Anxiety/panic at night

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Anxiety/panic at night

Postby ninjakale » Fri Oct 02, 2015 1:11 pm

Hi there :)

About a year ago I had a panic attack while I slept (crazy pictures in my head which scared me senseless) which happened for no apparent reason. This went away after a while as I learned to cope with the attacks (mostly by accepting that it was there, and demand that it do something or get on with it), but I had one last night.

What triggered it was a single thought ("hey, remember when you had that panic attack? Those images were scary, right?") and then it was as if someone had turned a switch in my mind and it started producing all these scary images (rooms flooded with blood, tunnels made of flesh contracting, darkness with red light etc.). Feels pretty unfair that a single thought can cause so much harm, even when I was trying my best to not engage with the thought (kinda hard when it blasts your retinas with images though).

Now, since I (luckily) have learned to cope with panic attacks it didn't really ruin my night (I did sweat a lot though - man!) since it subsided very quickly as part of my acceptance. However, falling asleep was rather hard since my heart was pounding. Today I feel fine (just a bit sleep-deprived).

What I really want to know is how can I use presence to deal with something like this?

It's pretty hard (felt impossible last night) to disengage from emotions and thoughts when they literally blast your eyes with images.

Any comments would be greatly appreciated :-) (Thanks to everyone whom answered my question about general anxiety by the way, they really helped!)
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Re: Anxiety/panic at night

Postby dijmart » Fri Oct 02, 2015 9:02 pm

Basically, it's a fear response, from a fearful thought, leading to panic and/or anxiety. Notice however, that no matter how "scary" it might all seem, the visions, notice that they are not "really" happening in your "present" moment. Its all in your mind, in thought. Realize most fearful thoughts are "mind" made and unless a lion is charging at you or your house is currently on fire, then it's all made up.

Not to say it's not your experience, but surrender to the fact that at thoughs moments you feel a certain way and give no more attention to it. Distract your mind away from the thoughts. Also saying "this too shall pass" can help.
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Re: Anxiety/panic at night

Postby ninjakale » Fri Oct 02, 2015 10:05 pm

Thank you very much for the answer, dijmart - I really appreciate it. :)

Realize most fearful thoughts are "mind" made and unless a lion is charging at you or your house is currently on fire, then it's all made up.


That's a very good point, and I realise this intellectually when I see them (I mostly say "okay, here we go again - I know it's not real"), but they still make me very uncomfortable and makes my heart race - which in turn makes it rather hard to fall asleep.

surrender to the fact that at thoughs moments you feel a certain way and give no more attention to it. Distract your mind away from the thoughts. Also saying "this too shall pass" can help.


I've seen other people (such as Kiki, for instance) say that the only way through fear is by embracing it and working through it - isn't distracting the mind the opposite of that?

Sorry if I'm misunderstanding something and thanks for taking the time to answer my question :)
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Re: Anxiety/panic at night

Postby dijmart » Fri Oct 02, 2015 11:00 pm

Accepting/surrendering in that moment that's your experience is work when in the grip of fear. But, that doesn't mean you can't then "choose" to turn away from it (enough is enough) or talk/feel your way out of it. Example- what I'm thinking is irrational, not true and not benefiting me in any way....maybe I'll go take a walk or take a look around the room and see...am I really in danger? No, perfect!
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Re: Anxiety/panic at night

Postby ashley72 » Sat Oct 03, 2015 2:22 am

A panic cycle, like the one you described, is caused by a positive feedback loop.

Our fear response circuitry in our nervous system, has input signals and output signals. On rare occassions, we can sometimes feed the output signal (response) straight back into the input signal and cause an increasing cycle of fear to occur.

The way to overcome or prevent panic occurring is to stop feeding the output signal back into the input signal.


The output signal is any response to fear, anxious thinking, heart palpitations, sweaty palms, head tension (basic a nervous response). You feed the nervous response signal straight back into the input signal by treating or perceiving this output signal of fear as also dangerous. It's akin, to fearing fear itself.

It's completely preventable by recognizing the response to fear... is just that only a response not the actual object of fear.

Next time these anxious thoughts occur, say to yourself these thoughts will lose their power if I stop perceiving them as dangerous and scary. They're only here in the first place because I'm treating them as dangerous when they clearly can't hurt me because they are merely my response to fear, not the actual fear object itself.

I overcome panic disorder by basically embracing the understanding I described. It might seem a bit scientific in its approach, but it's really the mechanism that is at play in our fear circuitry. Our nervous system regulates all aspects of our function by using both positive & negative feedback loops. Try and read up about how they work in all sorts of situations and you will have a better appreciate of how your own nervous system is functioning or regulating.
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Re: Anxiety/panic at night

Postby dijmart » Sat Oct 03, 2015 6:01 am

Ok, so I have an example from today. I had a tough case to deal with at work, i worked in my mind every angle I could think of, before I left I emailed my boss that the office could get notified regarding this case over the weekend.

It was after 5pm (when I was leaving) when my boss emailed me back to say, well did you do this... (fill in the blank) and I had not and could not at that time. So, had no choice but to make a notation and leave for the day.

Fear arose quickly...that I may be questioned about this on monday, although I had done my best at the time, it may not have been good enough. So my mind thought of "thoughts" regarding self protection and self preservation for a few minutes. Then, I accepted I was fearful of the "future" that doesn't exist "now" and that my mind was on automatic pilot.

So, instead I chose to think consciously and accept where I was at, then once I fully surrendered to what I was feeling I thought/ felt my way out of it. For my example, here's how I did it. I said to myself. Why are you so afraid?...because I wasn't perfect...who's perfect? ...no one...so you'd be in trouble for not being perfect? ...yes. what's the,worst thing that you think would "actually" happen? ..I could get yelled at on Monday morning or scolded...is that all?...yes...and what would that mean?..that I'm no good...and is that real? Or something to worry about?..something to worry about...and will you even remember this a month from now?....no way...should you think of it now even...uh, no, waste of my time...does what a boss say about your work have anything to do with who you "really" are?...no.

So, in conclusion, it's done and if I hear about it on monday, then I'll deal with it then and I'm sure it won't be near as bad as my imagination and conditioning has made it out to be.

The feeling aspect of it is that with every new thought that moves vibrational more positive or neutral you actually "feel" yourself getting lighter, the dark cloud is lifting. So, moving away from fear is felt as a better or neutral feeling.

So, with this being said, I did work through the fear, after accepting it fully, although I don't know what kiki meant whenever he said it...or who he was advising. You could also substitute "work through" with "move through or from" the fear.

Wow, I just realized this is one of my longest posts in a really long time...lol
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Re: Anxiety/panic at night

Postby ashley72 » Sat Oct 03, 2015 8:36 am

"Don't make a mountain out of a molehill"... Which is basically saying don't over-react to a given situation.

A positive feedback loop is the mechanism by which a molehill (first anxious thought or trigger) is then also treated as danger, which causes more anxious thoughts (the mountain)... because the output signal continually feeds back into the input signal until we make a mountain of worries out of one initial anxious thought.
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Re: Anxiety/panic at night

Postby dijmart » Sat Oct 03, 2015 2:45 pm

Yeah, the funny thing is that I gave my advice while at work..prior...to what happened to me later, then I myself was dealing with fear. Since I deal with people's lives (I'm a nurse hhc coordinator) I find my job a challenge at times, more so then any other aspect of my life. It's my teacher, it brings me things to work on often...sometimes daily.
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Re: Anxiety/panic at night

Postby ashley72 » Sat Oct 03, 2015 9:53 pm

I still make a mountain out of molehill In my line of work, even though I know it's self-fulfilling in nature on paper. On occasions it can be beneficial, because it helps you to work through all the possible negative outcomes & then you can try & counter those situations arising. Of course, taken to the extreme it can be counter-productive. I've found in my own line of work is sometimes it pays dividends, and sometimes you find you've been too cautious. It's a hit & miss strategy.

I've been watching an interesting doco the last few weeks about the cage fighter Conor McGregor A.k.a Notorious. He says cage fighting is so unpredictable & complicated that you can't really really go into the fight with a set style or strategy. You can only prepare the body to be a free and loose as possible. He says being prepared is all about setting the body free & allowing that flowing movement. When the fight happens he just responds in the moment to what is arising, if the body is loose & free, it will respond quicker to the situation. Conor, says so many fighters wear themselves out during the training stage, that their bodies become tired & stiff.. when it comes to the actual fight they just can't respond quicker enough because of the built up resistance in their bodies from all the pre-fight stress.
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Re: Anxiety/panic at night

Postby ninjakale » Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:21 am

Thank you very much for all the replies - you guys are amazing :-)

The way I've learned to handle this (nothing has happened since), is to simply let the sensations be there, but peripherally.

What I mean by that is that if these scary images show up, I simply move my focus to my breath, but while doing so I try and say to myself "it's okay that the images are there, it's just my painbody trying to talk to me, poor thing". I focus all my attention on staying present by focusing on my breath. This works very well, and I sleep much, much better.

I suppose this is basically in line with your advice to work through and also distance yourself from the fear, as well as stopping to treat the fear responses as danger. :mrgreen:
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Re: Anxiety/panic at night

Postby dijmart » Wed Oct 07, 2015 2:43 am

Glad you've found a way to cope with this that's working. :D
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Re: Anxiety/panic at night

Postby ninjakale » Tue Dec 13, 2016 9:56 am

This is all kinda funny, and I thought I'd mention it here.

I haven't had a proper panic attack since October last year (I did have two small panic attacks related to marijuana, but those don't really count because I "created" them by smoking too much, and they had no lasting effect - silly me), but I had a setback now due to mental and physical exhaustion (jetlagged). I'd forgotten how I usually handle anxiety/panic (by accepting it fully), and so I managed to scare myself into having a panic attack (just like last time, lol).

Having read up on the same material as last time I quickly remembered how to handle the attacks and general anxiety, and I'm back to fixing it. However, one thing I did not remember was how to deal with the scary images at night, which is actually why I came back to this forum. I was just about to post a message when I got this weird dèjá vu and found this topic :roll:

I actually tried this last night and fell asleep using this technique, but I was worried that I was perhaps doing something stupid by focusing on my breath and sort of ignoring the images (still allow them to be present, though, I just don't engage with them). So, I guess I've got the memory of a goldfish :lol:

Anyway, just in case anyone that has a similar problem is reading this: this technique totally works. Focus on your breath/body and allow the images to be present, you'll fall alseep much faster.
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