As many of you know, my right hip has been hurting the past few months. The doctor ordered an MRI, but I kept putting it off for as long as possible before seeing a specialist, only to have the test ordered again.
The thought of having an MRI scared me. I knew the actual test wouldn’t hurt me. Instead, I was scared of having a panic attack during the procedure. Being pushed into a small, enclosed tube while being required to remain still for an extended period of time while loud noises bombard your ears sounded like a recipe for a panic attack to me.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned with overcoming agoraphobia, it’s that you have to do what you are afraid to do in order to show yourself your own strength. There are COUNTLESS times that fear has told me not do something, or has tried to stop me from doing something I wanted or need to do. And once I did it, I saw just how very strong I am.
I always seem to underestimate my own strength.
When I first started the MRI, I began to panic. I was on the verge of a full blown panic attack as I felt all the horrible sensations of fear swirling through my body. But then I remembered that I have the power and that it was a perfect opportunity for me to show off all the skills I’ve learned.
Here are some of the tools I used to bring myself down from the MRI panic attack.
Inside the machine, I noticed that my breath was shallow and my heart was racing a mile a minute. I quickly remembered that I always have the power of my breath, and that changing the breath is one of the quickest, most effective ways to snap us out of fight/flight/freeze.
So I started to slow down my breath. I added a count, 1-2-3-4 on the inhale, 1-2-3-4 on the exhale. I moved my breath down into my belly (diaphragmatic breathing). And within seconds, my whole physical response changed.
(I’m going to go really in depth on how to use the breath to calm panic and the science behind it in my upcoming Overcoming Panic Attacks Program. If you’d like to be on my mailing list to know when this program is available, sign up here.)
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: one of the quickest ways to get ourselves out of anxious thing is to tap into gratitude. There I was, freaking out about having a panic attack in this MRI, when I started to think about my dear friend and owner of the studio I teach. She has recently lost most of the vision in one of her eyes, prompting her to have many MRIs and go through tons of medical testing. I heard the day before that she had now been hospitalized for complications of her treatment. And to top it all off, she doesn’t have insurance to help pay for all these medical bills.
So it hit me. I am so THANKFUL that my insurance is covering this MRI. I am so grateful that I am able to receive the help I need. I am so thankful that it’s just hip pain and not something more serious. I am grateful that I am alive and well and that my sweet partner was waiting just outside the room for me.
My heart started to swell with gratitude rather than fear. Gratitude is SUCH a powerful way to redirect our attention away from worthless worry. There is always something to be thankful for, even in the midst of fear. Find what that is and hold onto it.
The entire time I was in the machine (about 20 minutes), I was talking to myself from a deep, loving, maternal place. Often when we panic, we begin talking to ourselves from a place of fear.
“Ahh, I can’t handle this. I need to press the button and make this test stop. I’m going to dissociate. This is too much. I can’t feel my breath. I’m going to die.” Etc.
What I’ve learned is to embody my highest, wisest self, and to speak to myself from a loving place.
“You’re doing such a great job. Feel your breath. This will all pass. You know this is just fear and there’s absolutely nothing wrong and you’re in no danger. I’m so proud of you. Feel the fear in your body because you can absolutely handle all of this.”
How do you speak to yourself when you’re afraid? Do you jump right in and validate your fears, continuing the cycle of panic? Or do you step into the role of a wise higher self that knows everything is okay?
The noises in the machine were so loud and triggering. I noticed that every time I would focus on the noises, my anxiety would increase. So I started distracting myself, taking my attention away from the noises and putting it on anything else I could think of.
I started planning my outfits for the weekend. I planned out the sequences for the yoga classes I needed to teach. I thought about what I was going to make for dinner.
Taking your attention away from the fearful, scary thoughts, sensations, or triggers can be helpful in bringing you back to a state of peace.
After the procedure, I was absolutely elated. I felt strong and capable, having shown myself how much stronger I am than I realize.
Just like YOU are so much stronger than you know. You DO have the power to do what you want or need to do. Fear cannot stop you unless you allow it to.
Know that you are strong enough to sit with fear. You are strong enough to live the life you desire, despite what fear is telling you.
Be kind to yourself. You are a warrior.
What are you avoiding out of fear??