July 28, 2014

Ask Me Anything: Woman Seeks Help for Paralyzing Anxiety (Weekly Advice Column).


Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this weeks Ask Me Anything, elephant journal’s weekly advice column where no question is out of bounds!

To submit questions for next week, email me at [email protected] or private message me on Facebook.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Dear Erica,

I am 40 years old and from Germany.

I’m suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. It started 17 (!) years ago. A few years ago I also had a big depression, but that’s okay now. It comes and goes but most of the time I can handle it. I’ve tried almost everything to get rid of my anxiety and panic attacks because they really limit my life.

There are so many things I can’t do. As I have two daughters (nearly 16 and 12), I want to show them the world, and how to have a good and funny life. But how can I do that?

One year ago I started with yoga and meditation. It helps me to see many things more clearly. But I still have my anxiety and panic attacks so that I often can’t even go to my yoga class.

My question to you is: what is it that I can’t see? How can I get rid of these anxiety attacks? What am I doing wrong? It can’t be the meaning of my life to sit at home and watch as everything passes me by.

— Panicked

Dear Panicked,

You don’t mention what happened 17 years ago, but it seems that your anxiety and panic attacks started suddenly right before your first daughter was born when you were 23.

I imagine the reality of being responsible for another human life, as well as the general weight of adulthood was pressing down on you with great intensity.

Now your two children are nearly grown and you realize you’ve spent almost half of your life feeling afraid. You are ready to evolve.

Taking up yoga and meditation are two excellent steps toward that goal. Talk therapy would be another wonderful gift for you to give yourself to help sort through confusion of why you remain paralyzed by anxiety.

Anxiety and panic attacks always begin as a coping mechanism to help protect us from a real or perceived fear, and often remain in place even when that reality or perceived fear is no longer an issue. In other words, the problem is triggered by a circumstance, but then carries on independent of the circumstance, becoming essentially habitual.

So the question really is, “How do we break the habit of anxiety?”

A simple technique which might help you retrain your brain is the practice of lovingkindness. This is a meditation intended to fill you with compassion for yourself and others, which—if practiced routinely—might very well have the power to overcome panic attacks.

Simply say the following to yourself as you sit quietly in meditation, imagining that the world is a loving and safe place.

May I be filled with lovingkindness.

May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.

May I be well in body and mind.

May I be at ease and happy.

Then direct the meditation outwards, wishing for others to be filled with lovingkindness—people close to you, acquaintances, strangers, all the people of the world, and all the living creatures of the world.

Finish by once again focusing the words on yourself, feeling with great certainty that you are loved.

You will immediately feel a shift inside your heart and mind. Repeat as often as necessary to expand your awareness and confidence.

To learn more about this classic technique, click here.


Dear Erica,

How is it that someone can be attracted to another person (sexually/romantically) while the object of the affection has no reciprocal feelings whatsoever?

Also, why am I not attracted to men who seem perfect on paper, who are good guys? Thus far attraction has never grown for me. (Actually I’m not attracted to anyone and haven’t been for quite a while, not even bad boys!)

— Stymied Romantic

Dear Romantic,

To the first I can only say, sometimes we make a connection and sometimes we don’t. You never know what’s going on in anyone’s mind or heart, what experiences they are trying to heal from, or what their priorities are—any and all of which can affect whether attraction is reciprocal.

(I’m betting there are some guys out there you’re unaware of who are attracted to you, who would ask me the exact same thing.)

As to why you’re not attracted to men who look good on paper—well, maybe what looks good on paper isn’t really what you’re looking for.

There is often a vast difference between what we think we are supposed to want and what we really want. Take the time to figure out the latter and you’ll have a lot greater chance of actually finding happiness.

As to not being attracted to anyone at the moment—I think that’s your heart (smartly) trying to do exactly as I just said.

Being comfortable being alone, allowing lots of space for introspection, and not being afraid to be different from who you’re expected to be, are all powerful ways to grow into you. If you focus on those things, the rest will naturally come—usually when you least expect it.




Love elephant and want to go steady?

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Editor: Travis May

Photos: YouTube screenshot

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