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Overcoming Physical Anxiety Symptoms

Aug 17, 2007
It is not uncommon for anxiety sufferers to experience "real" and even painful physical symptoms. Tightness in the chest, strange aches and pains, tingling sensations and hyperventilation are but a few of the most common.

These symptoms should always be checked by your doctor right away, but if your doctor determines there is no medical problem causing them, you could very well be dealing with physical anxiety symptoms.

As an example, I used to often feel that I could not breathe properly--as if I had asthma or some other respiratory problem. But after many examinations and tests, the doctors determined I was "as healthy as a horse," and that I was actually experiencing physical anxiety symptoms, brought on by chronic, low-level stress.

The techniques that helped me to break free of these symptoms may sound a bit strange at first, so a little background information is necessary to set the stage:

Anxiety problems like this become strong habits and the more you try to fight them or make them stop, the more they will continue. The way to overcome them is, ironically, to completely accept that you are causing this problem and resolve that you will NOT try to change it. Not one little bit.

This is all about "letting go of the control" in the situation, and letting your body do anything it wants to do. Because the more you try to control it, the worse the problem usually gets.

This is a way of saying "whatever my body wants is what I want too." This requires a shift in your thinking, because you really need to believe it, not just say it.

The irony is, when you do not care about these symptoms, they have a way of fading away on their own, but as long as you are bothered by them and obsess about them, they will continue to stick around.

A great example of this is blushing. I've worked with people that had this problem, and it is incredibly stubborn. However it will usually fade away on it's own once you reach the point where you could care less about it, and it makes no difference to you at all.

It's very similar to using reverse psychology on a child; when you really aren't bothered by something the child doing, they will often just stop doing it. Why? Because there's no "pay off" for them, they are not getting any attention from doing it. Physical anxiety symptoms are much the same.

There's a great proverb, "Energy flows where attention goes." This is especially true about anxiety. Focusing on the symptoms almost always makes them worse, and ignoring them by occupying your mind with other things takes their power away, and often causes them to fade away completely. That's why the most effective methods of dealing with anxiety often use some form of "distraction."

A great example of "distraction" is a woman I worked with last year who had problems with tightness in the chest and shoulders caused by chronic anxiety. Over the course of 18 months, she had seen doctor after doctor with no real relief. Desperate to try something new, she drove all the way from New Jersey to Florida (where my office is located) for a personal consultation.

The funny thing is, her mind was so occupied with the driving and being in a different environment, hotel, etc., that by the time she arrived at our meeting the problem was completely gone!

In my experience, this is not uncommon at all. The long drive, staying at a hotel, and being in an unfamiliar environment effectively caused a "shock" to her system that interrupted the "loop" in her thinking. As a result, she stopped focusing on her chronic problem, and the physical anxiety symptoms disappeared.

Breaking the "loop" in your thinking that causes physical anxiety symptoms can be as simple as shaking up your life a bit. Take a trip, or doing something outside of your "norm." Anything that occupies your mind heavily will help, and the results can often be dramatic.
About the Author
Jon Mercer, MA, is a personal development trainer and the founder of www.easycalm.com, a leading anxiety resource site. Eliminate Anxiety Symptoms Without Struggling. Watch this free video to learn how
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