If you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, chances are that you would have heard about incorporate mindfulness mediation into your coping strategies tool set. But why is that, since mindfulness is about the direction of your attention, and feelings of anxiety and intense panic is emotional?
To answer this question, lets look at the general design of a panic attack.
Panic attacks are caused by your amygdala, the part of your brain which regulates emotions, going haywire causing you to release a huge rush of adrenaline causing the infamous, ‘fight-or-flight' response. Simply put, having a panic attack is basically being scared that you want to run away.
When you are having a panic attack, your heart rate increases, you can get clammy/sweaty, you feel weak at the knees, feel light headed, and so on (arguably, similar to that when you're a running away!).
Your amygdala responds to threats, real or imaginary, and is the key in reducing and eliminating the panic attacks. In order for us to reduce and eliminate an anxiety attack, we need to do something that effectively stops (or at least, nullify) the amygdala, enough for our adrenaline to stop rushing around in our bloodstream.
The easiest, free, quickest way of nullifying your amygdala is to use a tactic which has been scientifically proven to reduce the amygdala, and that is using mindfulness meditation.
Being mindful is all about being fully present, hear and now
It is about stopping the seemingly endless amount of inner self talk and chit chatter, and being attentive to the present moment. Many philosophers and spiritualists have often regarded the present moment as the doorway to your intuition, and also living a greater, healthier and happier lifestyle and it's easy to see why.
If you consider the fact that being attentive to the present moment helps reduce the effects of your amygdala, you become less fearful, which not only insinuates a greater range of possibilities in living the best life you can, but due to the mind-body connection, should help you become more empowered and more healthier by default.
And not only that but mindfulness also helps the memory and cognition of your brain as well, so not only do you reduce your anxiety but also increases your connection to your soul, as well as getting more smarter and more focused…
Three for the price of one!
So, how do you get mindful to begin with, and what are the inevitable pitfuls that will come your way when using this technique?
There are 3 ways that I tend to use. One involves your peripheral vision, one involves breathing, and one involves being attentive to your body.
1 – Peripheral vision is using the outside wider form your vision, which allows you to make use of the rods in your eyes, the ones responsible for movement, large objects and organization of the spatial scene.
By gazing and trying to fit the whole of your vision into one big huge picture of focus, you will be able to quieten to the mind chatter down and become more present. Just 5 minutes of doing this while walking is enough for you to feel the benefits within a week.
2 – Breathing involves watching your breath, and focusing your attention to your breathing entering and exiting your lungs. By watching your breath, you are re-directing focus and attention away from your panic attack. By focusing on your breath, this will help quieten your inner chatter and will help you become more present.
3 – Being attentive to your body, and by this I mean being able to focus and even feel your body. If you are attentive and great at sensing things, and if you can get good at it, you can even begin to sense your inner energy body and feel (slightly) the life energy or Qi in your body. This takes a bit of practice, so don't be put off if you don't feel the Qi straight away.
Again, by focusing on your body and being attentive to your muscles, your organs and your legs, you will reduce your mind chatter. This will reduce your Amygdalas response, and you will become more mindful. This is a great exercise to do if you know you will be walking for about a few minutes, and have no-one to talk to in the meantime.
But what are the pitfuls of using these techniques?
It's one thing to be present, but it's another thing to stay there. One thing that I continuously find is that once you become mindful, it is much more difficult to stay being mindful when people are present. You start judging, daydreaming, thoughts about the rest of your day come into your head…all of this stops you from being present.
The easiest way to overcome this, is to try to see people as extensions of your self. I know this may sound silly, but this not only helps keep as much, ‘presence' as possible, but it also does another thing: helps open up your heart chakra so you feel compassion and, ‘oneness'.
Try it and let me know how you get on. Ask any panic attack recover about mindfulness, and they will tell you that they use it as one of their tools for recovery. They can't be wrong;-)