On January of 2012 I became aware of what a panic attack is and how it feels. The night before leaving my home country to come to the US, I was so anxious and excited all at the same time that my thoughts spiral out of control, without even knowing I was experiencing an episode of panic attack, I had restless leg syndrome. I felt like I had to run and moved but I was tired as it was 2 am and just thinking about that got me more anxious. “why am I feeling like this, am I dying?” I was asking my mom, and she couldn’t pinpoint what was going on, so she called the paramedics. After a few questions they realized what was happening and explained it to me. I was so shocked… “this is truly a panic attack?” I kept asking because it felt like I was dying.
That day was the first time I became aware of how anxious I had become, everything was extremely exciting or extremely fearful, I was living in a constant state of stress. The second time I became very aware was one night when the person I was dating at the time didn’t show up and was not answering the phone. My mind was racing, I had millions of thoughts per minute, I went from being in fear for him to be angry at him, to cry desperate…. I could not control my body I was shaking and feeling completely out of control. I decided to turn on the hot water and let it run as I thought the sound could helped me calm down and it did. That day I learnt 2 things about myself: I had to figure out why I was so anxious and running hot water would calm me down.
I started to become more and more aware of every time I was having anxiety attacks, from the mildest to the most severe. I also started to notice the effects on my health. At least once a year I would get the stomach flu and I would be very sick for 2- 3 days. One thing I was ignoring was how I was using alcohol to cope with the anxious mind. To me, I was a person who drank socially, totally acceptable and normal. I would say it was my way to have fun and decompress. The combination of the anxiety and alcohol was killing me as I was getting out the anxious state by numbing the brain and feeling extremely sick the next day as I was poisoning my body.
One day I hit rock bottom, the hangovers were horrible, and my nervous system was so damaged that everything would either get me angry and anxious or sad and anxious, I was never out of that state. When I decided to stop drinking, I didn’t realize at the time what I was doing for myself. That allowed me to see anxiety for what it is; a worry thought spiral out of control. It also pushed to find a solution and figure out why I was this anxious. I went to therapy and even though it helped understand the intellectual part of it, at that point I was very ignorant about my own body and mind, but I was hyper aware of the need to viscerally understand myself.
While immersed in learning about the correlation between the mind and the body I connected the dots for myself. I was in constant flight or fight response and my nervous system was so out of balance that I was allowing everything outside of me causing a reaction inside of me. I was born as a very sick baby; I experienced a few medical deaths and for some odd reason I would come back. My parents were extremely stressed all the time in a state of constant anxiety, they didn’t know if I was going to live or die. My entire childhood was full of uncertainty and fear of what the future would look like. I was conditioned from my childhood to be in constant state of stress, my sympathetic nervous system was constantly activated… but why?
There is 2 parts to this, the mind and the body. Let’s start with the basics, you have 2 minds, the conscious mind is the creative mind, where ideas are born and awareness exists, and the subconscious mind is the programmed mind, the mind where habits happens. Out the 100% of your brain capacity, 95% its run by the subconscious mind and 5% by the conscious one. From 0 to 7 years your brain its in a theta wave state, meaning you are in a hypnotic state and this is because nature gave you those 7 years to be able to fill your subconscious mind with programs which you downloaded from observing your parents or caregivers. The first thing a newborn learns the first 2 weeks its to recognize the parent’s eyes and voice. Your baby learns this as a reference point for protection, if something goes wrong the first thing your baby will do its look at you to see your reactions.
If 95% of your brain its run by the subconscious mind, the invisible mind that you programmed from your parents, most likely you will pass on the family patterns, creating generational trauma. That happened to me, to you and to all of us. Those programs running your life are not yours, they came from your childhood, from your caregivers, siblings, teachers and family members. 70% of these programs are negative, and disempowering create self-sabotage and you are not even aware of it
Now, let’s talk about the body. You process information through your senses, the interpretation of the world it is created by you observing, smelling, touching, tasting and hearing. Those signals coming from your sensory organs to your brain will search in your programming and if your brain recognizes that experience as a threat it will send a signal through your spinal cord to your autonomic nervous system, activating the sympathetic nervous system. This is the system that floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones so you prepare to run. After the threat passes, all the systems reset to normal and you go back to be in balance. However, when you live like I was, in constant state of panic, you create a chronic stress disorder or CPTSD.
Research has shown that you can come out of those states by healing the trauma which will break the cycle and the lineage of pain will stop. Meditating and visualizing are very important as well. There is a powerful technique that is controversial on the old science model, but research has fully proof how it can help you heal faster and break pattern; Hormetic exercises. Hormesis is a dose response phenomenon characterized by a low dose of stressors. Exposing yourself to small and control amounts of stress will upregulate the existing cellular and molecular pathways that improve the capability of the cells to tolerate higher amounts of stress, just like your immune system, when virus attacks it, it generates a fight response creating antibodies to those viruses, but first it has to weakened by the virus to then get stronger and fight back.
Healing the trauma through pragmatic coaching and mindful hormetic exercises will change your life. Examples of hormesis are intense physical activity, controlled breathing techniques which includes controlled and small (less than 2 minutes) hypoxia, exposure to extreme cold or hot, public speaking among others will deliver controlled amounts of adrenaline and cortisol.
After healing my past, I was able to move from a state of fear and constant anxiety to find balance, from trying to control everything to surrender to the possibilities that uncertainty brings to my life. This doesn’t mean I have everything figure out, there are moments where I still have a hard time to surrender but I have the tools and I know how to get back into balance.
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