HOW TO CHALLENGE UPSETTING THOUGHTS

As yourself “is what I am thinking really real?  Is what I am feeling really real?  What does my ‘Head’ say and what does my ‘Heart’ tell me about what is going on?”

Panic and anxiety needs to be challenged sometimes and below are some simple ‘cognitive’ (head) ways of thinking about what is going on which gives you a chance to reframe how you think about the physical symptoms you are feeling.

WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE?

  • What evidence do I have to support my thoughts?
  • What evidence do I have against them?

WHAT ALTERING VIEWS ARE THERE?

  • How would someone else view this situation?
  • How would I have viewed this situation in the past?

WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF THINKING THE WAY I DO?

  • Does it help me, or hinder me from getting what I want? How?

WHAT THINKING ERROR AM I MAKING?

  1. Am I thinking in all or nothing terms (ignoring the middle ground?)
  2. Am I catastrophizing, (overestimating the chances of disaster?)
  3. Am I personalising, (blaming myself for something which is not my fault?)
  4. Am I focusing on the negative, (looking on the dark side, ignoring my strengths?)
  5. Am I jumping to conclusions, (predicting the future and mind reading?)
  6. Am I living by fixed rules, (fretting about how things ought to be; overusing the words Should, Must and Can’t?)

WHAT ACTION CAN I TAKE?

  • What can I do to change my situation? Am I overlooking solutions to problems on the assumption they won’t work?

Keeping a diary or journal can help because you are able to track thoughts much more clearly and you are able to document the patterns that emerge when Anxiety raises its ugly head.  Below is an example of the type of content that you should put in your diary or journal.

Diary Sheet

Date/ Time

Description of situation

Anxiety Level

0-10

Description of:

A) Physical

b) Thoughts

Coping Method

Anxiety Level (After)

0-10

UNDERSTANDING PANIC ATTACKS

WHAT IS A PANIC ATTACK?

To five percent of the general population they are defined by a sudden onset of intense apprehension, fear or terror accompanied by physical symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, dizziness, palpitations, chest pains, tingling sensations, shaking, sweating, and feelings of unreality.

The thoughts that accompany these symptoms often include; “I’m going to lose control”,” I’m going mad”, “I’m going to have a heart attack” or “I’m going to embarrass myself’. Although it is perhaps understandable to experience these thoughts, they are largely mistaken and are misinterpretations of what is actually going on. Unfortunately, once you start thinking these thoughts, you become more anxious, keeping the bodily symptoms going. An upwardly spiralling vicious circle of thoughts and physical symptoms is created. The situation is further complicated by the fact that when most people have a panic attack, their natural reaction is to try and leave the situation they are in as soon as possible. This avoidance brings temporary relief, but increases the likelihood of further apprehension, negative thoughts, bodily symptoms and the development of a phobic reaction.

PANIC A SYMPTOM OF STRESS.

Panic attacks are one of the symptoms of a build – up of stress. This symptom is perhaps more frightening than nausea, headaches or diarrhoea but in some ways it is a similar reaction. People who experience panic attacks seem to be those who experience stress in their respiratory and cardiovascular system rather than in their muscular or gastrointestinal systems.

Very often, the symptoms of panic produces such worry and stress that these symptoms become more of a problem then the stress that originally causes them.

UNDERSTANDING PANIC ATTACKS

The body’s reaction and how he becomes oversensitive

The symptoms are in fact an exaggeration of the normal bodily reaction to a fearful situation. Imagine what would happen if you were up a ladder and felt it slip from under you. Your heart would pound, your breathing would alter, and you might turn very pale or breakout into a sweat. But as soon as she climbed down the ladder you would understand the symptoms as quite natural, and you would not worry about those symptoms for much longer.

But what if you experienced exactly the same symptoms pushing a trolley around the supermarket?  Your mind would immediately try to make sense of the situation and would come up with the number of frightening thoughts. The problem with panic attacks is that your fear reaction has become oversensitive and is triggered in a variety of apparently normal situations. This oversensitivity of the fear of reaction is more likely to be triggered under a lot of stress. Sometimes the stress can be caused by worrying about having another panic attack. If you have had one bad panic attack you can become over vigilance.  You become an expert of detecting the normal changes in your body which you would normally ignore. You’re constantly on the lookout for slight changes that may indicate that something is amiss. Once you begin to imagine something is wrong, you become slightly frightened, triggering the body’s reaction and a vicious circle of panic attack takes off.

Can panic feelings harm me?

No! No one can die of fright. YES panic feels very unpleasant BUT it cannot in any way harm you. The feelings themselves are quite normal. It is just that it is happening in an ordinary situation, with hypersensitivity and while it may feel you are in danger and you are frightened, the panic attack is not ‘really real’.

Summary of main points about panic attacks but it is happening in an ordinary situation:

  1. A panic attack is the same as the body’s normal fear reaction, but it is happening in an ordinary situation.
  2. Your body is normal fear reaction has become oversensitive and has become increasingly triggered. This happens particularly if you are tired or under stress.
  3. The feelings themselves are not harmful and do not indicate that there is anything seriously wrong with you.
  4. The feelings can be caused and maintained by a combination of worrying thoughts and hyperventilation or over-breathing.
  5. Once you understand what is going on, half the battle is won.

TEN RULES FOR COPING WITH PANIC AND ANXIETY.

  1. Remember panic feelings are only normal reactions that are exaggerated.
  2. They are not harmful and nothing worse will happen.
  3. Notice what is happening in your body now. Stay with the present. Slow down, relax, but keep going.
  4. Thinking about what might happen is unhelpful. Only now matters.
  5. Accept the feelings. Let them run through you and they will disappear more quickly
  6. Monitor your level of anxiety: 10 (worst) to 0 (least). Watch the level go down.
  7. Stay in the situation. If you run away, avoid or escape, it will be more difficult in the future.
  8. Take a few slow, deep breaths.
  9. Consciously relax your tense muscles. Feel yourself relaxing.
  10. Now begin to concentrate again on what you were doing before.

In conclusion, you can see that by reframing the thoughts and looking at panic and anxiety with a more logical approach you are able to reduce the levels of stress and anxiety that you may feel.  By using the ‘head’ and allowing yourself some compassion ‘heart’ you can start to pivot and see stress and anxiety rooted in natural physiology and can start to put coping mechanisms in place to start to deal with it.

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