Week One starts you off with two healing practices, each of which take about 15 minutes a day. The first is Belly Breathing, and the second is starting your Inner Safety Journal.
This is a very powerful and very simple technique. It teaches you slow breathing from the "diaphragm" or belly. It relaxes you and also relieves many of the symptoms of anxiety. Plan to practice it once a day, starting with five minutes. Then, gradually increase the time up to about 15 minutes.
Lie comfortably on your back, with a pillow under your head, your knees bent and your back flat. You can stretch your legs out if that's more comfortable. Place one hand on your belly. Once you're comfortable, you can start the exercise.
Inhale through your nose while you slowly count -- one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two. You know you're doing "belly breathing" when you can feel your belly expand, like a balloon. Then, exhale through your nose while you slowly count -- 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004 -- slowly letting the air out of the balloon. As you exhale, just feel yourself letting go of tension.
Keep repeating the slow belly breathing: inhaling through the nose as you count 1001, 1002, then exhaling through the nose as you count 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004.
When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the counting and belly breathing.
As you gradually master your Belly Breathing, you are mastering the first step of Inner Safety Meditation, as well as gaining a powerful tool to lower your overall level of anxiety.
Many people have used Belly Breathing or a similar technique to reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic. Many of the "scary sensations" of panic are related to "hyperventilation" – which means rapid breathing. Also, during panic, people tend to breathe from the chest instead of from the belly. Breathing rapidly from the chest increases anxiety. Breathing slowly from the belly lowers anxiety and reduces many of the "scary sensations" of panic.
Inner Safety Journal
The philosophy behind the Inner Safety Journal is that by focusing on experiences, memories and images of safety, you are developing a "vocabulary" for your own inner safety. You discover that you already have many ways of feeling safe, secure and peaceful.
On the surface, it seems that we experience feelings of safety because the external circumstances are just right – we are at home, we are with a loved one, etc. On a deeper level though, these feelings of safety, comfort and peace come from within. And, because these feelings come from within, they are always available to us. The Inner Safety Journal is a powerful method of awakening and strengthening these feelings.
To start your Inner Safety Journal, choose a new, special notebook – one that is especially pleasing and attractive. If you keep a journal or diary now, create a separate journal for Inner Safety. This is a special journal for writing notes about safety, comfort and peace – experiences, memories, fantasies and images. You can also include drawings and pictures – feel free to use your imagination and creativity.
It takes only a few minutes a day to create your Inner Safety Journal. You can work on it anytime, but it's a good idea to set aside a special time, so that you get in the habit of writing in it everyday. One especially good time is before going to bed at night. That way, you can think about experiences you had during the day that gave you a feeling of safety and comfort.
Here are three ideas for entries in your Journal:
1) What were some times today (or yesterday) that you felt safe and comfortable? Describe one of the scenes. What did you see and hear? Was there any taste or aroma? How did you feel?
2) What are some of your favorite memories of feeling safe, secure and peaceful? Choose one memory, and describe the scene as richly as you can.
3) Create a fantasy of a scene that would feel completely safe, serene and peaceful. Describe it in great detail. As an example, I'll give you one of my favorites. Feel free to make any part of it your own.
I'm lying in the sun on a beautiful Caribbean beach. I can hear the waves gently breaking on the shore, and I can hear seagulls off in the distance. The water is turquoise and the sand is pure and white. The sky is powder blue with cumulus clouds billowing all the way to the horizon. I am lying on my stomach on my beach towel, and the midday sun feels incredible on my skin. I feel loved and completely relaxed. I smell the pure, crisp salt air. A warm, gentle breeze caresses my body. I know that I am completely safe.
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Triumph Over Panic, Inc. is affiliated with the Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder Foundation.