Dr Joanne Stuart
We have talked about overcoming anxiety in this series but how to overcome panic is different. With panic - the symptoms are generally so awful that we think we are going to die. Why then, would we not avoid situations where those symptoms come up? The problem here is that by avoiding the situations we are not finding out if the thing we fear will happen and then the fear continues. This is the fundamental element of overcoming panic....you must test out your fear.
Firstly, write down the thing that you fear. Generally with panic it will be 'I might die' or 'I will faint' or 'I will make a fool of myself and everyone will think I am crazy' or 'I will go crazy with fear'. None of these are pleasant to say the least. To overcome panic we have to test out our fears. Who likes the idea of seeing if you might die? Or go 'crazy'? We might as well ask you to jump in to a sea full of sharks and keep your fingers crossed. But don't worry......because by doing the following you can live a life without panic and imagine how wonderful that would be.
The next task is to write down all the things down that you are avoiding due to your fear. Rate them from 0 (no fear) to 10 (high fear). Then put them all in a list from lowest to highest. There is some suggestion that we then group them in to 'low fear' 'medium fear' and 'high fear'. It is important to think through each situation carefully. For example, if a person's fear is that they will have a panic attack on the underground...they will need to break this down in to steps. For example:
- Go to the station with a trusted other when it is quiet.
- Go to the station with a trusted other when it is quiet and sit on the platform.
- Go to the station alone when it is quiet.
- Go to the station alone when it is quiet and sit on the platform.
- Go one stop on the tube with a trusted other.
- Go one stop on the tube alone.
- Then you would increase the distance that you go on the tube and differ the times that you go in order to increase the amount of people that are around.
- Eventually, you want to be travelling along the busiest line at rush hour.
Remember, the idea when overcoming panic is to go in to a situation that we believe will bring on panic symptoms and remain in that situation until we have seen whether the thing that we fear happens. This is not too easy when the thing we fear happening is death! That is why this can be so difficult but only YOU can find the strength and determination to do this. There is no one else who can make you do this...just you.
Some people find writing a statement that they can read to themselves before they go in to a situation that they believe will bring on panic. This might be:
- You have faced fears before and you can face this one.
- Just take one step at a time.
- Remember how awful life is living with panic and this will help me to overcome it.
- Imagine a life without panic - how wonderful that would be.
- Think of all the things I could do if I were not crippled by panic.
Another strategy to help you to remain in a situation, rather than running away from it when every bone and muscle in your body is telling you to escape - is to do a body scan. This needs to be practiced thoroughly before going in to a situation where you will experience symptoms of panic, otherwise the panic symptoms will overcome you.
Please click on the video for a guided body scan.
Just think of how you will feel when you have faced and overcome the thing you fear.