Roger's Panic Strategy
I recently had an experience I would like to share with you. It helped to put my anxiety into perspective.
Eating in a public place has always been extremely difficult for me to do. Not only did I fear doing something embarrassing, I feared having a panic attack and not being able to get out.
One day, I set up a time to go to lunch with my wife. As it turned out, it was the busiest time of the day and the restaurant was really crowded. I knew from previous experiences that somehow I would be seated at the last table in the deepest part of the restaurant. Well, today was no exception.
As a result, the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) began marching towards me. I started to get all of these negative thoughts and feelings about not being able to eat my dinner and about having a panic attack and not being able to escape.
So, I said to the ANTs,
"You don't belong here! Get out now!"
My heart beat increased and the sweat started to bead up on my forehead. I was scared. So I grabbed my cigarette lighter and set it beside me in the booth.
I realized that, if I didn't accept it, this negative energy had nowhere else to go and these STUPID, IDIOTIC, LYING ANTS were almost begging me to pay attention to them. And I was determined not to pay attention to them.
I used this analogy: I felt like I was sitting next to a small, spoiled brat screaming,
"Give me this, give me that -- I want your attention NOW!"
Each time I felt a surge of panic or an uneasy feeling, I moved my cigarette lighter around in the booth. I pushed it away from me several times. I find it easier if I have a physical object to move around that reminds me that the anxiety feelings I have are LYING to me and that I have control over them! (Not the other way around.)
It is much easier to do things now when I realize that the feelings I experience are very much like a small, spoiled child who begs for attention. When my ANTs feelings begin to grow, I am reminded that they really are like small, spoiled brats who crave attention. The panic wants me to pay attention to it!
If I refuse to pay attention to it, it can't grow.
I am happy to say, however, that on this particular day I told this small, spoiled brat to go play with his ANTs friends and leave me alone! I wanted to enjoy my meal in peace. When I don't pay attention to those surges of uneasiness, they are powerless.
This is a strategy that works for me. I LOVE it when I'm in control.