You can find a lot of useful information on the internet to help you deal with anxiety. People who have been there know it’s horrible and want to share what has worked for them. I’ve noticed many of these tips involve counting or making lists, and this makes sense to me. I have found the most effective ways to quiet even my worst anxiety attacks involve numbers and sequences.
Have you ever poured water into a funnel too quickly? Some of it flows easily out the bottom, but pour too quickly and water begins to spill out over the top as well. This is how I envision the birth of a panic attack. Things happen throughout the course of a day, each a drop of water passing through the funnel of the brain. Negativity is a clog in the funneling system of the depressive brain. The thought droplets begin to back up until finally, WHAMMO!
When there are more feelings than our funnel can process at the time, the system overloads. The flood of unsorted feelings flips the switch on our fight or flight response and we get that awful “Run away! Run away!” impulse. So, how can numbers help? Throughout the day, as bothersome things happen, think of three ways to look at them in a less bothersome way. In other words, try coming up with three good things about bad things. Let me give you an example of how this has worked for me.
I have a Pandora’s Box of derogatory thoughts stored in my brain, ready at any moment to spring to the forefront and fill me with a sense of worthlessness. On my worst days, even the most minor upset can seem like absolute condemnation. I’m a Manchester United fan and a coffee drinker, and I like to ring in each year with a new coffee mug at work. This year I found a spiffy, stainless steel, insulated mug with the Man U logo, and even though it was a little pricier than I cared for: I splurged. The mug arrived and performed admirably as a coffee-carrying vessel…until I dropped it. Mug was separated from handle, and handle became a collection of useless fragments. Pandora’s Box began to open and I immediately began thinking, “That’s what you get for paying too much for a mug” and “This is why you don’t deserve to have nice things.” It would have normally sent me spiraling into a terrible day, but I made myself stop and put three positive spins on the situation. This is what I came up with:
At least there wasn’t coffee in it
Good thing it wasn’t glass
A mug without a handle is still a cup
Get it? Your three good things don’t have to be all that good – they just have to be less bad. Here’s why it works. Numbers live in a different area of the brain than negativity. By forcing yourself to count three good things, you not only bypass the filter but you build up those positives. Building up positives is how we close Pandora’s Box for good and avoid future panic attacks.
I hope you’ll try it. I hope you will try again and again until it becomes your new way of thinking. And, I hope you will email and share your ‘Three Things’ stories with me. I’d love to hear them. Incidentally, I still use that mug every day. Being a little bit broken hasn’t made it worthless, and the nubby remnants of a handle remind me to count to three. So remember this… A mug without a handle is still a cup, and a person who is broken is not worthless.
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