Daily Herald May 4, 1991
Most of us have great difficult in facing and accepting the pain of fear and anxiety. We think it's not okay to admit to others that we're anxious or fearful. We hold onto the myth that adults don't or can't experience fear or anxiety. This myth says only children are afraid or anxious, and that you shouldn't experience it anymore once you've grown up.
The myth says that to admit fear would be admitting we weren't an adult. But in reality, mature adults often experience a wide variety of anxieties and fears, and they aren't being childish. Another myth tells us that all fears and anxieties can be understood, since there has to be a reason for them. In reality, there are no apparent reasons for many of the anxieties and fearful (phobic) attacks many people experience. If we search for reasons, especially on our own, the problem usually becomes worse. Because of these two myths, people who suffer from anxiety and fears believe they are responsible for what is happening to them, and should be able to stop it from happening. In reality, the more we fight against anxiety or fear, the worse it becomes. When we can't control what is happening to us, we feel even worse about ourselves.
You can't control an anxiety attack or an irrational fear. However, you can control what you do in response to it. Discover which responses make the situation worse. Discover which tactics help you to be in charge of what you're doing, although you may only have limited control over what the fear or anxiety is doing to you.
There are four phases you go through when dealing with an anxiety attack. What you say to yourself before each phase affects how well you handle it. The first phase involves preparing yourself for the anxious situation, should it arise. Say things to yourself like, "I choose to do it", rather than "I have to do it", or "What is it I have to do now" rather than "There's so much to do". This will help you to prepare yourself better. The second phase is when the anxiety or fear begins to build up. Think of comments like "I know I'm ready now to meet this challenge and I can do it", rather than "I've got to handle it", or "I can be in control of me. Relax now, and take a deep breath" , instead of "I can control it if I try hard enough" The third phase is when you start to feel overwhelmed. Helpful comments are "Right now I feel nervous, and that's okay. But I also know I can handle it", or "It's okay to feel some fear. It motivates me to do my best". The final phase is after the anxiety attack is over. Helpful comments are, "I didn't handle things absolutely perfectly. But that's okay. I tried and I got through it. That's what counts", or "I did what I needed for me, and it was the right thing for me. Maybe other people didn't understand and were upset with me, but that's okay."
Dealing with fears and anxieties on your own is stressful. But, you are the only one who can do that job. You often feel you're the only person having such a problem, but you're not. Find a support and educational program, for people who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks or fears and you'll find you're not alone.