Maybe you've heard me mention The Path to Panic Free on Facebook, Instagram, or maybe you've seen some talk about this plan in my weekly emails. If you haven't, I want to take some time here right now to tell you about what this path is and what it isn't.
Back in March when we began this time of social distancing, I also began creating an online course for teenagers who deal with underlying, constant, overwhelming anxiety. If this is something you've experienced in your own life, it's not something I need to explain. If it's not, allow me to give you a sneak peek into life with underlying anxiety and panic attacks.
Anxiety is waking up to sunlight streaming through your window, barely opening your eyes, and feeling a heaviness for no reason. It's a crocodile under the water, just waiting to spring an attack. Anxiety is not being able to concentrate, but also not being able to stop the fearful thoughts, the worry, or the constant feeling of dread that has no explanation and no rational basis. For some people, it's not being able to stop thinking, analyzing, and replaying thoughts.
Now, imagine being sucked into a whirlpool of darkness where you can't swallow, your arms and legs are tingling and heavy, and your shaking from the inside out. When you finally move through the panic, you're so tired you have to sleep off the feeling and hope (often without actual hope) that you'll feel better once you wake. When you do, the sun is shining, and the crocodile is waiting...
My anxiety started all the way back in elementary school. It was the 1980s and I was living in a small town in Indiana. No one spent much time talking about anxiety or depression. This wasn't specific to Indiana but to the country as a whole. Mental health simply wasn't a topic of concern in the way it is in 2020. As a third grade student, I often spent time in the sick room at my little school - feeling tired, sick to my stomach, and wanting to go home. I knew I didn't feel good but I also knew I wasn't "sick". What I didn't know is that I was anxious.
Fast forward to middle school when I had my first panic attack. I can tell you exactly where I was sitting in the library of my same little K-8 county school. I was reading a magazine article about Ryan White. (If you’ve never heard of Ryan, he was a teenager from Indiana who died from the AIDS virus he had contracted during a blood transfusion.) This was a brand new disease that we didn’t know much about. All I knew was it was scary, you caught it from other people, and you would not survive. So began an intense phobia of AIDS and a host of other scary health diagnoses as well. I sometimes joke that I've had every disease out there but none of them at the same time. And, in true anxiety fashion, I've never been a germaphobe so try to figure that one out! I'm not afraid of germs and I hate hand sanitizer.
That moment, at least to the best of my memory, was the first time I could pinpoint my anxiety, even though I didn't know much about it. Since then, I've had numerous rounds of anxiety revolving around diseases. The funny part about anxiety is that even when you’re afraid of something so deeply that it causes you to lose your ability to be rational, you sometimes dig deeper in to try to feel better - or that was the case with me. The more I tried to learn about various diseases, the harder it was to stop the compulsion and the worse my anxiety became. I was trapped in the cycle of anxiety and panic with no idea how to escape.
I had other coping mechanisms as well. My best was to call my parents and ask them to tell me I was being stupid. I also asked for the reassurance of my friends that I was just being a hypochondriac or that I was being crazy which helped me to feel oddly better in the sense that I knew they cared about me and would certainly be fearful of my having a terrible disease if it were true.
By the time I was in high school and college, I tried medicine that made my anxiety worse and caused depression, I tried a brief time in counseling learning a few CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) techniques that didn't help much at all. I tried "forgetting", and freaking out. I prayed everyday that my anxiety would go away and even begged God to just let me die!
This was my life. I spent years trying hit or miss techniques or medications to get anxiety under control with no lasting success. The more I tried, the more defeated and anxious I became. Sure, I had a lot of fun and some peaceful times but that feeling of anxiety was always right there under the surface just waiting to rear its ugly head.
Fast Forward to Today
After nearly 30 years of trying different medications, mantras, and techniques, I am FINALLY free! Sure I still have anxious times, but there is a difference. Now I also have new habits, new skills, and a new mindset. I have support and accountability that I didn't have before thanks to the emphasis on mental health and how anxiety manifests in people's lives. Make no mistake, my parents did everything they could do to help me feel better but what we didn't have in terms of understanding about anxiety and depression then, we have now. We have HOPE and we absolutely can end the cycle of anxiety and panic.
I never, ever want another teenager to live with panic and constant anxiety the way that I did for as long as I did. When I tell you that I know how you feel, you can rest assured that I truly do remember the feelings. The good news? You don’t have to continue to live exhausted, afraid, held-hostage, or small.
How You Can Start Walking on The Path to Panic Free
Here is what I want you to know, the goal of The Path to Panic Free is not to cure your anxiety. The goal is for you to make peace with it.
So what’s the difference?
Curing anxiety means you won’t have it anymore. Ever.
Making Peace with Anxiety is not about magically ending anxiety in your life, it’s about learning to ride the waves of anxious times confidently and with courage so you can move through anxious moments and live your life without fear and worry holding you back.
This isn’t about a “quick fix” to feel good for a day or even a month, this is about digging into the habits we can change that contribute to underlying anxiety and rewiring your brain and body to increase your confidence in your ability to live the life you deserve and want to live.
The Path to Living Panic Free has short, medium and long term techniques to stop panic attacks from taking over your life while reducing underlying anxiety and increasing your confidence in your ability to manage your anxiety so it doesn’t stop you from living the life you deserve and want.
Imagine waking up excited for all the opportunities and experiences waiting for you, knowing you have the confidence and tools you need to take on whatever comes your way. Imagine knowing that crocodile is miles away and even if he did rear his ugly head, you could ignore him and keep moving forward toward. Imagine what would open up for you!
Registration is NOW OPEN until September 8, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. EST. I'd love to have you join me on this path for my BETA launch. You can get all of the details using the links I have provided or by emailing me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Big Picture
Before I give you some of the highlights of the Path to Living Panic Free course, let’s take a look at the bigger picture:
As you can see, the course is broken up into six short weekly lessons. What I want to be clear on is that just because the course won’t take you hours each week does not mean that it isn’t powerful. I created this course to be concise, clear, and not manageable. If the content required hours for you to complete, there’s a very good chance overwhelm would set in and you’d slow down or quit entirely.
I know how powerful this information can be and I want you to take small, manageable bites. These lessons are jam packed with relevant information and powerful action steps for you to take each week that will lead you toward some quick fixes for stopping panic attacks while rewiring the way your brain looks for and processes information over time to lower overall anxiety.
To supplement this information, you’ll have access to all of my curated resources one lesson at a time. These resources support your action steps and allow you to really dig into change. I highly suggest grabbing a notebook or a journal to use as well. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something you can use to record your work and your successes in. You’ll hear more about this later as we move into the course lessons.
To support you, and to help you support each other, I have created a private Facebook group where I’ll stop in once a week for a live Q&A session and here and there throughout the week to answer questions as well. This is also a great place for you to talk through your experiences and share what is working well for you… and what you’re struggling with. Support and accountability are vital to your success and since we are all going through this process together, what a great opportunity to cheer each other on and lean on each other when things get rough.
I’ll talk more about continued support and other opportunities more later.
My Promise to You
As my student, your success is what motivated me to create this content. I want you to look back on this day as the day that you made a powerful and life-changing choice in your life. I want you to not only succeed but to thrive and to share with me all of the success and amazing adventures you are going to take on the other side of panic and fear. It’s on it’s way to you and I promise to do my best to support you through this process because your success is my success.
I will teach you step-by-step short, medium, and long term solutions to help you stop panic attacks before they start while reducing underlying anxiety over time.
I will be open, honest, and encouraging about the results you can expect and my experience using the techniques I am teaching you.
What I Ask Of You As My Student
This experience is more than just watching a short slide presentation and listening to audio. It requires a commitment to follow along and complete steps with intention - even if it seems silly or scary. You’ll learn some new things and you might review some concepts that you’ve heard before. That’s okay. When we hear something we have heard before that doesn’t mean we truly understand it yet. Listen to it again. Wrestle with the idea and see how it might apply to your own experience with anxiety. This is one area where the journal will come in handy.
I’m asking you to make a firm decision to stick with this course and give it your all. As you know now, these lessons are designed to be short so that your success in following through is far more likely. What I want you to do is to make a decide which literally means to make a final choice that you will do the work with everything you’ve got. Start right now by telling yourself that you’ve got this and it’s going to be SO worth it. I promise it is.
Take the time to connect with your classmates on Facebook for support and encouragement as you work through the lessons. When you’re wrestling with choosing fear over action, when you’re wondering how an action is shaping up for other or if you’re “doing it right”, by the way, I assure you that you can’t mess this up.. Check in. The people moving through this course with you understand your pain better than anyone. Since this Facebook group is private, you don’t have to worry about the rest of your Facebook friends’ eyes falling on your posts. This group is for the Path To Panic Free students only.
And finally, take your time and dig into the exercises. Don’t do a half way job when you can do more. Take the initiative to use your journal, spend the time and muster your bravery. The more you devote to the process, the faster you’ll start to see results.
Before I wrap up I want to present a little mindset shift for you around making peace with anxiety. I want you to think of this as a change of habits and behaviors, not as something you do once and forget. This isn’t something you do right before the next week’s content comes out, but something you engage in every day of every week to begin with. It should become part of your daily routine . Once you do the initial work and create consistency, you’ll notice yourself automatically using the tools and skills you are about to learn as part of your daily live. That is how you know that you have made peace with your anxiety. It’s not that you never feel anxious again, it’s that you know how to handle it, deal with it, and move on without letting it control you.
Here’s what I want you to do now. Grab a notebook or a journal. A binder full of paper will work just fine - you don’t need anything fancy. Create a space for you to watch your lesson each week where your phone, the TV, or your life won’t distract you. This is your time to work on YOU and you deserve it.
I’ll see you soon inside Module 1. Bye for now.