I. Know Your Enemy
Phobias are an extreme form of anxiety. The better informed you are about anxiety in general and agoraphobia in particular, the better you’ll be able to cope with your symptoms.
The first thing to realize is that anxiety is normal and actually serves a useful purpose. When you are in a potentially dangerous situation the body amps you up in several ways to prepare you to either fight your way out of danger or escape it by running away.
Anxiety becomes a problem when this natural danger response happens when you are not in any danger at all. Whether this results in mild uneasiness or uncontrollable terror is a matter of degree.
When your symptoms don’t involve the classic fear of being out in the open, you might not recognize that you are agoraphobic at all. But this fear can take many forms. What they all have in common is a situation you want to escape but feel you cannot.
II. Learn Relaxation Techniques
There are two physical techniques you can practice and become competent with that will help you control feelings of anxiety or panic.
1 Breath Control – Just as over stimulation can cause you to breath faster and possibly to hyperventilate, you can force yourself to calm down by intentionally slowing your breathing. As you take deep slow breaths it actually calms you down. This fact is well known to martial artists and stage performers alike.
2. Progressive Muscle relaxation – Go through your body first flexing a particular muscle and then relaxing it. This technique is sometimes used during hypnotic induction to help the subject relax.
The thing to remember is that you are only taking action to make yourself comfortable. So first calm your mind by focusing on the fact that there is no real danger and then take steps to calm your body.
III. Argue With That Inner Voice
While in a panic we hear whispers of thoughts we would normally find ridiculous. The best thing to do is to counter these thoughts immediately with more reasonable ones.
When your scared brain thinks “I’m going to die.” respond with “The last time I felt the same way and I’m still alive.” When you hesitate to walk into a room because you think “Everyone is going to laugh at me” remind yourself “I’ve been around these same people many times and that never happened.”
Even though you know logically that the things your scared brain spouts off don’t make sense, the longer you let them go uncontested the stronger they affect you.
It may not be so easy to do this in the grip of fear. So carry index cards with reasonable counterarguments printed on them to use when your typical negative thoughts pop into your head.
IV. Go Back Into the Lion’s Den
Start going back to places and situations that you have been avoiding. You are not doing this hoping that this time the attack won’t happen. You want it to happen so you can ride it out.
Panic attacks are normally for a short duration, maybe 15 to 30 minutes. I know it may seem like an eternity but when it’s over you’ll be completely unharmed. It’s important to prove that to yourself even though you already “know” it logically.
Start with the least scary places and gradually work your way up to the ones that make your knees knock together.
V. Practice These Techniques
It’s not enough to just read over these suggestions and think “Yeah that makes sense.” Learn the initial sensations that indicate you’re beginning to panic. Practice your relaxation techniques until they become natural to you. Visualize yourself in those situations you used to avoid.
As Robin Sharma said; “Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.” When you can see it clearly in your mind, then you can make it happen