How to approach ANFs


#1

Hi all,

I was wondering if anyone knew how to approach or handle a situation where you feel the rush of adrenaline or cortisol beginning to rise? Like what should I be doing when I start to feel myself heating up, sweating, and feeling anxious feelings? Should I gently say things to myself like, “ I will refuse to let myself speed up. I am in control over my feelings. I will stay calm and relaxed. I will ignore and block off these feelings. Who cares.”
Is this a beneficial way to approach these negative anxious feelings when they come up? Or is there another way to handle this?
I know that we are learning not to fight or get angry with ANTs or ANFs, so I didn’t know which was the best approach.
I would love to hear anyone’s feedback or advice. Good luck !!


#2

You may want to check by session if others are posting similar issues.

The rush of adrenaline and cortisol is, for most of us, the trigger, the cause the effect (all of the above), the thing that is social anxiety. Not all of us. Social anxiety is also the endless rumination. Some people don’t suffer the physical symptoms as much, the worry. But in your case, let’s discuss this very common aspect of SAD.

First we approach it by doing the therapy. Yes, the same answer. Practicing calming down at home, every day, while doing therapy, and reminding ourselves throughout the day. But first, we “practice”. We will later be put into behavioral situations and then we are trying to use these skills we practiced.

Since I know your posts and we are just starting therapy, I can say this is still a time when we are essentially practicing. You will still have many times where your natural reaction is an anxiety one, but gradually we are working away from that.

What I would suggest you do not say is “I will refuse to let…” because in a way that is not rational or possible. The truth is that what you are fighting against is more likely to happen. Your language here seems like pressure. You might refuse to let the outcome of the situation throw you off track. You might refuse to believe the ANTs deserve attention. Okay. But I think it’s rational to acknowledge that you are indeed feeling that rush. You aren’t refusing the situation as it is happening, nor the feelings, but you can make a choice not to suffer the pain of them, or also a choice to be aware that they’re there, but that you can observe them or learn to let things happen without fighting or tensing up. This essentially gets into mindfulness and it’s what many people here will want to hear - that word. They may want to tell you that this is the right way forward and that we don’t need anything else. My argument would be that yes, mindfulness becomes a part of the solution and it is in the therapy, we are practicing skills that allow us to become more mindful. But, again if we are talking about serious social anxiety disorder, my belief is that first we follow the CBT approach and then we have the skills to be able to perhaps focus on other skills like mindfulness more directly when the time is right, even though indeed you are going about getting to that point through the therapy.

Perhaps your statement “I am in control over my feelings” now isn’t really what you feel to be true in your brain. I certainly wasn’t in control of my feelings when I started therapy. Let’s be honest, I’m not entirely in control of my feelings now. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’m human. I have feelings. Sometimes I have them for very good reason. Sometimes I get angry or nervous, for a reason. But what I can also do a bit better now is choose how I will react during and after, even before, those feelings. I’m more aware I have those feelings, but “I do not need to allow these feelings to ruin my day or to rule my behavior”. I could make many other rational statements to myself about the feelings that my mind would accept at this point in therapy, or at any point in my life. Your brain will accept it if it’s going along with the truth as it feels it now, and we at first try to go neutral with that.

It is likely that when that rush is coming now, you might not be able to stop it. I do think you’ll make it “worse” by trying to stop it or expecting to stop it. I do think you might make it better by letting yourself pay less attention to it, and by focusing on calming down in those moments. Again, loosen up, relax, slow talk. It’s similar to not fighting panic attacks. Fighting only makes it worse. In this similar but subtle way you are not forcing yourself down from this physical reaction, but you may choose to instead try to calm down. It won’t always work the way you want it, but each time you even try to calm down instead, you are indeed breaking the neural pathway habit that serves to speed you up. Each time you are slowly changing the reflex. You’re giving yourself another option that will become stronger.


#3

That makes a lot of sense. From now on, when I feel the rush of adrenaline rising, I will just not pay any attention to it. I will ignore it and just try to focus on what I’m doing.
In the past, when I’ve felt the rush of anxiety rising, I would tell myself “I will not speed up. I refuse to feel this way.etc” So I guess I was being too hard on myself and I was actually creating more anxiety for myself…Now I understand that by fighting anxiety, it brings it on even more. I will just ignore these feelings and let them pass… is it a good idea to think of something peaceful that makes me happy, such as the sound of the ocean when I start to feel anxiety rising?


#4

Also, should I acknowledge to myself that I am feeling this way. Should I say “I am feeling the rush of adrenaline now but it will pass.” and then I can think more peacefully. I am happy to hear anyone’s opinion on this :slight_smile:


#5

I think that anything you do that is not resisting or fighting the moment is a good way to go, and that to acknowledge the truth of the moment and the truth of the thought or feeling is also a good way to go for your brain to accept. CBT works through rational retraining of our brains (our thoughts). Thus, at no point does lying to yourself help. Saying something which does acknowledge the “truth” of it, as you mention above, but then also saying a rational statement such as “I will be all right”, or “It will pass and I will still be okay”, or “maybe this is getting easier over time because I’m working on my therapy”… these are all types of rational statements which are true, which we can accept. There are other “true” statements but they are not true for us now, in this moment, and thus our brains wouldn’t accept. As I mentioned in another post, do as you can now, focus on the therapy now, and in upcoming sessions, then you will learn more to add onto each strategy. You’ll not just be stopping ANTs, but you’ll be turning them into neutral language, you’ll be later adding onto that too. For now, doing just this much should always be considered a big win.