Write down the main symptoms you experience when you are mildly anxious. Not the worst ones that you feel in the middle of a panic attack, but the ones you first feel when anxiety is setting in.
Now remember a time when you were really excited about something. Write down how that felt.
Chances are the two lists will be quite similar, and they should be. The initial symptoms of anxiety are very similar to those experienced during excitement. Furthermore, the brain does not know the difference between the two.
You can use this to your advantage by challenging your internal voice. Next time you start to feel the onset of anxiety, tell yourself that you’re excited about something. For example, if you’re feeling anxious about going out in the car, tell yourself that you’re excited about the drive, and how much you love driving. If that example doesn’t work for you, pick one that does. For me, because my kids saw me collapse when I had my breakdown, I had panic attacks every time they were due to come and stay with me again. This went on for years, until eventually I challenged it by saying to myself, “I can’t wait to see the kids this weekend, I’m really excited about seeing them.”
I would then use the mental imaging technique to create various scenarios involving activities with the kids, just like we used to enjoy. Over quite a short time, the anxiety subsided and I was able to enjoy time with them again, without anxiety getting in the way.
Mel Robbins (author of “The 5 Second Rule”) says she used this trick before going on stage – when the anxiety set in she would start telling herself how excited she was about going out there and giving the best speech or performance she’d ever given.