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Are feelings of panic and anxiety consuming your world? One of the primary symptoms of anxiety is feeling uncomfortable and thinking you are trapped or stuck. Being stuck starts by dwelling on things you‘re worried about instead of taking action. By not taking action, you‘re giving yourself no option to do anything else but worry. And excessive worry almost always leads to feelings of anxiety and in extreme cases to panic attacks. Here you will find three simple questions you can use to bring relief before panic attacks occur.

Worrying can become a habit that feeds your anxiety and can lead to panic. A habit is something that is repeated involuntarily over and over again. Habits are formed from the practice of doing something so often that you start doing it without realizing that you even started. Does your anxiety lead you to a feeling of hopeless that nothing will ever change? If so, worrying has probably become a habit that needs to be broken.

“A day of worry is more exhausting than a day of work.”
~John Lubbock

Whether you worry occasionally or habitually, if you never develop a plan that supports actions that ease the anxiety, you can stay stuck in this cycle for a very long time.

The Sooner the Better  

A habit is a learned response with a particular pattern. The only way to overcome a worrying habit is to create an interrupt—a way to stop the habitual response before it gets started. This helps you to learn a new response and create a new pattern to break the old habit.  

Strategies for Breaking the Habit  

The easiest way we have found to practice breaking the worry habit and create a new pattern is to can use your subtle feeling of discomfort as an interrupt to your habitual responses. The next time you notice you feel uncomfortable in any way stop and ask yourself these questions.  

1. "Is there something I believe about the situation that I don't even know is true?"  

Very often we‘re worried about things we think are true in a situation even if we have not verified that we are correct. Take the following statements:

“I never should have said that.”
“What if she never talks to me again?”  

These statements create worry that you said the wrong thing and that she might never talk to you again.  

Let’s say we asked question number one about those statements. The answer might be, “I can’t possibly know that she’ll never speak to me again. In fact, I don’t even know that she’s upset about what I said.” If you come up with answers like these, there will be an immediate sense of relief just by realizing you‘re worrying about something that might not even be true. The next step could be to take action and ask the person if they‘re upset in any way. Very often, what we‘re worried about isn’t even an issue.

If you asked this question and don’t find relief, go to the next question.

2. "What do I deeply value in this situation that has me worried in the first place?"  

When you identify what you want, it is much easier to take action toward getting it.

For example, if you say, “I hate driving in the rain” you might identify safety as what’s most important to you in that situation.  

Or perhaps your worry is focused on a thought such as this:

“My son is so sick, what am I going to do?”  

In this case, worrying about what’s going on with your son, and what you can do to help, is the driving force behind your anxiety. Once you’ve identified what you are really troubled about, pick one action you can take to satisfy what’s most important to you.  

Say you really want to understand all the details about your son’s condition. To satisfy this desire for clarity about his condition you might pick the action of talking to the doctor to see if she’s willing to explain your son’s condition until you understand that clearly. By performing an action, you spend way less time worrying about what you don’t want and more time creating the life you do want.

If you ask this question about your anxiety, identify what’s most important, and you can’t come up with an action to take, ask yourself the third question.

3. "Where in my life do I experience these things that are most important to me?"

Once clear about what’s most important in a situation, on occasion you’ll find that there is no action you can take to create what’s most important in the moment. At these times, question number three is very effective in focusing your attention on getting what you want from something that is already happening in your life. Take the following statement:

“The world is so scary, what if we keep having wars?”  

In this thought, you identify concerns about safety and peace of mind. This is the trigger behind your worry and anxiety. It’s possible that in this particular situation you could not identify an appropriate action to satisfy these things. That’s when you ask, “Where in my life do I experience safety, and peace of mind?“.

You might look at your life and say:

“I feel very safe where I live.”
“When taking a walk, I feel peaceful.”  

Beyond a simple statement, it might be an experience you had while helping a child or greeting new neighbors. Maybe it’s the act of giving money to a charity that really satisfies the values you have. Whatever is important to you, if you look at your life you will find examples of it somewhere.  

All three of these questions are designed to support you in creating new responses and patterns to old habits and focusing on the things that are most important. Always remember that if you don’t know what you want, you can’t get it. If you‘re in action creating what if you want in your life, you‘re much less likely to feel worried and anxious and therefore, much more likely to be having fun and feeling happy.

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