-photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash
I'm a big fan of the author Brené Brown. She talks a lot about how to communicate with anyone and how toxic shame is to our society. She opens herself up, making herself vulnerable, in all of her books and talks, and I love what she teaches about bravery.
In my book, as well as my articles, I talk a lot about how to talk to oneself, and the importance of being a positive self-coach. I hear a lot of judgment from all parts of society these days. It's the human condition. People are saying openly hostile things to each other, sometimes questioning each other's sanity, and the truth is, most of us are also saying incredibly hostile and judgmental things to ourselves as well. Think about how you talk to yourself when you're upset at the end result of your efforts. Would you put up with a friend who treated you that way? Think of the stories you tell yourself when you're afraid. Are you always positive and encouraging, or do you dwell on the negative? Would you treat a small child that way? We carry parts of our childhood selves with us for our entire lives in our unconscious. We have to learn to be careful of how we talk to ourselves.
I think one of the purposes of life is to figure out how to rise above our programming. It helps to realize that everyone's got programming that prevents them from seeing things any differently than how they're currently seeing things. Especially in times of stress, all of us tend to react with our emotional and primitive brain. The trick is to learn to stay aware and present as this is happening so we can avoid it. Tools like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, Focusing, and therapy offer us a chance to stay present so that we can be in the executive level thinking offered by our prefrontal cortex. If we feel our anger rising, if we feel our indignation mount, if we sense self-righteousness, if we are aware of fear, jealousy, insecurity, I guarantee that our thought process is being hijacked by the emotional and primitive brain. When we're triggered, it feels so normal, so safe, to indulge in emotional or primitive brain thinking. That's how I spent the first forty years of my life. Learning how to develop and practice tools to stay present is an ongoing challenge, but one I'm so grateful for. I'm happier and calmer than I've ever been.
I talk about how shame helps drive the opioid epidemic in my two part article on Thrive Global. Here's the link to part I. Here's the link to part II. Let me know what you think. And check out Brené Brown. She's awesome.
Here's a video clip of me and my dog Casey demonstrating Pigeon pose. In panic attacks, I've found that the psoas gets overactive. I've found relief from doing yoga. Poses like Pigeon pose help stretch the psoas so we can get on with our day.
Walking meditation is also helpful during a panic attack. I know it's hard to get out of the house, but fresh air is good for us, and it's also good to use our peripheral vision --most of us overuse our focal (reading) vision with all the electronic devices we own.
Be sure to use soft focus while walking and looking at your feet. Soft focus helps activate peripheral vision, as does noticing what is happening in your peripheral vision.
Another big help is to fit in some high intensity aerobic exercise regularly (during non-panic attack times is best I find.) Think of being calm as like having money in the bank, and being stressed as like withdrawing money.
High intensity aerobic exercise (provided your doctor okays it) puts money in the bank so that you don't overdraw your account and go into panic attack mode. Dr. John Ratey discusses how effective this is to reduce anxiety in his book Spark.
Other things that add to your bank account of calm are yoga and meditation.