Thinking about my breathing!!!!!
It's so bad... my obsession nowadays is thinking about my breathing. I'm so scared. I don't wanna die. I don't wanna think I'll stop breathing. Etc etc etc. 😭 I'm so scared.....
It's okay - your lungs were made to take in air and let it out. You aren't going to die. You are okay. Do some grounding exercises - what is the prettiest thing in the room? where did you get it from? what color is it? say the answers out loud to yourself. if you have a blanket or favorite pillow - grab it and hold it for a while - think about the color, where you got it from, how does it feel - warm? fuzzy? does it have a special smell to it?
Thank you sooooo much for replying!!! I honestly appreciate it.. I will try it. It's just sooo freaking scary beyond anything. God. 😖 like I don't wanna have to think about it every minute. I can't relax and I'm just frustrated.
I really get it. I constantly worry about something similar. It is scary, but I promise it is okay. You are safe. a few other things that may help:
- get a book and begin to read - or even a magazine or newspaper. Just read out loud - that shows that you can breathe and think of something else.
- keep telling yourself that you are safe. your body has several mechanisms to support breathing all through the night.
- call a friend and talk for a while.
- focus on the 5 senses - kinda like the grab a pillow thing.
Thank you so much.... I took a pic of this so I can save it. I love how when we have our shitty days, someone who's in a better state of mind can help us get through. I told my bf just now I just wanna be "normal" again. I know we can't tell a person if they suffer from something if it didn't say on their shirt. But I do feel alone bc I'm the only one that's exposed and I'm not ashamed of it at all. I just hate when it gets in the way of things. Mainly everyday.. like cmon.
I can't tell you how many times I have felt the same way. The more we focus on our breathing, the more we think we are not getting enough air, but its because we are now making ourselves breath instead of the air coming in and out naturally. I agree with the above post about finding things to make you feel grounded. The five senses really does work to preoccupy the mind. Sometimes at night when it's quiet and we arent busy is when we can really focus on the bad thoughts and feelings that we get. Have you ever tried meditation? I just recently started trying this at night and it really works. There is an app that you can download and its called insight timer. There are many choices to listen to. You basically lay in your room and just listen to what they are telling you. The music is very relaxing and takes your mind off of things. I like you and I'm sure many more of us, have thought we wished we were normal a million times!!! There have been many times when I thought I am not normal and things like that, but guess what, we are normal! We are just those special people who tend to feel more, empathize more and worry about things a little more than others. That doesn't make us not normal, that makes us special. Try to put positive spin on it because anxiety is awful enough on its own without it labeling us as not normal. <3
Thank you soooo much Jen for taking your time in replying! It means soo much... I will DL that app and try it out. I have meditated and yeah helps to a certain extent. I guess the failure on my part is not being consistent with any of it. I think it's the challenge of it is staying still. Like I've tried Accupuncture and let me tell ya, it was torture when I knew I couldn't move. I wanted to run outta there even with the pins on me. Something on my body has to be able to move or so I think it does.. There's that stupid thing being in control again. It's tough to just let things be... I can't control anything except for how I feel. And look there's my answer but yet it's so damn hard to do! I can't say I've tried everything in the books yet, so I'm still on a mission of what works for me. This is weird but sometimes my go to is the most disgusting things. Like pimple popping or black head removal in YouTube. I guess it's like self soothing? I have no idea lol. But yeah, I know we're normal. We just view things a bit differently then others. I just don't wanna be hard on myself anymore.
Thanks Jen for the info about insight timer !. I don't struggle as much with the breathing as I do feeling like I can't hear my heart and then my chest gets tight. Very good insights.
Relax.. you are breathing. Anxiety is the devil. It can have you think all kinds of stuff. Just last month I was catching myself holding my breath because of anxiety. Don't let it fool you. You are breathing and you are not gonna die.
Thank you hopingCat 💕.. means so much! I know that feeling when you daze off and not realize if you're breathing.. scary stuff man. It's so so soo hard at times. I just wanna be able to switch off my thoughts.
Have you tried Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, often called ACT for short, with a therapist? I did and although didn't completely fix me, it worked better than CBT.
Six basic principles form the foundation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. They work with one another toward the main goals of effectively handling painful thoughts and experiences and creating a rich, vital life.
The principles are:
2.Expansion and acceptance
3.Contact and connection with the present moment
4.The Observing Self
I have a few notes here about each principle with apologies to travellers and chocholate cakes
Principle 1: Cognitive defusion
This skill is about learning to perceive thoughts, images, memories and other cognitions for what they are – nothing more than bits of language and images – rather than what they often appear to be: threatening events, rules that must be obeyed, or objective truths and facts.
The opposite psychological process – cognitive fusion – refers to a blending of cognitions (products of the mind, such as thoughts, images, or memories) with the things that they refer to. In cognitive fusion, for example, our mind might have the same reaction to the phrase “chocolate cake” as if we were presented with a slice of it. That is, the mere presentation of the stimulus – the words “chocolate cake” – might be enough to start us drooling, imagining the sweet taste, and feeling the heavy, creamy texture in our mouths of the frosting. In a state of cognitive fusion, it seems as if:
◾Thoughts are reality: as if what we are thinking is actually happening
◾Thoughts are the truth: we totally believe them
◾Thoughts are important: we treat them seriously, giving them our full attention
◾Thoughts are orders: we automatically obey them
◾Thoughts are wise: we assume they know best and we follow their advice
◾Thoughts are threats: we let them frighten or disturb us but, as any dieter can tell you, the word or image of chocolate cake is not the same (at least in terms of both pleasure and caloric intake!) as the real thing. The process of cognitive defusion aims to separate unpleasant, unwelcome thoughts, feelings, urges, memories, or other products of the mind from ourselves. It is the stepping-back from them to get a perspective and see them for what they are: just bits of language passing through. Successful employment of cognitive defusion leads to a more spacious psyche, as you will see from the second principle.
Principle 2: Expansion/acceptance
Called “acceptance” by some other ACT practitioners and theorists, this skill is termed “expansion” by because “acceptance” is loaded with other meanings. It refers to the practice of making room for unpleasant feelings, sensations, and urges, instead of trying to suppress them or push them away. By opening up and allowing them to come and go without struggling with them, running from them, or giving them undue attention, we find that they bother us much less. They also move on more quickly, instead of hanging around and bothering us.
Imagine the situation for the person who says, “I feel so anxious about going out on a date. I’m so afraid that I won’t have anything to say, or that I’ll say something really dumb.” Through the use of CBT techniques counsellors, could help the person dispute the negative beliefs that he/she is a poor conversationalist or a boring date, replacing her anxious thoughts with positive, affirming ones, such as that you are interesting, good at conversation, or a worthy social companion. Through longer, psychotherapeutic processes, you could discover the experiences in your past (probably early childhood) which created the sense of her as socially inept. Psychotherapy takes a long time, however, and even when the effect of past history on present experience becomes known, there is still the “war of words” as the various voices within you – the critical ones and the affirming ones – clamour for attention. Being in such a war is a major drain on resources!
The ACT principle of expansion/acceptance works differently. It would ask you to imagine that you are about to go out on a date. You would then be instructed to scan your body, observing where you felt the anxiety most intensely. Let’s say that you report experiencing a huge lump in your throat. You might be then asked to observe the sensation of the lump as if you were were a scientist who had never seen anything like it before: to notice the shape, weight, vibration, temperature, pulsation, and other aspects of it. You would be invited to breathe into the lump, making room for it, allowing it to be there (even though we would be highly empathetic in understanding that you did not like it or want it there!). You might be given the “homework” between sessions to practice observing your lump of anxiety: not trying to get rid of it, but just letting the sensation of the lump, and possibly other sensations associated with anxiety, come and go as they pleased: acknowledging them, not resisting them, but also not engaging with them.
Principle 3: Contact (connection) with the present moment
to allow ourselves to experience sensations, feelings, and thoughts which have arisen is to follow the third ACT principle, that of making contact with the present moment, which Harris prefers to call “connection” (Harris, 2007, p 47). It means living in the present, focusing on whatever we are doing, and bringing full awareness to the here-and-now experience: with openness, interest, and receptiveness. Instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, we are deeply connected with what is happening right here, right now. With connection, we are fully engaged in whatever we are doing.
In practicing connection, we might ask: why bother pulling myself out of the past or the future to come back to the present moment? Why is doing so considered so beneficial for me? There are three primary reasons:
This is the only life we’ve got (even for many who believe in such concepts as reincarnation, this is the only life we are aware of living right now, or tend to have information about), so why not make the most of it? To be only half-present is to miss half of it. Lack of present-moment contact is akin to listening to a favourite piece of music with ear plugs in the ears, or eating a favourite food when the mouth is still numb from a visit to the dentist; we miss the richness there could be.
Right now is the only time when we have any power. Given that a foundation of ACT is being committed to appropriate, values-guided action, we can remind clients that, to create a meaningful life, we must take action, and the power to act exists only in the present moment. As the Arab saying goes, “One cannot mount a camel which has not yet arrived (the future), nor one which has already departed (the past)”.
“Taking action” means effective action, not just any old action. Effective action in ACT is defined as that which helps us to move in a valued direction. To find out in which way lies that direction, we must be psychologically present to be aware of what is happening, how we are reacting, and therefore how it is right for us to respond. Harris advocates recalling a mnemonic for ACT: “Accept your internal experience and be present; Choose a valued direction; and Take action”: ACT (Harris, 2007, p. 152).
Even those who tend to live their lives through the mediating influence of their thoughts generally have some experience of present-moment-contact: times when it arose spontaneously and unexpectedly. A person fearing social ineptness, for example, could be asked to reflect on any time when he/she might have been totally engrossed in being with someone else (date or otherwise): the experience of, say, hanging on every word the person uttered, noticing the movements their mouth made as they were speaking, recalling the scent of the person, and how their hair was combed (or not). Full engagement with other person is likely to have ejected (however temporarily) thoughts of social inadequacy from their mind.
To practice this skill it is not necessary to go on an actual date (in the case of the person fearing social ineptitude), or even have another person around. We can ground ourselves in the present moment whenever or wherever we like, simply by tuning in. An ACT therapist, for example, might ask you to notice every little aspect of your experience of taking a shower: the feel of the water as it hits the skin and runs down, the sight of the rising steam in the bathroom, or the scent of any soaps or other products applied to the body in the process of showering or after-shower care. Or a person could practice the present-moment-connection principle by observing minute details of the dishwashing experience after dinner: the clinking sound of the plates against the bench top, the feel of the soapy water washing over them, the sensation and sound of squeaking as the items beco me truly clean, and the visual experience of placing them on the drain board.
Even easier: an ACT-oriented counsellor could give you a single piece of food – say, a dried fig – and ask the person to focus on nothing else but the eating of it. The person can be instructed that distracting thoughts and feelings may arise; these can be allowed to come and go as they will; you attention should remain focused on the fruit. Upon “graduating” to an interpersonal situation, the person would be encouraged to have a conversation with another person focusing totally on that person rather than on her own thoughts and feelings. However the connection/contact with the present moment happens, it occurs through the Observing Self.
Principle 4: The Observing Self
The Observing Self is a powerful aspect of human consciousness, one largely ignored by Western psychology. To connect with it is to access a transcendent sense of self: a continuity of consciousness that is unchanging, ever-present, and unable to be harmed. From this most inclusive perspective of oneself, it is possible to experience directly such statements as found in some body-feelings-mind relaxations that, “I am my body, and I am more than my body; I am my feelings and I am more than my feelings; I am my mind and yet I am more than my mind”. From this place, we are able to experience that our thoughts, feelings, memories, urges, sensations, images, roles, and physical body are peripheral aspects of ourselves, but as they are constantly changing, they are not the essence of who we are.
To understand the principle of the Observing Self is to comprehend that when we become aware of our thoughts, there are actually two processes occurring: that of thinking, and that of observing the thinking. We can draw the client’s attention – again and again if necessary – to the distinction between the thoughts that arise and the self that is observing them. From the perspective of the Observing Self, no internal experience (that is: thought, feeling, image, or urge) is dangerous or controlling .
As stated earlier that the six principles work together with one another to help us create a meaningful life. We can state now that present-moment-connection happens with the Observing Self. It involves bringing our full attention to what is happening here and now, without getting distracted or influenced by the thinking self. The Observing Self is said to be non-judgmental by nature, because judgments are thoughts, and therefore a product of the thinking self. The Observing Self doesn’t get into struggles with reality; it sees things as they are without resisting them. It is only when we judge things – such as “bad”, “unfair”, or “mean” – that we resist them. It is, then, the thinking self which tells us that “life shouldn’t be as it (reality) is”, that we would be happier if we were somewhere else, someo ne else, or somehow different. It is thus our thinking self that puts a veil of illusion between ourselves and life, disconnecting us from reality through boredom, distraction, or resistance.
The Observing Self, conversely, is incapable of boredom or resistance. It greets each stimulus, each experience, with openness, curiosity, and interest. Boredom and resistance are thought processes: stories that life would be more interesting or better if… (fill in the blank). The Observing Self, always present and available, is able to cut through that, waking us up and connecting us to the infinite possibilities of human experience that we may encounter, regardless of whether the experience is novel or familiar. Paradoxically, by engaging the Observing Self as we encounter unpleasant experience, we often find that the aspects we were dreading become much less bothersome than they were before. Things are seen in a new light.
To connect with the Observing Self is to have the ready capacity to disidentify from pain and unhappiness. As we stand in the shoes of the (disidentified) Observing Self, we can still feel pain and unhappiness (our thinking self may still be giving us thoughts that we hurt or are unhappy), but not all our consciousness is tied up in that, because some of it is involved with the Observing Self in watching ourselves feel the pain. Thus, the experience becomes more bearable as we experience – through the choice of two positions in which to be – a more spacious psyche.
Within the context of any given experience, we can choose – consciously or unconsciously, by default – where we stand. Our choice is determined by the values that we hold, so a key component of effective living is to be clear on what those values are.
Principle 5: Values clarification
This ACT principle is about clarifying what is most important in the deepest part of ourselves that we can access. It involves asking what sort of person we want to be, what is meaningful to us, and what we want to stand for in this life. Our values provide direction for our lives and motivate us to make significant changes. Guided by values, not only do we experience a greater sense of purpose and joyfulness, but also, we see that life can be rich and meaningful even when “bad” things are happening to us.
Thus, ACT-oriented counselling might ask the client to complete a “life values” questionnaire, which asks respondents to reflect on their values in ten domains, from family and marriage relationships through education and spirituality to community life and relationship with nature. Some clients would prefer to skip values clarification exercises, and there may be several reasons why this is so.
Values versus goals. Some people may not be clear on the difference between values and goals.Goals are a one-shot deal where values are so because they are consistently in our lives as something we hold dear. The analogy to use is of someone going on a journey, saying that he will keep heading west. That consistent direction is analogous to a value, because no matter how far the person may travel there is always more westerly direction in which he can proceed. Saying that he intends to ascend to the peak of a particular mountain along the way, however, is a goal, because once he climbs to the top of the mountain, he has achieved the goal, and it is a done deal . Once we know what we value, we can derive meaningful goals in order to live by our values. But therein may lie another obsta cle to enacting this principle.
But are they my real values? Some individuals may resist enacting Principle 5, or even completing any questionnaires around it, because they are uncertain whether the answers that they provide will reflect their “real” values. Of course, simply because someone says that they value a particular thing – say, being compassionate – it can be counted as their value, because by definition, a value is something we hold dear. Merely to answer that we value a certain thing above others is to cherish it, to have it as a value. This is a similar objection to the person who says…
I don’t know what I want. Again, whatever we might choose is already our value, simply because we have valued it by naming it. But it does bring up the issue of…
What if my values conflict? It is valid thought. To not have values pulling one in different directions is difficult to impossible, especially in hectic modern life. A person may, for example, dearly value the importance of quality time with family, and just as dearly want to rise through the ranks at work, thus giving primary attention to that; the two values are likely to conflict at some stage, if not regularly.
The reality is that we sometimes must prioritise one domain over another, asking ourselves: “What’s most important at this moment in my life, given the conflicting values I’m experiencing?” The person then needs to act on the chosen value, without worrying about what he or she is missing out on, knowing that, if necessary, the balance can be “corrected” at some later stage. Some people will object to clarifying their values on grounds of past failure or frustration.
I don’t want to think about it; I’m just setting myself up for disappointment. Those who have experienced a lot of frustration or failure to live chosen values may be afraid to acknowledge what they really want, for fear that – yet again – they will fail to achieve it. These twin objections to choosing clear values speak to the “I can’t change”, “I’ll only fail”, or “I don’t deserve any better” fears that reside in many hearts. The past is the past and it cannot be changed, but the future begins right now. People expressing this sort of resistance can be encouraged to breathe into their discomfort and acknowledge that these statements are only thoughts; they can come and go as you refocus on the valuing exercise.
I’ll do it later. Yeah, right. Mental health helpers have heard this one before! Principle 5 of values clarification will go nowhere when the procrastination beast is roaming. Tell yourself that it’s “later” now, and time to do what is enshrined in the very name of ACT therapy: act.
Principle 6: Committed action
You set goals and takes action: but not just any action. You understand that the rich and meaningful life you desire is created by taking effective action, which is that guided by your chosen values. Will you have a perfect record in pursuing the goals you have set? No, of course not, but no matter how many times you may go “off the rails” – or not even get going down the track – the values are there to provide inspiration and motivation for re-engaging action. The goals are there to remind you of the actions that will help you to arrive at the visualised life. It is up to you to supply the will and energy to take the action.
You can find analogy in the would-be traveller who really, really wants to go to Africa. The person buys informational and tour guide books on Africa, contacts travel agents, and plans out the itinerary for the particular spots he wants to visit. He is sure his life will be fabulous if he can just get to Africa! At the end of the day, he won’t actually be present for any of his planned safaris – and nothing at all will change in his life – unless he gets out of the armchair, packs his bag, and fronts up on the appointed day to board the plane. No amount of reading about Africa will give him the actual experience of Africa that he desires. He must, ultimately, supply the will and energy to go there in order to be changed by the rich and meaningful experience of Africa.
Wow.... THANK YOU so much for this!!! I have yet to finish this but I just wanna say thank you so much. I'm willing to exhaust all options just to find something that works for me. I have some that do but I end up going backwards so anything is very helpful! Thank you thank you 💕
Don't worry. You won't stop breathing! Diaphragm pushes down and up to push air into lungs. It is controlled by the parasympathetic part of nervous system. Meaning it controls your breathing automatically.
Don't worry your breathing is controlled by diaphragm moving up and down. Diaphragm is controlled by parasympathetic system, part of nervous system. Just mean it's automatic.
Thank you so much Carin! 💕
Obviously I'm breathing so I'm thinking it not feeling it, it happened while I was driving. I was anxious...
like I'm going to die I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression I can't stop thinking about it...
start to cry. I don't want to keep thinking about it. I don't know what to do. It's not bad to the point...
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