I distinctly remember the day that I thought I was going to die, from what at the time I thought was a heat attack. It was hard to breathe, I had heart palpitations, racing heart, I felt dizzy and I thought I was loosing my mind. The worst of all was the hard to breathe problem, it felt like a hand around my neck. Later I learned that this was a panic attack and these were very common symptoms. I was told that the hard to breathe problem was caused by hyperventilation due to shallow breathing. The good news is that people don’t die from panic attacks and it is not heart related. The bad news is that the over secretion of stress hormones could harm many of my organs including my heart. That is why it was imperative to manage this condition, not only to stop these awful feeling, but for the health of my body. Over production of cortisol is to blame for this flight or flight response. My body was reacting to a perceived threat that had been building over a long period of time. The threat was multifaceted and went something like this; my child is going to drown at the birthday party, I’m a looser, I’m an idiot, I can’t do anything right…the threat was my negative self talk. What I tell myself is the most important conversation I have all day. Negative self talk happens quickly and often is not even detected, but it has an effect. Have you ever been in a happy mood and enjoying life and without notice had a bad feeling creep in and destroy the moment? Of course, we all have. Think back to the thought that just passed through your mind, what was the last thing you were thinking? Odds are it was negative self talk. Becoming aware and recognizing negative self talk is the first step. Journaling is a great way to do this. Once you have identified your negative self talk you need to counter them. I do this by immediately stopping them. I do this by imagining a stop sign, then in a rational, truthful and positive way I speak to myself in present tense. For example; “my child is going to drown at the birthday party” becomes “my child is going to have a great time at the birthday party” and “I am a looser” becomes “I am successful at what I do”. “I can’t do anything right” becomes “I do the best I can in most situations”. Notice that I did not say “I do the best I can in ALL situations”, this is because I am speaking to myself rationally, truthfully and positively. If I say “all” situations I have a distorted thinking called “all or nothing” thinking. There are many of these distorted thinking but it is not my purpose here to go into them now. An effective counter to negative self talk must be rational, truthful and positive. Next is a very important component of stopping negative self talk, one that will stop the hard to breathe feeling of panic and break the cycle of fight or flight hormones it is relaxation. You can not be anxious and relaxed at the same time. When my hormone levels become very elevated I find it best to put on a relaxation cd that uses these 3 components, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation (imagery). Practicing relaxation over time will restore joy and a sense of peaceful well being; you can have a quiet mind again.
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