Anxiety, stress and panic: how to control your thoughts


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Text comes from: Erfolgsfaktor Sauerstoff: Wissenschaftlich belegte Atemtechniken, um die Gesundheit zu verbessern und die sportliche Leistung zu steigern (2018) & Angst, Stress und Panik wegatmen: Die Sauerstoffversorgung des Gehirns verbessern und Ängste, Depressionen und Panikattacken für immer loswerden (2019) by Patrick McKeown, published by Münchener Verlagsgruppe (MVG), Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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We regard the mind as the most important faculty of the human species; however, most people have very little real control over their mind as it races from one thought to the next.

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Patrick McKeown Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®Patrick McKeown is a naturopath & director of Buteyko Clinic International.

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A controlled mind as an essential characteristic of quality of life

Excessive mental activity, stress, depression and anxiety are none other than the absence of such control. How much control do you have over your mind? How long can you keep thinking consciously? A calm mind is a controlled mind. You can actually choose to think or not to think. Then you no longer get lost in superfluous thoughts, but know most of the time what thoughts your mind is concerned with. If we have no control over our minds, then we have - nothing.

Control over our minds is the one of our essential faculties that determines our quality of life here on earth. Nevertheless, our educational institutions, our religious and medical institutions devote very little attention to it. Is not that crazy? If you had the opportunity to peek into other people's minds, you would see that the turmoil there is the same as inside your own head. The flawless facade conceals fears for the future and mourning for the past. Below the surface, the thoughts repeat themselves at a frantic pace.

What helps against melancholy and depression?

The whole thing may not have reached the same extent as in depressed people, but common characteristics can be identified. Strictly speaking, we are not far from mental health problems and only a few stressful events are missing by then. When several such events come together, each of us takes its toll - unless, of course, we have a basic understanding of our thought processes and are able to provide our brain with sufficient oxygen.

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In our highly developed western world, where we value intelligence and stigmatize mental health problems, healthy people who go through periods of melancholy or depression have few options to seek help. However, tackling such processes early is the key to reversing them. My interest in these areas is due to the fact that I suffered from both asthma and excruciating thoughts for many years.

60.000 thoughts a day

Psychologists estimate that we think 60 thoughts every day. 000 percent of these thoughts repeat themselves over and over and are useless. In ignorance of the contents of our own mind, we are literally at the mercy of it. Habitual brooding and, more importantly, lack of awareness of what is going on in our minds are the result of this disposition of the human mind.

The individual content is shaped by the experiences we have had in the past, by our upbringing and by social influences. It is maintained by constant repetition. In the western world, thinking is generally considered a good thing, while non-thinking is seen as a sign of laziness or stupidity. We often hear of "brilliant thinkers" who have made sweeping discoveries or who have been given profound insights. But to tell the truth: Such eye-opening experiences usually do not come about by thinking, but when thinking comes to a standstill. Our education system teaches us how to think. In schools and universities, the mind is trained and shaped into an excellent analytical tool.

Thinking is not the solution to all problems

We see thinking as a solution for all situations. If we have a problem, we believe that the more we think about it, the more chances we have to solve it. As children, we didn't think that way. This thinking is a learned habit that we have developed over time. If you think that it is good to think a lot, look at the pressure people are under, who torment their minds with constant brooding. I often see a man on Galway's shopping street who is so upset that he says everything he gets on the street loudly. His mind has completely taken control of him. The weight of his thoughts literally pushes him to the ground. He is depressed. Many of us are similar to this man, except that we don't speak our thoughts out loud. Instead, an internal conversation rattles in our head.

We ponder the same thing day in, day out, without ceasing and without really clarifying anything. Once you study your own thoughts more closely, you will no doubt come to the conclusion that the human mind must really be mad in the western world. Thinking about something in a practical context is a good thing and has an important function. However, much of our brooding is not about such practical purposes. We spend the majority of our thoughts on senseless, endlessly repetitive worries and fears. If you managed to reduce this circle of thoughts by 50 percent, you would be lucky. If you could stop all useless, prolonged brooding, you would live a life of bliss. To put it bluntly, brooding makes you unhappy. Less mental activity, on the other hand, increases satisfaction. Brooding is basically a disease.

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You or your mind - who is in control?

Human thinking started a few tens of thousands of years ago. It is by far the most important function that distinguishes our abilities from those of animals. In practical terms, thinking is extremely useful, as I said. We need it to drive a car, make decisions, set strategies, plan events, or cope with specific situations. If you plan to go shopping, think about what foods are missing in your pantry.

When organizing air travel, think about the schedule, price and route. When you write a letter, first think about what you want to say. When you drive to the gas station, think about which petrol pump you want to go to and what amount you want to spend. When contacting a delivery company, think about what you need, in what quantities, at what price and on what delivery date. If someone overcharged you, decide what you want to tell them and do it. Thinking when used for practical purposes like these examples is a wonderful thing - essential and productive.

When thinking becomes torture

However, we don't use 95 percent of our thoughts to cope with a very specific, practical situation. Most of our thoughts are unnecessary and repetitive. You can tell this to yourself by carefully observing your mental activities. A typical situation that many are familiar with: you are strolling through a wonderfully peaceful park, and instead of enjoying the sun warming your back, enjoying the sight of the flowers and listening to the children playing, your attention is completely taken up by what You give it back to your neighbor who gave you a break yesterday.

This kind of thinking is pure torture. It does nothing to improve your situation; it doesn't help you in the slightest. On the contrary: if you brood incessantly in this way, it can drive you into depression. And not only that you drive yourself crazy in this way: You also miss all the wonderful things that life has in store for you.

Calm the mind

Regardless of how fast the mind carousel is already spinning, everyone has the ability to regain control of their mind. The mental roar has covered the calm, still mind. Anything that helps to "clear" your mind will bring the original calm back to the surface. It is up to you whether you let the carousel of thoughts continue to circle through your head and live with the consequences, or whether you learn to care for your mind like a knowledgeable gardener who pulls out the weeds so that the flowers can thrive.

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With a gardener who is asleep and inattentive, the weeds will soon grow into an impenetrable jungle. A good gardener is awake and attentive. He knows exactly what is going on at any moment, keeps a close eye on his land and removes weeds when they stick out their first shoots. Be a good gardener to your mind.

Watch carefully against anxiety and depression

In a mind that is carefully observed, anxiety and depression cannot take root; both only find a breeding ground where the necessary awareness is lacking. A calm mind enables us to relate to life in a very different way and to really live our life instead of wasting our attention on useless brooding. When our minds are calm, we no longer waste as much of our energy on any harmful nonsense and instead can concentrate on the things that really matter to us with improved concentration.

Although it is basically very easy to regain control of your mind, it requires attention and care. Do you want a life without worry and dissatisfaction? There are simple self-help breathing and mindfulness exercises that can be used to treat the physiological and psychological aspects of depression, anxiety, and stress.

The healthy tidal volume

With normal breathing, we take ten to twelve breaths per minute. Each breath has an approximate volume of half a liter. That corresponds to a healthy tidal volume of five to six liters of air per minute - this is how it is described in every medical textbook. Normal, healthy breathing is calm, quiet, relaxed, regular and accompanied by little movement. People suffering from anxiety and depression have tidal volumes that exceed this healthy amount.

For example, an average-sized person with anxiety takes in 15 to 20 breaths per minute and more than the normal pint of air with each breath. In addition, their breathing is often interrupted by sighs. If we assume that each breath has a volume of 700 milliliters, the person has an average tidal volume ten to 15 liters of air per minute. Applied to nutrition, this would correspond to six to nine meals a day!

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Chronic over-breathing

Chronic over breathing or hyper ventilation means that we habitually take in more air than our body needs. This is similar in many ways to people who get into the habit of overeating. If we breathe more than our body needs over a 24-hour period, this habit becomes established. Dr. Stephen Demeter confirms this with his statement: "Prolonged hyperventilation (for more than 24 hours) seems to sensitize the brain and cause hyperventilation to continue."

Which factors increase the tidal volume? The increase in breathing is a consequence of our modern life. There are a number of factors that contribute to over-breathing, including strong emotions, time constraints, pressure, anger, stress, anxiety, overeating, processed foods, the misconception that taking deep breaths is good, lack of exercise, increased speaking, and high Temperatures in living spaces.

Checklist: signs of habitual over-breathing

Perhaps you assume that you are not hyperventilating. However, most people experience over-breathing very subtly. It runs in the background so that it often goes unnoticed. The typical characteristics with which patients come to my practices include:

  • Mouth breathing
  • Audible breathing during periods of rest
  • Regular sighing
  • Short, quick breath through the nose
  • Irregular breath
  • Breathing interruptions (apneas)
  • Take a deep breath before speaking
  • Deep yawning
  • Upper chest movements when breathing
  • Shoulder movements when breathing
  • Other noticeable breathing movements
  • Exertion while breathing
  • Difficult breathing at night

How many of these characteristics apply to you? Do you sigh often? Do you breathe through your mouth? Do you wake up in the morning with a dry mouth? Does your breathing speed up or become erratic when you are stressed? You can check the quality of your breathing yourself with a simple breath-hold test; To do this, we measure the so-called control pause (CP), i.e. the breath holding time.

The disadvantages of over-breathing

The importance of efficient breathing becomes clear when you realize that if we take in too much air through our lungs, the amount of oxygen supplied to tissues and organs will decrease.

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Overbreathing has a detrimental effect on two gases that are fundamental to our body's oxygenation: nitric oxide and carbon dioxide. In 1991, nitrogen monoxide (NO) was detected in the exhaled air and subsequent intensive research efforts revealed that the gas is produced in both the blood vessels and the paranasal sinuses.

When we breathe in through the nose, large amounts of NO are released within the nasal airways. The NO follows the air flow to the lungs and helps there to dilate the blood vessels. In this way, it increases oxygen uptake in the blood. When we inhale slowly and gently through the nose, we enable our body to benefit from the positive effects of nitric oxide from the nose.


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