous, like strolling right to the edge of a high cliff top. Ultimately, fear is a protective instinct that is there to keep us safe.
But we human beings have an incredible ability to imagine things that aren’t happening. We can project ourselves into future scenarios, and imagine how things will work out. This is a fantastic skill to have. It allows us to plan ahead, to problem solve, and be incredibly creative but, it can also be misused. If your mind misuses your imagination, to vividly imagining catastrophes are going to befall you, then your body instinctively responds by going into emergency mode, flooding your body with adrenaline, trying to protect you from the imaginary dangers you’ve been thinking about.
Worry and negative, worse case scenario, thinking are habits. They are not something you were born doing; it’s something you learned to do. Perhaps you picked up teh habit from the people around you as you were growing up, or perhaps you began worrying and thinking more negatively after certain events occurred in your life. Either way, you can train yourself to think more calmly and rationally, so that you feel much more relaxed in yourself.
The AWARE Technique
One way of doing this is by practicing the AWARE technique. This technique has helped thousands of people to reduce the effects of anxiety and stop panic attacks.
This is an important step so let’s take a closer look at it.
One way to train anxiety to be selective and ‘behave’ is to give it feedback to let it know: “Thanks, but you’re not needed right now.”
Because anxiety takes its lead from what we do, as well as simple emotional pattern matching, then if we act in ways we wouldn’t in a real emergency, we can quickly change the feedback loop and switch off anxiety fast. The feeling of anxiety will fade away. For example, during an emergency we wouldn’t:
Talk softly and calmly
Have an open body posture.
If we adopt some of these behaviours, or even just one of these behaviours, when we begin to feel anxious or stressed, then we alter the feedback to our STRESS System. We send it a message: “See, if there was a real threat I wouldn’t be salivating, talking normally, breathing out for longer than I breathe in.” Just knowing you can do this can give you a huge boost in confidence.
I recommend you commit the five letters (AWARE) and the associated words to memory (or write them on a slip of paper and keep it in your purse / wallet / pocket. Go through the steps whenever you start to feel anxious or have a panic attack.
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REMEMBER – “When you change your mind you change your life.”
Tony helps people of all ages live their lives free of unnecessary stress, anxiety and depression, and be happier, healthier and more fulfilled.