An anxiety attack can feel like a runaway train, as if you have no power over it. Biochemically, it is driven by adrenaline for the traditional fight or flight response in a crisis – to give you energy when your life depends on it. When used as designed, it lasts only as long as needed. Once the crisis is over, relief or exhaustion can follow. However, in our society the crisis is usually not life-threatening so the adrenaline does not get discharged through the fight or flight response but rages internally and one result is anxiety.
You can feed your adrenaline pump with anxious thoughts or you can starve it with calming thoughts or by redirecting your thinking. A calming thought might be “this is only temporary, I will go with the flow and the adrenaline will play out as I relax into it and breathe deeply, slowly and calmly.” You can also redirect your thinking by just focusing on your breathing. Four point breathing interrupts your thought flow as you internally count slowly to four as you breathe in, count to four while holding your breath, count to four as you breathe out, and then don’t breathe for four counts. Keep repeating this pattern until your body feels calmer. Both the controlled breathing and the controlling of your thoughts through the silent counting help reduce the production of adrenaline and therefore your anxiety.