I empathize with people looking to cure panic attacks. Without the right stress training, it can literally feel like the end of the world when an attack strikes.
I had panic attacks over a 6 month period when I was twenty years old. It seemed to have come out of nowhere, but once I went through experiencing one, it was never far off from my thoughts. One initial surge of stress, regardless of cause, and my mind would raise 30 steps envisioning a full scale anxiety attack. That would in turn raise the initial stress to a higher level, and the battle would be on as to whether or not I could contain it.
One night at college while up at 4am, which often happened, because I loved to stay up late and sometimes anxiety would keep me up even if I wanted to go to bed, an infomercial came on. It was a 12 tape set on how to beat anxiety and panic attacks.
These tapes worked wonders and my panic attacks were gone within a month. In fact, other than randomly on airplanes, I haven’t suffered an attack in 17 years.
The tape set (I would call it something else if I could remember it) used guided relaxation and visualizations. I didn’t realize this at the time, each tape was just a numbered cassette. The one that did the trick for me was a specific guided visualization.
The guided visualization tool put me through a relaxation phase with deep breathing. Once the deep relaxation was reached, I was instructed to picture a time when I felt safe, secure, and happy. I remember this was a tricky one – not that I didn’t feel those things, but to think of a situation that perfectly summed up all 3 was not easy to do.
My mind went at the moment to a time when I was in a car as a kid. I was in the backseat, my parents were in the front, and the window was down. The sun was hitting my face and I was able to fall asleep feeling completely content.
Why that moment? No idea. But the combination of being guided to deep relaxation, then fully envisioning a moment that I felt content and happy, it made me feel the best I’d felt in a long time.
What is strange to me, and I still don’t understand why this worked, is that the anxiety immediately ceased to be an issue in my life. When a wave of potential panic reared its head, I was able to consciously recognize it and breathe through it, letting it wash over me. This isn’t to say that I wasn’t tense or that some waves weren’t more intense than others, but never again an attack (except on a flight…still working on that one).
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