One of the most common questions we are asked is:
“I am taking medication and/or I am seeing a therapist, but is there anything else I can do to help me recover ?
And the answer is, “Yes! There is.”
The basis of our self help techniques is :
Because meditation is a fantastic self help technique involving both a relaxation technique and a cognitive technique.
Meditation was how Bronwyn recovered in 1985. Since then Bronwyn has taught thousands and thousands of people with an anxiety disorder to meditate. Bronwyn’s book ‘Power over Panic’ which describes and teaches meditation is a best seller in Australia and her Panic Anxiety Management Workshops won an Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Award.
We use meditation in a non spiritual / non religious way
And we use it in a number of different ways:
- as a relaxation technique
- to teach people mindfulness /awareness skills
- to learn how not to attach to, or empower thoughts which create panic and anxiety
- as an exposure method to dissociative states including depersonalisation and derealisation
- as an exposure method for letting go of the need to be in control and/or fighting the panic attack and/or anxiety
This is then transferred over into every day life as a Mindfulness based cognitive technique :
People are taught to:
- become mindful/aware of their panic/anxiety producing thoughts during the day
- become aware of the intimate relationship between their thoughts and their symptoms
- become aware of any tendency to dissociate
This assists people:
- in seeing how many of their fears and symptoms are being created by the way they think
- to see they have a choice in what they think about
- to learn not to attach to or empower their thoughts
- to learn how to manage and control their thoughts
- to learn to let go of the need to fight their panic attacks and/or anxiety
- to learn to let their panic attacks and anxiety happen without resistance
- to be aware of and manage any personal tendency to dissociate
Many people tell us they can’t relax, that they have never been able to relax. Part of the reason why people can’t relax is that they are too frightened to let go of their overall need to be in control. Or as people do begin to relax they become fearful of the sensations of their body relaxing. The meditation technique we use is specifically designed for people with an anxiety disorder and assists people in being able to learn to let go of the control and to learn to accept the sensations of their body relaxing with out fear.
How does meditation differ from progressive muscle relaxation? Most other relaxation techniques focus on relaxing the body first. Meditation focuses on the mind and the body relaxes naturally as a result.
How does our Mindfulness technique differ from other cognitive techniques? Other cognitive techniques, while being very effective, don’t emphasis the ongoing awareness of thought patterns in the way a mindfulness technique does. Using a mindfulness technique means we can begin to see how it is not just our obvious thoughts, ‘what if I have a heart attack, go insane, lose control, make a fool of myself’ etc that are creating our anxiety and panic. Mindfulness shows us how our low self esteem also impacts on us and how our thoughts about ourselves and the way we interact with other people also perpetuates our anxiety and panic.
It helps us become aware of how we constantly get hooked into feeling guilty about 1001 different situations, how our perfectionist behaviour impacts in our lives. How our need to be ‘all things to all people’ creates so much of our underlying anxiety. Once we are aware of all that we are unknowingly doing to ourselves, Mindfulness then teaches us and shows us that we can have a choice in what we think about and in how we live our lives. Other cognitive techniques usually do not go into as much subtle detail as the mindfulness techniques.
Other cognitive techniques involve changing our thoughts eg the thought…’what if the doctor has made a mistake. What if there is really something wrong with me that they have overlooked’. With cognitive therapy you would be asked to look at this thought and find a more reality based thought..i.e.
“I have seen two different doctors and a cardiologist. All the tests results from each doctor and the cardiologist show there is nothing physically wrong with me.’ and/or ‘ I have been feeling like this now for ‘X’ amount of months, years, if there was something wrong with me I would know it for sure by now..and so would the doctors!”
Mindfulness differs from this approach in so far as the technique doesn’t involve finding a more reality based thought. Mindfulness teaches the reality! With a mindfulness technique people begin to see the intimate relationship between their thought patterns and how this creates their anxiety and panic.
Once we are aware of this relationship we begin to lose our various fears because we can see, step by step, how it is being created. If we dissociate it teaches us to see how this happens and how our thoughts about it create the panic and anxiety.
As we practice Mindfulness we begin to realise that we do have a choice in what we think about. Using the mindfulness technique we can then exercise this choice!
Bronwyn Fox is the author of
- Power Over Panic: Freedom From Panic/Anxiety Related Disorders
- and the The 2nd edition, Power Over Panic
- plus “Working through Panic: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Panic/Anxiety Related Disorders” (which you can get on Bronwyn’s Web site
- and finally, the wonderful audio cassette, Anxiety Panic: Taking Back the Power