How to control your anxiety thoughts

I'm afraid that I'll wake up and every loved one will be gone. I'm also afraid of my panic attacks coming back. I also can't trust the people around me with my problems
Asked by Ela

Fear and Panic

Your fear makes sense because what you are fearing is the loss of something really important to you. Fear itself isn't bad; it's a reminder to appreciate the finiteness of a relationship or being at peace and therefore being present in situations you want to be present at. Fear is a natural part of life and, quite honestly, may be one of the most significant feelings we have because it has kept us alive throughout human existence. It is peace we have had to learn because if we are at peace when things aren't peaceful, we make decisions and put ourselves at risk for harm.

Your fears come from somewhere. A caring place, but also a place that says you won't be able to handle it if people aren't there anymore and you are left to cope. Fear says you can't handle it, so we must prepare ourselves and anticipate people's loss. Panic then is right behind the fear because the panic is the fear expanded on. Panic is now reacting to fear, whether or not we know what that fear is. You acknowledge that you fear things, and I acknowledged earlier it's not necessarily the loss of the people, but you fear the pain associated with the loss as though you couldn't handle it. Therefore, panic is a reaction to fear and being in such a helpless state that you don't know what to do. 

The subconscious part of our brain, for the sake of this conversation, the amygdala, picks up information from the environment. Our subconscious then determines our fight or flight response and communicates with the limbic system. So, your body, subconsciously, can be in fight or flight mode while your head, your prefrontal cortex, the part of you that is rational and contains your personality, says everything is OK. You have the body noticing something worth getting excited about and your conscious mind not noticing it. These two battling then can cause something like a panic attack. Then we add the fear in our conscious mind that we will experience a panic attack again, and then any warning sign sets us off or worries us that we will be debilitated again. 

All of this is to say that what you fear and why you experience panic is because you don't believe you can tolerate the intense emotions associated with something like the loss of a loved one or life in general. Often, when we experience something in life, it's not as intense or "bad" as we thought it might be. Instead, when we are in a moment of loss, though it still hurts, often it doesn't hurt as intensely or in the way we assumed. This is why we have to recognize that we have thoughts, yes, loved ones will die and could die sooner than later. But it is recognizing these thoughts and separating from them that will allow us to find peace. 

When you wake up, you have a thought, a judgment, a predictive assessment about the day possibly. You have something going on in your head that I want you to be aware of and start to acknowledge as though you would a person. Your anxiety or fear, or panic can be identified as a suggestion. like a friend with bad advice. Though emotions exist in the abstract, our job is to personify them and talk to them like you would a friend. Anxiety shows up and tells you to be ready for this or that because it's going to be bad. You then can say, "thank you, anxiety for that message, I will consider it." The same goes for anger, sadness, or worry. You can stop from engaging the thoughts as though they are the law of your being and start to sit with them long enough to respect where they are coming from. 

The more we learn how to sit with our thoughts and fear, the more we separate from them. Yes, thoughts will always exist. Yes, once you have a panic attack, you are then vulnerable for more. Yes, our memory will be triggered from events in the environment that we don't have control over, yet we can control our reaction to the environment. Sit with what your mind says you fear and realize it is coming from a place that is trying to prepare you for pain. Acknowledge the thoughts, don't remedy or deny, or indulge the belief that your life will be better without the thoughts. 

Acknowledge the thoughts. Don't change, judge or alter. Just allow yourself the space to sit with them. A therapist can offer feedback based on what they notice, and you then can hear this feedback and either choose to indulge the fear as though you believe you have to, or you can separate from them, all the while noticing they exist. It's your choice.