For about a year, I was able to stave off anxiety and IBS attacks (especially while driving) by pulling the hair out of my legs. Sounds weird, right? But it worked.
It was a pattern interrupt. We may get more into pattern interruption later this month, but what’s makes it so effective is that whatever you’re worried about, the brain simply can’t hold “I’m panicked,” and “that’s a really sharp pain in my leg” together at the same time. The pain always wins.
The problem with this kind of interruption is that the practitioner really doesn’t want to do this during positive, non-anxious times in life, because that would be self-destructive and really unpleasant. So, over time, the pulling of leg hair gets associated with panic attacks. Pretty soon, you can’t even touch your leg without triggering anxiety.
As creatures, we’re very trainable.
The first thing most therapists treating anxiety will teach you is breathing exercises. It interrupts patterns. It introducing lots of oxygen into the body, which causes a positive rush. The long exhales are extremely calming. But most of all, you’re taught this technique because it’s easy to do during positive, non-anxious moments.
Breathing is a practice. Schedule it so it happens during good and bad times, or it will become a trigger, just like anything else.
Properly practiced, breathing techniques are an effective anti-anxiety tool, but it requires diligence on your part.
More on breathing and anxiety:
- Harvard Medical School: Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response
- Scientific American: Proper Breathing Brings Better Health
- Psychology Today: Can You Reduce Anxiety and Stress by the Way You Breathe?