How to dissolve fear
Knowledge is power. The things we don’t understand can terrify and control us.
When we don’t know what is happening, the tendency is to make up stories, and it’s often those stories that become the very fuel that stokes the fires of fear itself and keeps the flames burning bright.
That was certainly true for Debbie.
Debbie had her first panic attack soon after her mother died. Debbie didn’t know it was a panic attack, of course, as she had never had one before. So, as her heart thumped loudly in her chest, Debbie assumed she was having a heart attack, the very thing that had killed her mother so suddenly.
But, even after she was given the all clear, Debbie started avoiding the things she used to do just in case she had, what she called, ‘a funny turn.’
She stopped going swimming, avoided shopping trips with her girlfriends, stopped volunteering at the food bank and even stopped going to the supermarket, choosing instead to have her groceries delivered.
Before long, she was lonely and isoltaed, still dealing with the grief around losing her mother and now with plenty of time on her hands for worry and rumination. She comforted herself with food and the weight piled on.
Now, instead of a helathy outward, forward, upward mindset, she became inward, downward and backward focused, going over and over her mother’s death in her mind and worrying about her own health.
Mind management skills
A large part of what I do comes under the heading ‘psycho education’ or what I now call ‘mind management skills’.
It was important for me to listen to Debbie and really hear how bad she had been feeling, but there was so much more I could do for her to help her start to feel better very quickly.
Apart from getting her to go out every day and benefit from the mood-enhancing effects of full spectrum light, I needed to teach her a simple breathing technique to help her calm down her agitated emotional brain.
I told her:
‘When you start to panic and your emotional temperature rises, STOP! Don’t react mindlessly, learn to respond mindfully.
Counting and focusing on your breathing rate means you must use the rational part of the brain. Try breathing in to the count of 7 and out to the count of 11 or any count that feels right for you as long as the out breath is longer. You will need to practise this regularly to lower your background stress and build up your resilience again.
Focusing on your breath is the short cut to getting back in control of your emotions and those emotional hijacks that have been dominating your life recently. Fortunately, you always have your breath with you so it’s always on hand as an effective anxiety calmer.
Counting and breathing helps you take a step back from your emotions. You can even take your emotional temperature by doing some scaling. If 1 is chilled and 10 is red hot emotion; notice what level you are at,and also notice how the numbers reduce as you count and breathe the stress away.
We all need our emotions. Without them we would just be like robots, but ‘emotional intelligence’ is the ability to recognise our emotions for what they are. The emotional brain is a black or white thinker and sees things in ‘either-or’ terms. Either everything is ‘ok’ or everything is ‘not ok. For that reason, you do not want your emotional brain to be in control.’
Debbie got the point straight away and set herself the task of sitting for ten minutes twice a day and focusing in her breathing, allowing the out breath to comfortably extend and noticing how calm she felt afterwards.
More to the point, if she noticed the start of a ‘funny turn’ she would begin to count and breath until it passed. Her confidence soon returned and she was motivated to keep at it when I told her how regular breathing exercises like this would lower her blood pressure and support her long term heart health.
Explaining what is going on as simply and clearly as possible is often enough to knock the fear out of fear, reducing background anxiety and helping people take back control.
A little while ago, a student on the Therapeutic Coaching Diploma course caught me on camera making the case for parasympathetic breathing as an important mind management tool. You can watch that film here.
I hope it helps…
Parasympathetic breathing, worrying well, the Rewind Technique, Mindfulness Based Mind Management (advanced MBSR), solution focus, guided visualisation, resolving addiction, epigenetics, mapping the connectome, polyvagal theory, the reticular activating system (RAS), secondary gain, trauma resolution, coaching for kids, treating depression, worrying well, working SMART, therapeutic stories, insight, psycho education, suicide prevention, affirmations, positive mental rehearsal, imagery, dissociation, goal setting, new paradigms, reframes, fast track learning, perception shifting, self actualisation, positive psychology, reframing, metaphor, personal empowerment, motivational thinking, lifting depression, the happiness principle, resilience and resourcefulness, human flourishing, anchoring, rewiring your brain, the STOP System, the SAFE SPACE happiness recipe, holistic coaching and working on the continuum of wellbeing plus many other professional theories, tools and techniques underpin the content of the fast paced, fast track, Fusion training programmes.