“Just as a storm cannot destroy the sky, your thoughts cannot destroy your mind.”
I was seated on the plane waiting to take off. I was in Barcelona taking a 2 hour flight to Paris. I was with 2 friends who were sitting a couple rows back. I was relaxed, listening to music, and excited about spending a long weekend in Paris.
The moment the cabin door shut for take off, something happened. Still today I’m not entirely sure what.
Out of nowhere my heart started beating fast.
I began to sweat, and my heartbeat got faster and faster until it increased to the point where I actually thought I was having a heart attack. My entire body was now pouring sweat, and I started psychically shaking. My vision began to blur, was dizzy, and got tunnel vision.
It felt like the entire world was closing in on me, and I was going to pass out any moment. Sitting there, heart beating out of my chest, dizzy, sweating, I could only think “what the hell is happening.”
I was about unbuckle my seatbelt, was going to make a dash for the door and tell the flight attendant to let me off the plane (knowing full well it would be pointless since we already set for take off).
Just then my heart beat slowed down, I stopped sweating, my vision went back to normal, and everything was fine. As fast as this feeling came, it left, and I sat there in complete confusion as to what the fuck had just happened.
This was my first real anxiety attack and would not at all be my last. This was just the start of my years of having anxiety and anxiety attacks, which led to me studying, reading, talking with others, experimenting, and discovering what this is all about.
You may or may not have had anxiety attacks to that extreme, but almost everyone has dealt with anxiety in some capacity. There are various levels of how intensely and frequently people deal with anxiety.
It’s important to understand that you are not “crazy” and there is nothing wrong with you. When I first began dealing with this, I thought I was losing my mind and didn’t talk to anyone because I was embarrassed.
Anxiety is an incredibly common issue, but not often openly talked about because for anxious people, the thought about discussing their anxiety, gives them more anxiety.
The Truth about Anxiety:
Anxiety is not a battle to be won or lost.
The bad news is that anxiety will never go away permanently. It will always be there and pop up randomly through out your life.
This is important to know and understand.
I went through a year of making myself stronger mentally and experiencing almost zero anxiety until one day it came back. I got pissed and even more anxious because I thought I had “beat” my anxiety. So when it does come back, don’t worry, just relax, look it in the “eye,” and move on.
The good news is that with practice, anxiety can be dealt with to the point where even when it does occur, you will be virtually unfazed. You will no longer view anxiety as this mental monster and instead be able to brush it aside like a gnat buzzing by you.
So take some comfort in knowing that you are not at all alone, and yes you can deal with it.
Imagine yourself as Neo and anxiety as bullets. Bullets kept getting shot at Neo, but do the bullets phase Neo? Fuck no.
Neo vs his anxieties
So let’s look at some exercises and techniques to cope with your anxiety. I’ve categorized this into short term and long term solutions as some require a lot of practice and repetition to fully help. All of these techniques and exercises that I will be discussing are through my personal experience. Some may work better then others for you.
***Important: Some of these techniques and exercises will feel and seem ridiculous, but, just like anxiety, they are completely mental. What I mean here is in order to see the best results, you need to drop what you think you know and go into these with a positive and open mind. Often (and even I did this for a bit) people will try one thing half-assed or once, say to themselves “nothing is happening, this is dumb” and then dismiss it as useless.
I urge you that if you are truly serious about controlling your anxiety and bettering yourself mentally, you need to go into any of these with an open mind and a truly want to make it work and get better.
Now let’s look at how to channel our inner Neo and stop some bullets (so to speak)
1. Learn to breath. I realize this sounds stupid and obvious, but breathing is HUGE. When you are anxious your heart beats faster and there is nothing you can do about that. However, your breathing also gets faster and that you can control.
If you can control your breathing, your heartbeat slows back down, and your anxiety resides.
Here’s how: Take deep, steady breaths. Inhale to the count of 3 and exhale to the count of 4. Exhaling more then you inhale slows your heartbeat. Try to keep a steady flow of air going in and out.
Focus on every single breath as air goes in and out and count the seconds. It will take at least a couple minutes for your heart to slow back down, so do this for about 3-5 minutes or until you feel relaxed.
There is actually a great app called “Breathing Zone” that I find very helpful.
2. Guided Meditation. This is my favorite for those nights when you are lying awake at night worrying about the next day and getting to sleep. There are tons of great guided meditations on youtube and are a great way to “mentally escape,” your issues, which usually helps calm you and fall asleep.
My personal favorite is a group on Youtube called “The Honest Guys.” They have tons of different guided meditations that range from a few minutes to hours. Personally I think you only really need 10-15 minutes.
3. Telling yourself positive affirmations.
This is more specifically for people who deal with anxiety attacks, but this can also be used for feeling anxious in general.
There are 2 parts to an anxiety attack as it is happening. The first part is the body’s psychical response to the anxiety, which usually results in rapid heartbeat, short or rapid breathing, sweating, shaking, blurred vision etc. The second part is your reaction to this anxiety.
Unfortunately, part 1 is usually out of your control, but part 2 is 100% in your control. And part 2, how you react, is HUGE because it will determine how long and intensely you experience the anxiety.
When experiencing part 1 of an anxiety attack, naturally, you will hate the feeling and want it over ASAP, so naturally you will resist it and fight it. DON’T DO THIS.
What you resist persists. The key to overcoming an anxiety attack is to submit and just let it run it’s course and I know (for anyone who has experienced a real anxiety attack) that is a very scary thought. A very helpful way to get through the anxiety attack is using positive mental affirmations…
Normally when you are going through an anxiety attack you start an inner mental dialogue with yourself that is usually very scary. Your mind will go wild and say things like “this is too scary, I hate this feeling, I’m going crazy, I can’t handle this, I’m going to pass out, etc”
Instead of letting your mind get carried away in the negative, which causes resistance, which causes the anxiety to last longer, try saying positive affirmations to yourself.
For example, when you feel an anxiety attack coming on saying things in your head like “I am stronger than this,” “Although this feeling is uncomfortable, I will be okay” “This moment will pass” “This is just a bad feeling, it can’t hurt me and will be over soon” “I am bigger then this anxiety.”
You can make up your own. When you embrace the negative feeling just as it is, a negative feeling and nothing more, it loses it’s power of you and when you tell yourself you will be ok, it helps to subside the anxiety quicker.
Because it’s true, you will always be ok.
Getting mad at your anxiety works too. As you feel anxiety come on, get fired up. Say “fuck you anxiety, bring it! I’m bigger and better then you!”
Spongebob telling his anxiety to fuck itself
4. Finding safe outlets. When we have anxiety attacks what we are usually experiencing are primal survival patterns in the brain that ramp up adrenaline and prepare the body for a fight. This is commonly known as fight or flight.
The problem is often there is no real fight or reason for the increased adrenaline, but our mind thinks it’s being threatened so it increases the heart and pumps us with adrenaline.
This feeling will subside usually after a few minutes, but sometimes the anxiety seems to linger around and we need to get rid of all that energy + adrenaline our body has just created in a safe + healthy manner. Some good ways are:
– Hit the gym
– Punch or scream into a pillow
– Have sex or masterbate
– Go for a run
– Do pushups
– Shake it off – like some popular blonde chick once said “shake it off.” I mean literally. After two ducks get into a fight they float away from each other, but are still full of adrenaline from the recent fight. So they flap their wings viciously for several seconds to get rid of the extra adrenaline and then are calm again. So shake it off. Literally shake out your arms, legs, and whole body to shake off that extra adrenaline.
5. Talk about your anxiety openly with friends, family, anyone! – Yes, it’s that simple and very helpful. When I first started getting anxiety and anxiety attacks I kept it completely to myself. I thought people would think I’m weird, weak, or just crazy and kept all these uncomfortable feelings to myself.
The moment I opened up, not only did NO ONE think any of those negative things about me, but people opened up to me about their anxiety and fears and I realized how common it was. In fact, I got a lot closer to many of my friends and family members because of this openness. We helped each other and talked through issues.
Once I become open about my anxiety, I was MUCH less anxious. It was all out in the open with nothing to hide and knowing that it wasn’t a big deal, made me calmer and less stressed.
So find some family members or friends you feel comfortable with and tell them about it. It may feel awkward at first, but trust me you will feel much better just talking about it.
6. Meditation. Meditation is one of the simplest, yet difficult forms of relaxation and focusing of the mind that, short term and long term, reduce anxiety. It’s simple in that anyone has the ability to do it, with little training, without any tools, in almost any environment. It’s difficult because it is so hard to keep your mind quiet and focused. Also in order to see the full benefits of meditation you need practice consistently about 2x a day for at least a month.
However, if you can commit to it the results are huge, not just for anxiety, but for strengthening your mind in general.
There are lots of introductory guides online. Meditation is the gym for your mind, but similar to when you first start to the go to the gym, it is difficult starting out and requires lots of reps, practice, and trials to see the long term results.
Meditation allows you to think clearer, have better control of your thoughts and emotions and greatly helps manage stress and anxiety.
7. Focus on the now. This is another seemingly obvious yet powerful way of thinking. Anxiety stems from some worry or fear of something that may happen in the future. So by taking away the future, we take away our anxiety.
When feeling anxious try to focus all your attention on the exact moment you are in. Use your 5 senses, look around the room, be as present as possible.
Ask yourself the question, “what is wrong in this exact moment?” not focusing on tomorrow, hours from now or even 5 seconds from now. Just what is there to fear about this exact moment in time? The answer is almost always nothing.
So when you catch yourself thinking about a future event, stop and try to return your focus to now. I put this as a long term because this takes a lot of practice, you will start to notice how often your mind is in the future and not the present–but that is good.
Just recognizing this is a step in the right direction.
It will be easier and easier as you keep trying to focus your attention on the present moment. For more on this read “The Power of Now.”
8. Exercise or Yoga. Exercising 3 times a week for only 20 minutes at a time is significantly more effective at increasing your mood and decreasing stress or anxiety than ANY anti-depressant or anti-anxiety pill out there. And before you bullshit yourself by saying “I don’t have time to exercise”
There are 168 hours in a week and I am talking about investing at least .0006% of that time toward something that will greatly benefit the body + mind. Hit the gym, go for a run, or try yoga.
9. See a licensed therapist or group. When I first decided to see a professional therapist I felt weird and a bit embarrassed. I felt like this is only for crazy or desperate people that have totally lost their minds, so I didn’t tell anyone when I started seeing therapists.
Talking to a pro is not only very helpful, but I would venture to say everyone should do this. Having a deeper understanding of your problems, fears, and anxiety from a professional helps tremendously.
There is nothing wrong with wanting help and guidance and again you’d be surprised how many perfectly “normal” people see therapists for help + guidance.
Find a therapist that your healthcare insurance covers because otherwise they are very expensive. You can call your insurance company and ask for a list of licensed therapists in your area. I’d recommend meeting with several at first because it’s very important to find a therapist you connect with well and feel comfortable.
Also understand it takes time to see the benefits here. The first few sessions may feel a bit awkward, uncomfortable, and not very helpful, but as you get more comfortable and the therapist learns more about you, you start to really see the benefit.
10. Going gluten-free. This was suggested to me by a therapist and I immediately laughed at him. I love beer, bread, pasta and almost everything with gluten. But my anxiety was bad at the time and I decided to try it.
I don’t want to pretend like I know much about this because I don’t, but it’s been said that consuming gluten clouds the mind and produces a type of “mental fog,” and this can increase anxiety.
I went only one week doing this (I know, sad) so it’s not fair for me to say this works or doesn’t, but I have heard of people doing this and actually having great results.
So if you’re up for it, I would recommend trying this.
Other: I write other because this methods are out of the ordinary, but still were things I did and helped.
11. EFT Tapping. This is without a doubt the weirdest thing I have come across/am going to suggest and I will leave the explanation as to why this works to the pros, but it is surprisingly powerful and I’d recommend it.
EFT tapping is basically tapping different parts of your body with your hands in a specific sequence while focusing your mind on negative feelings in your body. You are also supposed to say out loud what you are feeling, but end with a positive statement. For example, “although I feel anxious and stressed, I completely and fully love myself.”
I know, I know, it sounds like some ridiculous hippie voodoo crap right? I thought so too, but decided to try since it only takes about 5 minutes, my sister suggested it, and seemed to have a big following.
I tried it one night when I was overwhelmingly stressed and anxious to the point where I was about to be in a full panic attack.
I started going through the tapping sequences and lines and didn’t notice much until about the third go around (EFT tapping is done in a series of these tapping sequences). After the third go around I went to do it again, but stopped when I felt an overwhelming rush of warmth and calmness take over my body.
I felt as if my entire body turned to jello, my heart came to a slow calm beat, and everything just washed away. I soon felt exhausted and almost immediately fell asleep.
Here’s a chick with purple hair who will walk you through step by step how to do this:
12. Isolation Tank. Isolation tanks or AKA sensory deprivation tank is a way to step away from the constant distractions of your senses and step into your mind in a way you never have. I’m not going to get into a ton of detail because I will likely write a whole article on my experiences with this.
Isolation tanks are a bit hard to describe. Basically it’s like going into a large salt water bath that helps limit/deprive you of your 5 senses.
You lay down inside and it’s pitch black (no sight).
The water is heavily salted so your body sits on top of the water, but your ears dip below the water (no hearing).
The water is the same temperature as the oustide of your skin and since you are floating on top of the water because of the salt, you soon no longer feel the water causing you to feel suspended in mid air (no feeling)
And nothing to smell or taste.
This allows your mind to think clearer and more intensely than you ever have in your life.
Lisa on a mental journey
Think about it, there is NO point in your life where your brain is not busy processing everything it sees, smells, touches, tastes, and feels (even when sleeping). Sensory deprivation allows you to eliminate all distractions so there is nothing but your mind.
This may sound a bit scary to some people, but know this: you are 100% in control at all times. While in there, you can choose how far into your mind you want to go and at any point can come back to reality.
The one I did had a light switch next to you so you can flip a light on at any time.
The benefits and results can vary, but can be profound. People have said they dug up lost suppressed memories, have had visions and hallucinations, and gain a deeper understanding of their mind and who they are.
I strongly believe that EVERYONE needs to try this.