Anxiety and panic attacks can be very distressing. Many people are suffering from new or more frequent panic attacks during the coronavirus crisis. Panic attacks are related to a fear of fear itself, also known as “anticipatory anxiety”. We’ve got three top tips to help you break out of this vicious circle of fear.
1: Observe your anxiety
This tip might sound obvious, but it’s very effective. Rather than losing yourself in your anxiety, try to distance yourself from it and observe it neutrally, like a scientist tracking an interesting phenomenon, or a small child looking at a new object. When you notice that you’re beginning to feel anxious, take a step back and observe your feelings. Pay attention to what you’re thinking, and try to notice any early warning signs of anxiety. This helps you to get to know yourself and your body.
2: Keep your own limitations in mind
Anxiety can make us avoid certain places or activities. This avoidance behaviour can greatly impair your quality of life. You might miss certain things and wish you could do them again. Try not to dwell on the things you’ve given up in the past, but think about what you’d like to do in the future. Ask yourself what you would do if anxiety no longer controlled you? Where would you go, and what goals would you pursue? You could write down these goals and use the list to motivate you in your fight against anxiety. You might need to be creative to think of goals that are realistically achievable given the current crisis.
3: Face your fears
The most effective remedy against fear is courage. In psychotherapy, we call confronting your fears “exposure”. Remember that list you made in Tip 2? Now go ahead and do everything on it! Try to do even those things that make you feel anxious. Of course, this is much easier said than done. Take it step by step so you don’t get overwhelmed. Try to improve your skills and be a little more daring each time.
It’s normal to feel anxious when trying to conquer your fears. It just shows that you’re working on the right goals. To manage this anxiety, try to use Tip 1 and observe your feelings as neutrally as possible. Remember, practice makes perfect! Even if you don’t succeed in overcoming your anticipatory anxiety right away, you’ll notice a change over time, despite any setbacks.
We hope these tips help you reduce the fear in your everyday life and increase your well-being. Good luck! We believe in you.