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26611 No. 26611 [Edit]
How do you deal with anxiety when its related symptoms can exacerbate anxiety in a vicious cycle? I'm rather weary about my health, so I tend to focus on minor details to the point of inducing panic.

Recently I've been feeling a little light-headed from time to time (probably because of allergies), and because I'm asthmatic I keep a pulse oximeter (small device that attaches to your finger that measure pulse rate and blood oxygen level) with me to make sure I'm alright. As I sit waiting, I unintentionally start worrying so my heart rate goes up and I start breathing faster, and my palms get clammy. When it finally picks up on my vitals, I'll usually have a heart rate in excess of 120 bpm and SpO2 of 96% (good, and normal blood oxygen level). Regardless, I'll keep focusing on it, and start unconsciously hyperventilating causing my blood oxygen level to start dropping and my heart rate to eventually rise to 150 bpm or higher. And upon seeing my falling blood oxygen level, I'll really start panicking and hyperventilating in earnest (monkey brain says breathe more even though hyperventilation depresses nervous activity and causes a rapid decrease in blood CO2, leading to further decreased blood oxygen level, potentially leading to fainting if a normal breathing pattern cannot be resumed). Another source of panic is the accuracy of the pulse oximeter. With cold hands, or sweaty palms, the accuracy of the pulse oximeter drastically falls; when in actuality the person may have a SpO2 of 96 or greater, the reading on the pulse oximeter may read 85% and below, which indicates a dramatically low blood oxygen level, possibly imminently close to fainting. What is especially distressing about hyperventilation are the effects of as one reaches closer to fainting: from your hands and feet, a creeping tingling numbness rises through your limbs, your vision tunnels and dims, your limbs become useless as you lose coordination, your speech slurs, and intense fear grips you. Meanwhile, though your senses dull, your mind remains racing and conscious as it nears closer towards fainting.

That's not even mentioning that my anxiety is so severe that I experience random rapid muscle twitches. They're more annoying than anything, but still. Another more impactful source of anxiety is that I regularly feel some degree of "chest pain", not internally mind you, from grabbing at my chest as a stress response. Later down the line, when doing uncommon movements, I'll feel a dull pain in my chest where I've grabbed at before. Of course, I now on some level that, "No, you moron, you're not having a heart attack." Despite this, however, I can't help but worry, "But what if this time it's not just my chest muscles being sore? What if it's real this time?"

That's one the eternal points of tension I feel; I understand that these worrying states are nothing to worry about, precisely because they were/are caused by my own actions. Yet still, I cannot wrestle myself out of these self-defeating behaviors. I understand that I wouldn't worry about excessive heart rate if I wouldn't look at my pulse. I understand that I wouldn't hyperventilate and worry about my SpO2 if I didn't look at it. I understand that I wouldn't be plagued with repetitive chest pain if I didn't grab at my chest and have poor posture. I understand that I wouldn't be so plagued with health anxiety if I didn't look up symptoms on health websites. And yet I do them anyways. It's almost like a learned type of OCD - I understand the irrationality of my actions, but I cannot prevent myself from still acting irrationally. That is, when my worry isn't clouding my judgement. Its one thing to be retrospective about the irrationality of my actions, but its completely different actually getting those things across when being consumed with fear.

More severe panic attacks are even worse. When first learning about COVID, prior to the broader media picking up on it and before it had even been reportedly detected in any Western countries, I was fearful reading up on it, that I would get intense chest pain. After several days of that happening, it culminated in me hyperventilating with that chest pain, resulting in me thinking I was having a heart attack. Not very fun. A few months later I went to the doctor (why, I cannot remember), only to carted off to the ER department because apparently I had high blood pressure. Ultimately, as with most of my ailments, it was determined this was a result of my anxiety. Blood work determined a few days later that I was completely fine and that there was nothing abnormal about me at all (aside from the anxiety, obviously).

But, of course, I live in the utter paradise that is America, so I'm forced to live with this crippling level of anxiety unless I'd like to piss away every last penny I own so some fuckwit Psychiatrist can prescribe me SSRIs until I want to kill myself.
>> No. 26612 [Edit]
>>26611
Perhaps you've already tried this, but maybe look into box breathing (fancy name for inhale/hold/exhale 4:4:4 seconds). This (and other various breathing techniques that you can look into) can help calm you down, and if you are able to get into the habit of employing them as soon as you notice yourself slipping into that cycle then you can at least cut down on some of the physical effects of anxiety.

As for the mental symptoms, I can relate to those more (although my anxiety is less about physical health and more ocd-ish in general worrying and indecisiveness). You've probably already heard of this given that you've likely done research already, but meditation (in the form of learning to passively observe and ultimtaely ignore thoughts) is supposed to help. But of course the paradox is that it's easier to meditate when you're calm than when your mind is racing and stuck retracing/dwelling on the same line of thinking. At least it didn't work for me though. What works slightly better for me at least is breathing techniques with prolonged breath retention. The most popular one is Wim Hof method [1], but you can look into Pranayama for other breathing techniques (e.g. alternate nostril breathing) to see which one works best for you.

Psychiatrists are mostly useless anyway, and SSRIs are a hacky, potentially dangerous workaround th a problem that can be more effectively solved by yourself. I also think that trying to fix it with supplements (e.g. omega-3) is mostly a waste of money unless this is a recent phenomenon related to a change in diet. But if you want to try, you're probably better off eating whole food (e.g. green tea instead of l-theanine pills).


[1] https://invidious.silkky.cloud/watch?v=tybOi4hjZFQ
>> No. 26613 [Edit]
>>26612
Thanks.

A few months ago when my anxiety was really severe I decided to look into meditation a bit more after having largely brushed it off as kooky new age spiritualism. Like you, I had limited success with it, but what did help me from time to time was guided meditation.

If I were to try meditating on my own, I'd largely be left unsure where to go with anything so the relief it gave me was minimal at best. Actually having a voice to direct me actually helped a lot, although going from a completely panicked state to a calm(er) one would still take a considerable amount of time. This one video [1] in particular would help quite a bit. I might be remembering a different video of there's, but my one gripe was that it would ask you to focus on various parts of your body. In particular, I think they might have even said something to the effect of "Focus on your heart's rhythm." Needless to say, as someone who's largest source of anxiety is health anxiety, being reminded of my body wasn't exactly helpful. Nevertheless, the video mainly relies on directing breathing, which I think helped a lot.

When it comes to breathing in general, it's difficult (at least for me) to gauge what's a normal breathing rhythm and what's not. Often, when I find myself hyperventilating, it's not necessarily that I do the stereotypical fast and shallow breaths, but that I end up breathing very deeply at a similar rate as usual, which I think in the moment leads to further confusion as to why I'm not getting any better.

* * *

Not entirely related to my OP, I've noticed that my anxiety has transformed over time. Initially, I had very high levels of social anxiety, although socialization on the internet has actually helped me overcome this to a large extent. Around the time that was wearing off, I began to develop very intense anxiety related to my academic performance. I did manage to overcome that as well, but in a particularly unhelpful manner. Perhaps as an unconscious coping mechanism, I effectively lost any and all motivation I once had. So, although I wouldn't concern myself with performance, I also wouldn't concern myself at all until the very moment it presented itself. Practically, however, this corrosive mentality has affected my behavior even when it comes to things I enjoy. Also around the same time, I began developing health anxiety, although it has become markedly more pronounced in recent years. Although unfortunate for myself obviously, I find it interesting how it's developed over time. It's almost as if I have an innate need for anxiety and overcoming any portion of it merely results in a new form of anxiety developing.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6X5oEIg6Ak
>> No. 26614 [Edit]
>>26613
Some people treat it as new agey thing, but there's nothing really mystical about it – if you calm the mind, then you can control your emotions. Some of the more ancient scriptures for meditation & breathing in eastern traditions (e.g. pranayama) will mention things like "energy," but even that can be thought as just a metaphor for body scanning and focusing on different parts of the body.

>Guided meditation
There are different types of meditaiton – forms where you focus and pay conscious attention to certain aspects such as your breath, and forms where you try to cease all thoughts entirely. The former is a lot easier than the latter, but both have the general goal of trying to prevent your mind from ruminating on random things and keeping it constrained. And yes guided meditation can work better if you've never done it before. You should search around and try to find a tutorial that works best for you, since you mentioned that focusing on breathing helped. (But on the other hand, don't stress about trying to find the "optimal" technique. Something that gets you decent results practiced more frequently is probably better than spending that time trying out different techniques and not really getting comfortable with any one. And you can always modify things over time to fit yourself better.)

> it's difficult (at least for me) to gauge what's a normal breathing rhythm and what's not
The box breathing thing I mentioned has animations to help you visualize the correct rythm for that technique. Try looking at that, and it's easy to synchronize your breathing to that.
>> No. 26615 [Edit]
>>26614
>forms where you try to cease all thoughts entirely
Isn't that just what people do when they go to sleep?
>> No. 26616 [Edit]
>>26615
Good question, and I have not been practicing for very long so someone else can chime in if they have a better answer. I think the difference is that when meditating you still maintain awareness and "consciousness," but you're just not actively processing anything. But I don't really think anyone other than the really-experienced monks have achieved that state without thoughts entirely.

For most regular people, the difference is then that with meditation your body remains relaxed as in sleep but your mind remains aware yet restful (minimal thoughts). In some sense this could also translate to hyper-awareness of your surroundings. Maybe it could also be framed as a sort of active awareness (during meditation) vs passive lack of awareness (during sleep).

When I try meditating for longer than 5 minutes though I end up feeling sleepy and lulled into a state of hypnagogia. I assume that this is _not_ the goal since when I fall into this state I can feel my mind starting to wander (a different type of wandering than the rumination of anxiety. In the hypnagogia state it's more nonsensical wandering, like a random walk on the plane of nonsensical/abstract thoughts). I don't know how to prevent it though.
>> No. 26617 [Edit]
>>26616
>I don't know how to prevent it though
Set a range of acceptable meditative thoughts(autobiographical, introspective, etc), if you start to wander when you are trying to cease thought, you can go back to the acceptable thoughts and after that try to cease them again. Kinda works for me.
>> No. 26648 [Edit]
>>26612
I tried this box breathing thing today, Anonymous, and it helped a lot. Thanks!
>> No. 26649 [Edit]
>>26648
Did you follow a particular video/animation?
>> No. 26650 [Edit]
>>26648
Also let me know if you find something that works for you in terms of reducing anxiety on the longer-term scale. Guided breathing and meditation tend to work pretty well for short intervals but no matter how much I meditate the effects start wearing off about 30 minutes later and I'm back to the anxious, scattered, ruminating thought patterns. I guess the goal is to get to a point where I can achieve that meditative "calmness" at all times of the day even without having to be physically meditating, but considering that even during meditation I think 90% of my time is spent actively trying to avoid falling into those wandering thoughts and the remaining 10% of truly calm time is spent in bursts of a few dozen seconds, this seems insurmountable.
>> No. 26653 [Edit]
Anxiety can also be caused by purely bodily stuff like junk food or poor posture / wasted muscles. But if this has been going on for years you would have notice some pattern in this anxiety already.

My 2 cents on meditation: it will not make magic on the long term but can't hurt either. Just observe the thoughts, don't try to suppress them or shoo them away. Direct your attention into the body or at your breathing. And if you "fail" at it in any way don't beat yourself up for it.
>> No. 26656 [Edit]
>>26653
>Just observe the thoughts
People always say this, but what does this mean? When I start thinking of something and I realize that I'm thinking about it, and shift my attention back to consciously breathing, is that the correct thing to do? I wouldn't really call that "observing," but I haven't read any other techniques.
>> No. 26657 [Edit]
>>26653
>Anxiety can also be caused by purely bodily stuff like junk food or poor posture / wasted muscles
Can also be caused by vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin D is the easiest to fix (go out in the sun) and also probably one that most imageboard-dwellers are deficient in, followed by things like magnesium (can also cause insomnia) or b12 (if you eat meat rarely).

>Just observe the thoughts, don't try to suppress them or shoo them away
and adding on to >>26656
After some more reading I guess I'm not doing anything wrong, and that's what "observing" thoughts are? Basically by virtue of the fact that the mind is mostly serial (as opposed to parallel), your attention can only be given to one thing so if you become "aware" of the fact that you're thinking about something (that is, become aware of the thought in a meta-sense instead of just naively letting the thought unfold by itself), then you naturally stop the unfolding of that thought and prevent the growth of any sub-thoughts that might have arisen (which some people call "collapsing" the thought).

Calling it "observation" is a bit of a misnomer to me since it implies that it's some sort of passive/idle thing, but the process of noticing you're engaged in a thought and shifting attention back is inherently active. I guess the intent of calling it "observation" was to underscore some philosophical point about separation between "you" and "your thoughts," but that just feels like the semantic wordgames of philosophy – it's not really some deep insight that thoughts arise by themselves mechanically in response to stimulus or past thoughts.

But either way, yeah I can see how getting good at shifting focus to prevent the unfolding of thoughts will naturally lead to reduced wandering of the mind and prevent you from getting caught up in those thoughts. And maybe over time the interval between thoughts that arise will lengthen, leading to that state of no-thought some people have managed to achieve.

Still, since meditation only really gives you a tool to avoid engaging in thoughts – not prevent the thoughts from arising themselves – it's not exactly a silver bullet as you said. With anxiety/ocd, those thoughts are something you feel "need" to be engaged with, otherwise it eats away at you. You can put it off temporarily – as I do during meditation – but after the session, those thoughts come back. It's something like hunger or thirst, you can ignore it for short periods of time but eventually you must deal with it. The hypothetical solution would be a way to reprogram the mind to "lower the priority" of these thoughts so they don't keep resurfacing, or equivalently convince the mind that X is ultimately trivial and no additional brainpower needs to be spent mulling over it. I've heard of CBT but I don't know if that works.
>> No. 26666 [Edit]
>>26656
By observe I mean just let the thoughts be. If a thought pops into your head it's not a signal that you need to engage in thinking about that stuff. You can if you want to.

>shift my attention back to consciously breathing, is that the correct thing to do?

yo. but I would say try to relax your body. When the tension from the body goes away the breathing will become less tense and compulsory thinking slows down. Keep experimenting. I used to find most tension in my jaw, face muscles, neck, arms, shoulders, chest.

>>26657
>Can also be caused by vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin D is the easiest to fix (go out in the sun) and also probably one that most imageboard-dwellers are deficient in, followed by things like magnesium (can also cause insomnia) or b12 (if you eat meat rarely).

Magnesium by all means. Stress eats it up. Vitamin D deficiency seems to cause lethargy and generally feeling like crap. I dont know about B12 specifically but I've read that taking B-complex reduces stress.

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