Silencing the Inner Critic: Overcoming Surprise Anxiety Attacks in Your Prime

Have you ever had one of those days that start off just like any other, but suddenly, out of nowhere, you find yourself in the clutches of an invisible force so paralyzing that it sends shockwaves through your very essence? This is the tale of how I, a seasoned meditation and mindfulness teacher, encountered my first anxiety attack in public, amidst the ordinariness of a sunny day.

After a decade of embracing a secular spiritual journey and never facing anything beyond reasonable anxiety, I found myself rooted to a spot in the middle of town, overwhelmed with terror at the mere thought of interacting with anyone. The trigger? An innocuous encounter with a gentleman selling poppies for charity that didn’t go as smoothly as expected due to my lack of cash. In that moment, the embarrassment surged through me with such ferocity that it left me gasping for air, fearing the judgment of onlookers as I sat immobilized in my electric wheelchair.

You might be wondering, “How could this happen to someone who’s been a stronghold of mindfulness for over ten years?” Trust me, the irony wasn’t lost on me either. There I was, teaching others how to navigate the stormy seas of their minds, yet here I found myself capsized by waves of anxiety I never knew existed. It was a humbling reminder that we are perpetual students of life, ever-evolving and susceptible to the ebbs and flows of our emotional landscapes, no matter our level of expertise.

But here’s the thing – encountering anxiety in the prime of my life, amidst a profound spiritual journey, didn’t equate to failure or regression. Instead, it marked a pivotal moment of deeper self-exploration and understanding. It served as a testament that, as we age, our inner voyage delves into uncharted territories within ourselves, stirring dormant fears and anxieties to the surface. It’s a sign of growth, albeit an uncomfortable one.

So, how did I navigate this tempest? How do we find calm amidst the sudden squalls of anxiety that life throws our way?

Principle 1: Befriend Your Anxiety. Seeing anxiety as a compass rather than a foe can reshape your relationship with it. It’s not the enemy; it’s a guide signaling areas within us that require attention and care.

Principle 2: Ground Yourself in the Present. Utilize mindfulness techniques to anchor yourself. Breathwork, for instance, can serve as a lighthouse guiding you back to the safety of the now, where anxiety’s grip loosens.

Principle 3: Use Humor as Your Shield. Finding the humor in my predicament, like the irony of a mindfulness teacher caught in the throes of an anxiety attack, helped deflate the situation’s intensity and restore perspective.

Principle 4: Reflect and Realign. Post-storm, I delved into introspection to understand the roots of this unprecedented anxiety. This inquiry doesn’t seek immediate answers but encourages a gentle realignment with our inner truths.

In essence, my surprising rendezvous with anxiety underscored the importance of holding everything lightly, within balance. Anxiety attacks, like all internal storms, are neither good nor bad; they’re powerful messengers calling for a deeper engagement with our well-being.

For anyone navigating similar tempests, know that you’re not alone. These experiences, while daunting, are woven into the fabric of our human journey, offering priceless insights into our complex selves. Embrace them as part of your spiritual evolution, and remember, stillness can always be found amid the storms.

As we journey together, my invitation to you is this: Lean into the discomfort, explore its contours with curiosity, and allow it to catalyze your growth. Remember, every storm eventually clears, leaving a serene sky that’s all the more appreciated for its prior turbulence.

If this helped you, it will help somebody else!

You've just read an article by Steven Webb —  Guiding you through the most difficult times. Here is a link to my podcast Stillness in the Storms and Inner Peace Meditations.

I write to arm you with resilience and inner wisdom, helping you find calm in life’s chaos. Follow me Medium or on substack.

Steven Webb host of Stillness in the Storms portrait picture

Steven Webb

Steven Webb is a renowned meditation teacher with over a decade of experience. Known for his unique approach to quieting the busy mind, Steven navigated through a life of adversity to find his own inner peace. Now, he shares his wisdom to help others build resilience and find tranquility even in life's most turbulent times. Through his writing, courses, and podcast "Stillness in the Storms," Steven empowers people to discover their own sanctuary of inner peace when they need it the most.
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